Friday, February 26, 2021

Tom Curran and Three Orphans Saloon


For 24 years, between 1890 and 1915, Moorhead, Minnesota, was infamous for being a tough, rowdy saloon town. The reputation was well earned.  Alcohol sales were the city’s major industry with one in every 10 families deriving their income from the liquor trade.  Thomas H. Curran, a Moorhead policeman, apparently weighing the perils of law enforcement against the opportunities awaiting, about 1895 traded in his brass badge for a brass railing. In time Curran would become a partner on arguably Moorhead’s most famous saloon:  “The Three Orphans.”

In 1890, prohibitionists had scored a major victory when North Dakota outlawed alcohol sales and went totally “dry.”  Thirsty resident of neighboring Fargo simply went across the Red River to Minnesota, where alcohol was still legal. “Let the saloons come,” said John Erickson,  Moorhead’s mayor and a brewery owner. “The more the better it will be for us. They pay more in taxes than anyone else. How many temperance people…pay $500 a year in taxes?”  

Curran, of Irish ancestry, was born in England in 1863, and although records differ, most likely immigrated to America about 1880.  Sometime during that decade he moved to Minnesota.  At the age of 21 young Tom met and married a woman named Bridget, her name believed to be McNamara.  She was an immigrant from Ireland and about the same age.  Over the next thirteen years  the Currans would have five children:  James born in 1884;  Mary, 1886; Lucy, 1888; Margaret, 1893, and William, 1897.  Tom is shown here in a family photo.

The financial requirements of his growing family may have convinced Curran to abandoned the role of peacekeeper for one of saloonkeeper.  When he made the switch, he did not have to look far for a job. By 1900, Moorhead boasted forty-seven saloons to serve its own population of fewer than 4,000.  According to city directories Curran first surfaced in 1896 as a bartender for a saloon owned by L. H. Kertson.  

Having learned the whiskey trade, within five years Tom struck out on his own, opening a saloon about 1896 on Moorhead’s First Street at the northeast corner of Ridge Avenue.  Enlisting two partners, H. J. Waldron and Frank Freel, he called his drinking establishment Curran & Company.

For unknown reasons Curran’s initial effort at operating his own saloon proved short-lived. By 1902 he was back working as a bartender for W. H. “Billy” Diemert, a well-known Moorehead publican.  In a photograph of the city’s “drinking” district below, Diemert’s place can be seen at right.  According to directories, Curran stayed with Diemert until 1905 when a new and attractive prospect opened.

The shortest route from dry Fargo to wet Moorhead, the distance of a little over a mile, was the bridge over the “Northern” Red River.  Since those waters belonged to Minnesota, saloons blossomed all along the bridge, making it a short hop for Dakotans.  One of those establishments, shown below, belonged to Billy Diemert.  In 1904 he agreed to sell it to Curran and two partners,  John W. Higgins and Julius Aske.  Higgins was a Canadian, born in Nova Scotia who had moved to North Dakota, and then to Moorhead.  Aske was a native-born Minnesotan of Norwegian heritage. Only in his late 20’s, Julius was the youngest of the trio.

The site of the building, shown above in Diemert’s day, was a boat-like structure anchored on stilts in the riverbed abutting the bridge.  From the photo below it appears that the partners added considerably to Diemert’s structure in creating the saloon they called The Three Orphans.  It soon became one of the premier drinking establishments at the bridge, known for its fancy interior and a 48-foot bar the owners claimed “was the longest in the country.”  (The bar wasn’t even close actually but the word hadn’t gotten to Moorhead.)  The front porch, a favorite with patrons in summer, faced the Red River.

Speculation has thrived as to why only Higgens' and Aske’s names appear on the building.  Some have speculated that Curran, as a former policeman, preferred to be a silent partner.  Truth was, however, Tom was almost a decade gone from policing.  Moreover, Moorhead directories regularly listed him as a partner in The Three Orphans. In a 1973 newspaper article in the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, Curran's son, William, shown here, recalled as a boy going with his father on Sundays when the bar was closed “to watch him blend whiskey in the basement, a blend that was bottled as “Three Orphans Whiskey.”

