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Anatomy of a Mining Town—So Many Lawyers

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

In 1876, Lake City, Colorado boasted a population of eight hundred to a thousand people—a metropolis, as the Silver World newspaper frequently reminded people.

One hundred twenty-four businesses lined the streets, and that doesn’t include schools, churches, railroads, and doctors. Today, a town that size is lucky to have a bar and a tiny grocery store.

Fifteen lawyers practiced there. Fifteen!!! That is one lawyer for every 50-60 people. They advertised in the newspaper and provided references.

I’m not sure how anyone would check those references. Unlike Google reviews, no one verified the purchases. Would the governor reply to a telegraph?

Since it was a mining town, ten assayers set up shop to analyze rocks for gold, and nine land surveyors offered their services.

Two banks operated. One advertisement states, “Deposits received subject to check at sight.”

Is that like the pens cashiers use to check the twenty-dollar bills today? And, “Gold and silver bullion solicited on consignments.” What would my bank think if I walked in with gold bullion?

Many businesses were typical of old west towns. Five blacksmith shops, five corrals and feed stables, four Chinese laundries, and three barbershops.

I found this ad rather curious. Shaving Saloon. Is that a typo? I’ve never heard of a saloon for shaving. Mr. Shwiekirt will be pleased to operate upon his customers. That’s disconcerting, but at least he will provide the best style of the art.

Two of the six restaurants were open all night. Is that like Denny’s or the Waffle House? There were four hotels and three newsdealers. Three bakeries and four meat markets.

Lowest living prices, as opposed to what? Dead prices?

Apparently, you could bring in your own flour and have it baked into bread.

Forget Walmart. Household items were available at these stores:

14 General Merchandise Stores 3 Boot and Shoe Stores 2 Jewelry Establishments 1 Clothing House 1 Furniture House 2 Drug Stores

This advertisement assures readers that Abbot Brothers doesn’t sell stale or inferior goods. But they don’t list references like attorneys. Buyer beware.

Of course, every town contains the usual vices. There were seven saloons and two billiard halls.

Based on these ads, the saloon sold prime cigars and the best wines, while the billiard hall only sold good cigars and drinks.

There were two cigar factories and two breweries. And we think micro-breweries are new and hip. Not so.

Is it necessary to say that beer is always on hand? What kind of brewery wouldn’t have beer? And why do they need to offer free lunch? Doesn’t beer sell itself?

With a new, growing town, there were:

4 Hardware Stores 4 Saw Mills 1 planing mill (to plane boards into dimension lumber) 1 shingle mill 2 Brick Yards 3 Painters

The anatomy of small towns has changed, but the array of businesses reflects many things I need today—except for the number of attorneys.

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