August Rische, born in Minden, Prussia in 1833 came to the United States at age 19,
and after serving in the Civil War, came west to Colorado Territory to become a shoemaker.
But the vast wealth being enjoyed in the gold and silver mines just over the Mosquito
Range near present day Leadville enticed him to accomplish far more than making shoes
the rest of his life. Forming a partnership agreement with another local shoemaker he had
met in the area, George Hook who had come west with his parents from Pittsburgh around
1876, the two began to dig into the rich, rocky soil of Lake County where new silver
discoveries were being made almost hourly. But it cost money to buy food and supplies,
and the two realized they needed a "backer".|
At the time, Fryer Hill (just outside present day Leadville), had exploded with mining
bonanzas and new discoveries, particularly now that silver had become a valuable commodity,
and these ongoing discoveries kept emotions and hopes high. Rische had previous
experience in mining, although not a great deal, and Hook had made the acquaintance of
the well known Horace Tabor who was Leadville’s postmaster and who operated a
mercantile store in Leadville and the surrounding towns of Oro City and Malta - two
critical factors which helped make Rische and Hook instantly rich.
Needing tools, food and other supplies to continue their mining efforts, the two decided
to locate a local merchant willing to "grubstake" them... a common practice
in the mining camps where miners would exchange a portion of their findings, should any
be made, with someone who would provide them with the necessary tools and supplies needed
to explore the hills and valleys for precious ore.
Horace Tabor was second on their list, and as he had done countless times before with
no previous success, grubstaked Rische and Hook. The two wanted to sink a shaft on
Fryer Hill themselves... specifically just a few hundred feet north of the New Discovery
Mine which was now making George Fryer, it’s discoverer, an instant millionaire.
Tabor had little expectation that Rische and Hook would actually make a discovery even
worth the grubstake... picks, shovels and food estimated to be valued at around $17.00
the first time around.
But after a second grubstake from Tabor, at 27 feet, the two shoemakers hit paydirt...
a streak of carbonate ore that ran 200 ounces of silver to the ton. It was May 15th, 1878.
When Tabor heard the news, he rushed up Fryer Hill from his mercantile store located on
Chestnut Street in Leadville, to Rische and Hook’s discovery, now named for
Hook’s home town, The Little Pittsburg (without the "h" since another similar name
had already been filed using the "h"). According to the grubstake agreement,
Tabor was entitled to a 1/3 interest in the discovery.
Tabor, Rische and Hook now feverishly worked the mine until June 10th when they shipped
their first ore, and they realized now for certain that they had struck it rich. By the
end of the summer they were each able to declare a $10,000 dividend for themselves. It
was a lucky $17.00 investment Tabor had made, but a drop in the bucket compared to what
he would make in the next several years with other mining investments and a seemingly
unending lucky streak. He had become an instant millionaire like no other, and was now
the recognized "Silver King" of Colorado.