This suggests the crucial role that Curran was playing in the business.  He was the saloon’s “rectifier,” that is, the partner entrusted with mixing up the establishment’s proprietary brand in order to achieve a particular color, smoothness and taste.  Rectifying was an art and Curran apparently had mastered it.  He was buying barrels of whiskey shipped from selected Midwest distilleries, carefully mixing the whiskeys according to his recipe and bottling the blend in gallon jugs.

Those ceramic containers hold their own story.  Shown are three jugs that bear the Three Orphans logo.  They were the product of the potteries of Redwing, Minnesota, a town 260 miles southeast of Moorhead, famous for the quality of its stoneware vessels.   Today Redwing ceramic products are collected avidly in the United States and beyond.  A national collectors organization with a newsletter, based in Redwing, keeps the torch burning for buyers.   As a result, prices, particularly for saloon jugs, are kept high.  Three Orphan Saloon jugs today sell regularly for $4,000-$5,000, depending on condition.  Remember that Higgins, Aske and Curran gave the jugs away with their whiskey.

Although the Three Orphans saloon enjoyed the steady clientele that dry Fargo provided, there was a distinct downside.  According to Moorhead police records, 75 percent of arrests in the 1900s were alcohol related. After the harvest when thousands of farm hands arrived to drink up their pay, general rowdiness and often violence was the result.  Liquor money also bred political corruption.  Many locals became opposed to the whiskey trade.  As expressed by one Moorhead business and political leader: The problem was: “…If they took the 47 saloons out of Moorhead, what was left?…Liquor was the principal business of Moorhead….Moorhead’s greatest problem was whether to be pure or prosperous.”

By 1914 the residents of surrounding Clay County joined the national clamor to ban strong drink and voted the county dry.  As a city, Moorhead was exempt from the edict — but only for a year.  The law was changed and in May 1915, voters outlawed alcohol in the city.  It likely was no coincidence that exactly 25 years to the day Fargo dried up, so did Moorhead.  Along with other watering holes, the Three Orphans Saloon closed amid fireworks and a rousing civic farewell.  The partners promptly sold the building to one of their bartenders, Amund Thorson, and a partner who renamed it “The Silver Moon Cafe.”  While ostensibly dealing with only with food and cigars, the new owners were not averse to some bootlegging.  Moorhead court records list multiple arrests for the pair.

No evidence exists that Tom Curran dabbled in illicit alcohol.  The 1920 census found him age 53 living in Moorhead at 211 Seventh St.  With him were his wife, Bridget; daughter Lucy, a teacher in the public schools, and son William, later to be sheriff of Clay County.  A family photo shows Tom and Bridget with a son-in-law.   Curran’s occupation was given as farmer.  Tom’s residence in town suggests he may have been a “gentleman farmer,” owning the land and leasing to tenants.

Curran lived to witness World War I, the Spanish flu epidemic, National Prohibition, the onset of the Great Depression, and Repeal.  He might well have taken some joy from the last. The Silver Moon Cafe began serving beer legally, although hard liquor for a time was still forbidden.  Thomas Curran died in 1939 at the age of 76 and was buried in Moorhead’s St. Joseph Cemetery.  His headstone is shown below. 

In time the building that was the Three Orphans Saloon was razed.  The place where it stood, shown right, is now a protected archeological site because of artifacts from the Three Orphans Saloon some have found at low tide.  Where the river was shallow people were digging in the muck hoping to find saloon artifacts.  An intact jug would be a bonanza.  The Curran home still stands in Moorhead, shown below as it looks today.

Two mysteries remain:  Why did Curran not add his name formally to ownership of the saloon?  As bartender and rectifier he was an essential part of the operation.  My thought is that he might have been content to have one Irishman and one Norwegian identified up front and concerned about possible negative effects of a second Irish name.  Second, were the three owners really orphans?  The record is inconclusive.  On genealogical sites, the parents of each man are unlisted as “unknown” but that fails to establish orphanhood.  Clearly more research is needed to establish the validity of the claim.

