Have you ever seen or heard of Mount Silverheels in Colorado? Do you know how it got its name? No? Well, I'm about to tell you. First, here's a photo of the mountain. Isn't she something with those beautiful trees in the foreground! Oops, did I say she? Well, perhaps you'll see why.
|Mount Silverheels from Boreas Pass; Doug Skiba [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]|
Astride the Continental Divide in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Mount Silverheels overlooks Fairplay, Jefferson, Como, Indian Mountain and most of South Park in Colorado. The peak is 13,829 feet above sea level. The mountain is named after a dance-hall girl who entertained in Buckskin Joe, a small mining camp a couple miles south of the present town of Alma. There are several versions of her story.
One version says she arrived by stagecoach from Denver in 1861, wearing a veil and slippers with silver heels. She took up residence in a small cabin across the creek from town and went to work in Billy Buck’s saloon. She was a talented dancer and one account says she was so beautiful that she became the idol of the miners and the envy of the other camp women.
Another version states she wore a blue or white mask to conceal her face, and her real name is unknown. Still another says a miner, entranced by her beauty, made her a pair of dancing shoes with silver inlaid in the heels.
In October 1861, two men drove a flock of sheep into the camp and stayed long enough to sell most of their animals for fresh mutton. One man suddenly became extremely ill and died, heralding the beginning of a smallpox epidemic. More and more deaths ensued, with bodies buried in the little Buckskin Joe cemetery. Businesses shut their doors, including the dance halls. Medical help was scarce.
As miners were stricken and their women and children fled to Denver, Silverheels stayed behind to care for the sick and dying until she too contracted the disease. The epidemic gradually abated while Silverheels remained secluded in her cabin, nursed by an old woman, and slowly regained her health. Grateful to her for risking her life and looks, citizens collected $5,000 as a gift to her, but when the presentation committee went to her cabin, they found it deserted. Searches for Silverheels proved fruitless.
Unable to reward the caring young woman for her efforts, the committee returned the money to the donors. However, refusing to forget Silverheels’ remarkable heroism on their behalf, they named the lofty mountain above the town in her honor.
According to the legend, her face was disfigured by the pox and she chose to disappear rather than let her admirers see her. Several years later, when Buckskin Joe had been decimated by the decline of the gold rush, some said they saw a heavily veiled woman weeping over the graves of those who died in the Smallpox epidemic in the Buckskin Joe cemetery, which still survives.
If this legend grabs your interest, check out Silverheels: A Historical Novel by Tara Meixsell. https://www.amazon.com/Silverheels-Tara-Meixsell/dp/1890437581
Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and one very spoiled cat. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged baby.
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