In 1859, major gold discoveries in Gold Hill, Idaho Springs, and Black Hawk brought thousands of fortune seekers to the Front Range. These first settlers had to figure out how to feed themselves and supply the booming mines from our "desert". The first thing they needed was a reliable and plentiful water supply. So miners turned to farming, and built Boulder's ditches using water-wrangling skills learned in California.
Right, top: Stephen Long, the first American explorer of Colorado's Front Range labeled our area "The Great American Desert." In 1820, his men struggled to find potable water on the Colorado plains. Buffalo chips were their only fuel and game was scarce. Long's advice was to avoid the Front Range entirely. Shown: Stephen Long's map from his 1820 expedition. Courtesy National Archives, Map # NWCS-077-CWMF-US62-sheet 1 of 2, 1820.
Right, bottom: Marinus Smith rolled into Boulder from Illinois in June 1859. He was a veteran of the California gold fields. This time, he decided, he would make money by supplying miners, not being one. Smith immediately acquired 220 acres of rich bottom land along Boulder Creek, in what is now the Goss-Grove and Highland Lawn neighborhoods. With four friends, he set about digging the Smith-Goss Ditch. Water was let into the ditch during the summer, and Marinus officially filed on it November 20th, 1859. Marinus had been in Boulder only 5 months. Marinus Smith, from Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder CO.