Notes:  This post was occasioned when an old friend, Jack Hamilton, sent me a newspaper clipping on Thomas Curran, his great grandfather.  I had already done some research on Moorhead MN (see post of March 13, 2020) and Curran and the Three Orphans Saloon intrigued me.  This post has been drawn from two key sources, an Internet article (undated, unsigned) from the Minnesota Historical Society, and photos and research by Mark Peihl, Clay County archivist.  Family photos were contributed by Dr. Hamilton.

Monday, February 22, 2021

T. D. Casey: A Liquor Dealer in Poetry & Prose



Though beautiful Cork he had left far behind,

Yet he knew abroad there was prospect of boodle;

Inspired by this feel, he soon grew resigned,

And to keep up his spirits struck up “Yankee Doodle.”

In Pittsburg arriving,

He set about striving;

With judgment discerning’

To brush up his learning,

And soon there was not in this Land of the Free,

A more wide-awake business-like Yankee than he.

In these few lines of absolutely awful verse, the author has managed to tell in highly abbreviated form the story of Timothy David Casey, an impecunious Irish immigrant from Charleville, Cork, Ireland, who came to Pennsylvania at ten years old in 1850, arrived in Pittsburg (original spelling) in 1865, and went on to wealth and prominence as owner of the oldest liquor house in the city.  Casey is pictured here from a newspaper photo.

A measure of Casey’s stature is that he was among Pittsburgh elites to be included among about 300 men (no women) featured in an 1892 book by illustrator, writer and abysmal versifier, Arthur Burgoyne, entitled “All Sorts of Pittsburgers:  Sketched in  Prose and Verse.”  Burgoyne’s prose biography noted that Casey had been able to finish his education by graduating from Iron City Commercial College, an institution that advertised itself as “The largest, best organized,and most successful commercial school in the United States.  Among immigrant whiskey men about whom I have written, few have had the kind of business education Casey enjoyed.  

The Irishman apparently decided to put his learning to use in the booming oil fields of Pennsylvania, but soon became disillusioned with those prospects.  Casey returned to Pittsburgh and opened a grocery store in the adjoining town of Allegheny.  He abandoned that effort after a year and opened a grocery in downtown Pittsburgh on Pennsylvania Avenue.  One of Casey’s principal sale items was liquor and he soon recognized the profitability of such merchandise. 


By 1868 Casey had abandoned brussels sprouts for booze, the product that would make his name.  That year he formed a partnership with Robert Woods, buying a liquor house that dated its establishment back to 1837. It was located on Liberty Street, one of Pittsburgh’s major commercial avenues, above.   When Wood retired from the firm in 1870, Timothy and his younger brother James continued their business under the name Robert Wood & Company.  Two years later Casey took Thomas Fogarty into the firm and changed the name to Casey & Fogarty.  The latter retired after about a decade as partner.  In 1881 the liquor house became known as T.D. Casey & Company.   Burgoyne pictured the sole proprietor as a dashing figure in a bow tie and black cape, smoking a stogie and posing like an 19th Century prince. The caricaturist’s doggerel narrated Casey’s rise:

" Eureka," he cried, when he*d hit on a scheme,

 "Rye whisky's the thing that'll make me a Croesus; " 

Forthwith of Old Red-eye he buys up the cream,

And a lucrative trade on the instant he seizes. 

The whiskey consumers,

Attracted by rumors,

Of liquor seraphic, 

Expanded his traffic. 

And that's why to-day it's in order to greet 

Him as principal Croesus of Liberty Street.

Whether Casey equalled the wealth of the fabled Roman is a matter for conjecture, but that Pennsylvania rye whiskey was his main commodity is not.  He featured it prominently in all his advertising. His labels included "Log Cabin,” "Mountain Dew,” "Old Velvet,” and “Excelsior.”  All four names are prominent on a give-away advertising shot glass.   Casey never bothered to trademark any of his brands.

Casey was not a distiller.  As a wholesaler of liquor, he was receiving shipments of whiskey from some of the numerous Pennsylvania distillers, mixing it on his premises and then selling it in ceramic jugs.  Shown below are two of his two-gallon containers that would have been filled with Casey’s blend and sold to local saloons, restaurants and hotels.  The jugs are interesting for their salt-glazed exteriors, featuring  cobalt hand-drawn applied decoration and stenciled lettering.  These ceramics would have been decanted into smaller containers at the retail level and likely returned to Casey for refilling.  The smaller jug shown here suggests he also was selling Log Cabin Rye for direct retail sales.


Through all his rise in wealth and local recognition, Casey managed to have a personal life.  In 1868 he married Margaret Joanne O’Hanlon, the U.S.-born daughter of Irish immigrants James and Cecilia O’Hanlon.  Timothy was 28, Margaret was 25.  Over the next 17 years the couple would produce ten children, of whom two died in infancy. Casey housed his family in a mansion home at 384 Beaver Avenue in Allegheny.  He also involved himself in the social and political affairs of Pittsburgh, especially the Columbus Club, an elite Democratic organization.  Records indicate he served a term as a prison inspector for Western Pennsylvania, likely a political appointment.  Some of Casey’s personal life was caught in Burgoyne’s last verse:

His house is the oldest in town, he declares. 

And so is his liquor — at least, so he claims; 

And the look of profound satisfaction he wears,

 Shows how little he cares for Prohibitive games.

Four youths and four maidens,

 Decorous and staid 'uns, 

His home help to brighten, 

And life, too, to lighten.

The Temperance folk up the creek wouldn't fly, 

Were they half as well fixed as this dealer in rye.

The 1892 publication, in addition to detailing Casey’s domestic situation, raises the prospect of Prohibition, some 22 years before America and Pennsylvania went “dry.”  Timothy was not to see that day, dying in 1902 at the age of 62.  He was buried in Section N, Lot 104, Space 9 of St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Pittsburgh.  A final word from Burgoyne:  “Mr. Casey is a man of agreeable social qualities….And stands high among the “solid men” of [the] city.”

Note:  As should be evident, augmented from genealogical and other sources, the major portion of this vignette on T. D. Casey has been garnered from the 1890 publication, “All Sort of Pittsburgers” .  Author Arthur Burgoyne is pictured here in a self-drawn caricature.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Whiskey Men and Prize Fighting


Foreword:  Liquor has had a long association with “the manly art of self defense” as boxing sometimes was piously  term.  It was the advertising money from a distiller in 1910 that allowed the “Fight of the Century” between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries to take place in Reno.  Featured here are three “whiskey men” whose lives were intimately involved in the fight game, one as a boxer and two as impresarios and referees.

Shown here, saloon owner “Con” Oram gained national fame for his 185-round, semi-bare knuckles prize fight in Virginia City, Montana, against a man who outweighed him by 52 pounds.  Proving he was more than a pugilist, Oram, shown here, also has been credited by historians with advancing Montana toward statehood

Circa 1874, after a short successful career in boxing Oram settled in Virginia City, Montana, where he opened a liquor establishment he appropriately called “The Champion Saloon.” Oram’s ads for the Champion emphasized that he carried a stock of the best liquor and cigars.  He also advertised his lessons in “boxing and sparring once a week,” signaling that Con had not entirely left the ring behind.

Not long after he arrived in Virginia City, Oram was challenged to a boxing match by a whiskey-drinking Irish heavyweight named Hugh O’Neil.  The winner’s purse was set at $1,000, equivalent to about $15,000 today.  That payoff was sufficient to coax Con once more into the ring.  Given his size and weight advantage, O’Neil was a 3 to 1 favorite.  Caught in a photo below, spectators saw what Sports Illustrated has called:  “One of the longest and most brutal fights in American ring history.”   O’Neil’s height, weight and reach obviously gave him an advantage but Oram was wiry and quick, said by one observer to be a “bundle of venom” in the ring.  After three hours and 185 rounds, as Con seemed to be getting the worst of it, the referee stopped the fight, declaring it a draw.  The pot was split between the two contestants.

Earlier, as the men of Virginia City gathered on the street in 1864 for a Western version of a town hall,  Oram mounted a wagon and began to harangue the crowd about their present hardships and the need to take immediate action to separate from Idaho and form a new political entity.  Apparently galvanized by Oram’s rhetoric, the crowd voted to raise money to present President Lincoln with a petition asking to make Montana a new territory with statehood to follow.  The group, its work done, then repaired to a saloon, likely The Champion.  Lincoln agreed to the split and signed a decree creating the new territory.  After a few more fights, Oram bought a Montana ranch, retired from the ring and raised cattle and feed.

Tex Rickard, shown left, went from from barkeep to boxing boss.  With its label in tatters the whiskey bottle shown below would have little interest except for the name in the smallest print:  “Tex Rickard,” an artifact from one of his early drinking establishments.  Born in Kansas City in January 1870, George Lewis “Tex” Rickard parlayed operating saloons into a career promoting boxing matches that made him famous throughout the United States and, indeed, the world.

Drawn by the discovery of gold in Alaska in November 1895, Rickard headed for the gold fields of Alaska where he and a partner staked and later sold a valuable claim.  He used the funds to open a saloon, gambling hall and hotel in Dawson City, Canada, that he called “The Northern,”  a name he subsequently gave to subsequent saloons in Nome, Alaska, and Goldfield, Nevada.

In Goldfield Rickard achieved recognition as a fight promoter.  As shown here, he sponsored minor bouts held in the town square next to the Northern Saloon. Tex, however, had his sights on bigger goals.  In December 1909, Rickard and a partner won the right to stage the world heavyweight championship fight in Reno between James J. Jeffries and Jack Johnson, billed as “The Fight of the Century.”  The bout gained national attention and brought recognition to Rickard as a fight promoter.  Tex and his partner made a profit of about $120,000 on the fight, won by a knockout by Johnson.

Richard was on his way to fame and fortune.  After staging a number of high profile championship bouts, he moved to New York.  By now firmly ensconced in New York City, a rich man and a world renowned fight promoter, Rickard continued to build his legend.  In 1926 he promoted the Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney fight in Philadelphia.  The bout attracted a world record crowd of 135,000 and earned $1,895,000.  By now fabulously wealthy, Rickard later founded and owned the New York Rangers hockey team, and built the third version of the famous Madison Square Garden.


The rise of Mathias J. “Matt” Hinkel from twelve-year-old office boy in Cleveland to nationally known millionaire sportsman, boxing promoter and prize fight referee was a phenomenon founded on the sale of alcohol.  From 1892 to 1919, Hinkel’s prosperous wholesale trade in wines and as a “jobber of fine whiskey” made possible his forays into boxing and other sports.  He apparently did not advertise widely and artifacts from his liquor trade are few.  I have been able to locate a metal jug engraved “Hinkel’s Pure Rye,”  The item likely was meant for use on a bar where it would have held water or tea for “cutting” whiskey.  

Hinkel would make his mark in fisticuffs, gaining recognition as both a promoter of boxing matches and as a referee.  His breakout event was arranging a 15-round featherweight championship bout on Labor Day 1916 at Cedar Point, Ohio.  The match pitted Johnny Kilbane, the title-holder and Cleveland native, and George Chaney of  Baltimore, called “The Knockout King of Fistiana.”  The Cleveland Plain Dealer opined:  “Twenty thousand American dollars must pass through the gates of Cedar Point…before…[the bout] is a financial success.”  A large crowd came to watched Kilbane dispatch Chaney in three rounds.  Much of the credit — and profits — went to Hinkel.

Soon Hinkel was being compared to Tex Rickard.  His reputation as a referee also was growing.  A newspaper in Edmonton Canada identified him as Cleveland’s “millionaire boxing referee.”  A Duluth, Minnesota, daily hailed him as “one of the best ring arbiters in the country.”  Shown below is Hinkel refereeing perhaps the most famous bout of his career.  Held at the Olympic Arena in Brooklyn, Ohio, the 1924 fight drew national attention as Harry Greb (left), the world’s middleweight champion, fought Gene Tunney, the American light-heavyweight champion. The match went ten rounds, called a “see-saw” affair, and the judges declared it a no-decision.  Hinkel told the press that if he had been permitted to vote he would have declared the contest a draw.

