History of Breckenridge

Colorado's historic Breckenridge was established in 1859. General George Spencer chose the name Breckinridge with the hope that naming his town after the current Vice President would cause the government to give the small community a post office. His plan worked, but the town changed the spelling after former Vice President Breckinridge became a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army.

Currently home to one of the country's most popular ski resorts, Breckenridge was originally built in response to Summit County's influx of gold miners during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush. Gold mining and dredging in the area continued until the early 20th century, producing nearly 31,000 kg of gold. The largest nugget found in Breckenridge weighed over 13 pounds and was found by Tom Groves in 1887. Three days after finding his fortune, Groves put his nugget on a train to Denver where it vanished, not to be found for 85 years.

One of Breckenridge's most prominent prospectors was Edwin Carter. This naturalist chose to forgo mining in favor of collecting samples of local flora and fauna. The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance has recently finished restoring the log cabin Carter built in 1875, adding a screening room and several interactive exhibits.

Another notable person from Breckenridge's past is Barney Ford. His restaurant, Ford's Chophouse, opened in 1879, making Ford one of the first great African American leaders in the state. The fact that he was born into slavery did little to deter Ford, who later escaped on the Underground Railroad. Before opening his restaurant in Breckenridge, Ford also ran businesses in Nicaragua, the American West and Chicago. Later in his life, Ford became active in politics and a champion for the civil rights movement.

In the 1930s, a group of women in Breckenridge came across an old map that the town had inadvertently been left off of. Rather than double-checking with other maps, the ladies concluded that Breckenridge had somehow never been officially accepted into the United States. They launched a campaign and invited Colorado's governor to officially welcome the town with a flag raising ceremony. Although the women had been wrong all along, the idea that Breckenridge had been independent gave rise to the town being nicknamed "Colorado's Kingdom." The sense of independence lives on today with Kingdom Days, an annual celebration of Breckenridge's unique history.