Colorado Fuel and Iron: Company Mines

Crested Butte Coal Mine

Location: Gunnison County, Colorado
Years of Operation: 1881-1952
Total Production (tons): 10,248,600
"Joker" or "Big Mine"
The town of Crested Butte was incorporated in July 4th, 1880. The Crested Butte mine was established by the Colorado Coal and Iron Company in September of 1881. The elevation of the mine was nine thousand and eight hundred feet  and twenty seven and a half miles north of Gunnison.  The first mine established by the CC&I company was named Joker or Jokerville. The mine accessed a coal seam that was between five and eight feet in thickness. 

In March of 1883 the first fifty coke ovens were completed on site. In 1884, a mine explosion that killed sixty employees caused the abandonment of the mine. All coal produced that was not used for coke was sent via narrow gauge railways of D.&RG. Railroad company  to Gunnison, and then on to Salida where the product would be transfered to normal gauge rail cars. 

 Another access point to the same coal seam was established in 1885, half a mile west of the original access point. The second access point was operational for ten years before it too was abandoned.  In October of 1892 the CC&I company merged with the  Colorado Fuel Company to become the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. This moved the mine into the hands of the newly merged CF&I family. 

A new coal seam sixty feet above the original seam, that was mined in the first two ventures, was opened the 1895 when the second access point was abandoned. The newly tapped coal seam was estimated to be between six and fourteen feet thick bituminous light coking coal.  The coal produced was primarily sold locally to D.&RG. Rail company, and other local mining companies, smelters, and domestic markets, where roughly forty-four percent was used to produce coke at Crested Butte itself.

In 1895 the CSCo. took control of the Crested Butte Store. By the end of the 1890's Crested Butte had one hundred and fifty four coke ovens on site.  Early in the 1900's the CF&I also established a school with kindergarten as well.  By 1902 Crested Butte became the commercial center of what was called the great Elk Mountain coal and metal mining district.

In November of 1917 CF&I purchased the lands and coal from the Durango Land and Coal Company.  A year later in 1918 however demand for coke coal had dropped significantly  which caused the closure of the coke ovens on site.  Total coke production from the Crested Butte mine is estimated to have been one million two hundred and sixty nine thousand nine hundred and thirty four tons of coke. 

In 1927 the Crested Butte mine was capable of producing between seven hundred to eight hundred tons of coal a day.  The mine employed roughly two hundred worked. There were forty nine tenant houses for rent from the company, where the other employees either rented  or owned their own homes in Crested Butte which had a population of about one thousand two hundred people. 

In May of 1944, CF&I acquired the coal reserves of another mine in the same general location named Bulkley #2. The purchase included one hundred and eighty five acres of land and an estimated million tons of recoverable coal. The Bulkley mine was originally opened by the Crested Butte Coal Company in 1920, and then in 1927 taken over by the Elk Mountain Coal Mining Company. The Bulkley mine was shut down but access to the mine and its coal were possible through the Crested Butte Mine. The CSCo store was closed permanently along with the mine in 1952, the school had been taken over by the state. 

As with any mining the work was often dangerous and accidents and disasters often occurred. CF&I kept records of all accidents and employed artists to render sketches of accidents to help complete their records. Below is one such sketch and explanation of an accident.

This page has paths:

This page references: