13 August 2012

Summit Settler's: Windhaus Family

During the summer of 2007, a co-worker of mine had the pleasure of speaking to Eugene Windhaus, who recounted his memories of his early life in Breckenridge, Colorado, in the late 1930's. This co-worker is a smart man, and he made notes. Those were shared with me earlier this summer.

Wellington Mill, 1910-1930. This would have been fairly
close to where the Windhaus family lived in the 1930's.
Photo courtesy of Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library. 

The youngest of at least six children, Eugene, or "Gene", was born in Kansas in 1934. His parents, August "Gus", and Katherina, both natives of Germany, were married sometime around 1915, based on the ages of both Katherina and their first child, Johanna. By 1939, they were in Breckenridge, and Gus was the foreman at the Jumbo Mine. This was a prominent area of mining activity, and some of the best producers were found nearby, in the French Gulch area of Breckenridge.

During that time, the family lived about 200 yards from the entrance to the mine in a small shack. During the winter's, they lived in a rented house behind what is now the Hearthstone Restaurant. When living at the mine, water was over 200 yards away. Electric power was unavailable, and they used a Coleman stove and candles. For heat, a coal stove that could also burn wood was used.

In 1940, stockholders arrived at the Jumbo to build a new stamp mill. Gene remembers men being hired to clear trees near the mine, and he witnessed a 65 year old man chop down an 8" diameter tree in four swings of the ax on either side. The mill never actually opened, due to needs of the military at the start of World War II.

After the close of the mine, Gus went to work at the Country Boy Mine as the timber foreman. He "soon lost two of his fingers and split a third during the winter when his frozen glove got caught in the saw's blade and drug his hand in."

Gene remembers fishing from the remains of Blue #1 dredge boat after it sank , and smoking freshly made cigarettes from the broken windows in the cabin that is now the Welcome Center on Main Street. He was able to identify Lady Mae, well known Madame of the Blue Goose Bordello, Bertha Biggins - sister of Theda Dodge who lived on High Street and ran the local grocery - and Nina Felch, the common law wife of the town drunk, Dob Mitchell.

The family can be found in the 1940 US Federal Census, residing in Breckenridge. After that, they're trail goes cold, partly due to the fact that recent records are not available to the general public. It appears likely that at least one of them, Hubert, ended up in Oregon, and is buried there.

Tonopah Dredge, 28 Jul 1918, Breckenridge.
Photo courtesy of Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library.

Citations can be made available by contacting the author.