In 1868, Daniel Plummer and Joseph H. Meyers located an outcrop of silver in the central Colorado Mosquito Range of the Rocky Mountains, within limestone on Mount Bross. They named it “The Dwight” Three years later, they returned to Mount Bross and discovered a new outcropping that would come to be known as “the Moose”. This discovery led to a silver boom in the local towns of Alma and Fairplay and set the stage for the later Leadville boom. However, the discovery of silver at 13,600 feet with surrounding 14,000-foot peaks presented challenges. With the highest altitude mines in North America, the Moose Mine region demonstrates the unique difficulties of many high-altitude mines.
Daniel Plummer and Joseph H. Meyers were both previously-experienced miners and had been in Park County, Colorado since the early to mid 1860s. They filed their first claim, “The Dwight,” on March 9, 1869. However, like other rich but remote mines of the time, not much was done to begin mining until after the discovery of the Moose. The first news of the rich discovery in the Moose hit the Denver Tribune in late July 1871, and by the end of August Plummer and Meyers had secured Judson H. Dudley and Andrew W. Gill as partners, who provided funding necessary for beginning mining. Simple mining began that year, and by November, ore from the mine was shipping from Leadville to Denver where it would go on to New York City and then its final destination in Wales. This had to be done, especially in the beginning, due to the lack of other smelters in the area who could work with the metal. The closest smelter was located in Black Hawk, and shipping there would have required traveling down to Denver and then back up into the mountains. Traveling there involved a series of high altitude passes that made this option difficult, timely, and expensive.
On April 15, 1872, the Moose Mining Company was formed. In order to accommodate those working at the mines on Mount Bross, Mount Democrat, and Mount Lincoln, the town of Quartzville developed on the east side of Mount Lincoln at 11,300 feet. It was located 2,400 feet below the Moose and was the closest residence to the mines. Miners had to hike over two miles one way to reach the Moose and at such high elevation, individuals only processed around one-third of the oxygen they would be accustomed to at sea level. The combination of less oxygen and their difficult morning hike meant that the miners struggled to be effective. But despite these impediments to labor, in July 1872 the Moose Mine Company averaged $22,500 per week, and the Fairplay Mount Lincoln Sentinel claimed that the Moose had produced $330,00 worth of ore in a four-month period.
Today, the Moose Mine remains on private land. Individuals wanting to visit the area can summit four adjacent fourteeners, Mounts Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross, via the 8-mile Decalibron (a portmanteau of the four peak names) loop route. Access to the mountains has been limited over the years due to concern about old mining sites and issues with hikers not remaining on trail. Since 2010, hikers have been able to access the peaks within the Decalibron loop but not the mining sites themselves.