New Castle, Colorado
Centuries before Europeans came to America, the Ute Indians, who called themselves “Nuche” (the People), hunted on the Flat Tops range and used the Colorado River and Elk Creek valleys as their winter home.
Early explorers had passed through the region, and in 1882 Jasper Ward led a homestead claim and built a cabin at the confluence of Elk Creek and the Colorado River. Other homesteaders followed and the town of New Castle was incorporated in 1888.
A population explosion occurred with the discovery of coal—in the 1890s the population fluctuated between 1,500 to 2,500 people. The town grew to accommodate miners with banks, grocery and drug stores, livery stables, brothels, taverns, a brewery and a newspaper of ce. Several of these early buildings still stand on or near Main Street, and many early settlers are buried in Highland Cemetery.
Did you know that a coal seam fire has been burning in New Castle for over a century?
New Castle flourished in the 1890s mining coal from a rich vein in the Grand Hogback. Coal, shipped by rail to nearby Cardiff and Redstone, was cooked down in high temperature ovens to produce “coke.” The coke was used to smelt or melt silver from rock in Aspen and Leadville.
On February 18, 1896 methane gas in the Vulcan Mine caused a tragic explosion which killed forty-nine coal miners. Successive explosions in 1913 and again in 1918 ended coal production in New Castle.
The Grand Hogback coal seam is still smoldering on Burning Mountain. Scars may be seen on the mountainsides where heat is close to the surface, and in winter steam rises in wisps along the seam. In 2004 a life-sized memorial to the lost miners was erected in Burning Mountain Park on Main Street.
Did you know that New Castle provides ready access to the Flat Tops Wilderness?
The historic New Castle-Buford Road runs north from town into the Flat Tops Wilderness and the White River National Forest. Outdoor recreation seekers have direct access to hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking and camping. New Castle is also home to prize-winning Lakota Canyon Golf Course.
The town remembers its mining heritage each September at the Burning Mountain Festival and Highland Cemetery Ghost Walk. Maps of the cemetery and a guided walking tour of downtown historical sites are available in Town Hall and at the Chamber of Commerce. The old Town Hall on 4th Street now serves as the Town’s historical museum.
- I-70 take Exit 105. Downtown New Castle is west of the exit.