Draft Clay History

Golden History Moment

Golden Clay – “Good as Gold” for the Parfet Family
Part2 – Clay mining in Golden! You, betcha!
by Guest Historian Paul Haseman

1948 aerial photograph from the files of Dr. Robert J. Weimer – Click to enlarge

This 1948 photo shows the then Mines campus, 19th St and with no 6th Ave (1950). How times change. In the photo you can see the original path (1873) and later short cut tunnel (1902) of the Welch Ditch, which formerly wound through the campus. Fourth generation, William (“Chip”) Parfet relates that the 1902 tunnel through the hogback impaired underground clay mining because mine cars could not be heaped high in order to get under the ditch’s underground culvert, much to the aggravation of GW Parfet.

In 1879, GW Parfet opened an additional clay mine on Eagle Ridge near the intersection of 6th Ave and Heritage Road. Eagle Ridge is part of the Dakota Formation better known on the other side of I-70 as Dinosaur Ridge. This Dakota Ridge clay was the best clay in Golden and Colorado. Nearly pure kaolinite, this clay was used for higher quality ceramics and porcelain. Parfet opened another mine atop Dakota Ridge north of the I-70 cut, where a wooden loading tipple still exists. Interestingly (or not), another Parfet tipple, this one concrete, survives on 20th St just north of Jackson St. Clay from Parfet’s Rockwell Mine (now Fossil Trace GC) was tipped over this tipple into waiting railcars on a spur of the former DIM tramway which ran down Jackson. Chip Parfet says a day’s work was one loaded rail car. The DIM freight business ended in 1953 and clay transport by truck took over.

Photo at Fossil Trace Golf Club by Paul Haseman – Photo on the right from the Golden History Museum Collection

But railroad or not, clay mining continued on an even larger scale after WWII when GW Parfet’s grandson, William G. Parfet, mechanized operations with diesel powered equipment. First with an Army surplus, Bay City steam shovel from Texas, currently “on display” above the 15th Hole at Fossil Trace GC, and later bulldozers and drag lines. This mining along 6th Ave (Rockwell Mine) also gave birth to our Triceratops Trail on the 6th Ave Bike Trail, where clay excavation disclosed ancient fossil remains of good ‘ole Golden dinosaurs, yet another story.

As Parfet mine operations moved south along 6th Avenue, the “disturbed” land left behind went to new good use. In 1964, the Parfet business traded its Parfet #1/Rubey Mine with Mines for additional land further south along 6th and Mines expanded its campus west. Win-win. The next mine in line south, the Rockwell Mine ended operations in 2001 and was sold to the City for the Splash and the Fossil Trace Golf Course, which opened in 2003. The most southern mine was sold to Jeffco and is the site of Jeffco’s Maintenance Facility and Laramie Bldg, which you might surmise sits atop the Laramie Formation and provides a not-so-wonderful window view of one of the formation’s sandstone fins.

Laramie Building photo by Paul Haseman

Golden Clay was good for Parfet, good for Golden and in many ways as good as gold.

Paul Haseman and Donna Anderson are writing a book, “Golden Rocks! The Geology and Mining History of Golden,” due out by year end.