With the coming of Ohio statewide prohibition, Hinkel was forced to shut down his liquor house in 1919 after 27 highly profitable years in business.  By this time he was 52 years old and could rely on his many other enterprises for activity and revenue.  

Note:  These short takes on three “whiskey men” in the fight game are abbreviated versions of longer posts on each.  They are:  “Con Oram, June 3, 2019;  Tex Richard, November 22, 2019. and Matt Hinkel, May 20, 2020.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

E. A. Mitterer Ran Boomtown Saloons in Violent Times

The whiskey jug shown here unfolds the story of Emanuel A. Mitterer, who as a youth left his Austrian homeland for the gold lands of Colorado.  Amid the wild scramble for wealth and labor tumult of the times, Mitterer successfully ran saloons catering to miners, got married, and fathered four children.  Emerging unscathed by the violence all around, he later moved to Denver and lived to “a ripe old age.”

Mitterer was born in December 1873 in the Tyrol region of the Austrian Alps, in a bucolic village in the shadow of snow-covered mountains, as shown right.  Arriving in America sometime between 1887 and 1889 (records differ), he found his way to a gold strike boomtown in the Colorado Rockies call Altman. It was one of the highest communities in America at 11,000 feet.  Despite the mountain backdrop it bore no resemblance to Mitterer’s homeland.  Shown below as it looked in 1897, Altman was a ramshackle settlement, houses and commercial buildings largely thrown together of rough timbers.


Founded in 1893, with a peak population of 1,200, Altman was the product of the gold strikes in the Cripple Creek District.  Gold mining had begun in the 1890s, mostly as underground operations, chasing high grade veins.  Area gold mining has continued to this day.  Over 23 million ounces of gold have been recovered from the district since 1890 said to be worth more than $40 billion dollars. 

Mitterer was an entrepreneur, not a miner.  He recognized, however, the wealth being generated and the propensity of the miners, most of them without wives present, to spend their off-hours in drinking establishments.  With a partner named Blass, Mitterer open one of the nine saloons in Altman.  His drinking establishment likely resembled the false-front Altman enterprises shown above.  The interior similarly would have been without frills, warmed by a potbellied stove during the frigid temperatures of the harsh Colorado winter.

There Mitterer and his partner appeared to have been buying whiskey by the barrel, mixing up their own brand of whiskey and selling at both retail and wholesale.  For this purpose they used large ceramic jugs with their names and Altman stenciled in a brown slip that covered most of the container but left a bit of the underlying pottery bare.  These jugs have been termed “one of the very rarest of the Old West.”  The ceramic opening this post recently sold at auction for $1,600, one of two similar containers known.  A third jug, shown left, is claimed as a singularity because the letters are slightly raised. 

While Mitterer tended bar,  trouble was brewing in prosperous Altman.  The miners were making $4.00 a day for an eight hour day in the mines — a hefty paycheck in those days.  The wages attracted many jobseekers to the site. Early in 1894 some mine owners took advantage of the labor surplus to mandate that the work day would be increased from eight to nine or ten hours, with no pay increase. Miners were given the option of keeping the eight-hour work day with a pay decrease of fifty cents a day. 

The potential pay cut brought early violence to the Cripple Creek District and particularly to Altman, headquarters of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), a labor union not averse to using dynamite to get its way.  Some mines shut down and others were hit with explosions.  Violent incidents in and around Altman multiplied as armed strikebreakers hired by the mine owners made their camp above the town. The miners rigged up a catapult that could hurl dynamite into the camp.  The strikebreakers skedaddled.  Colorado’s governor called in the state militia to replace them, the tent encampment shown below.

Miners in Altman responded to the military occupation by barricading Altman and announcing they had seceded from Colorado.  Shown here is a detail of a fund-raising flyer developed by the WFM.  It outlines the grievances claimed by the union.  In the end the mine owners were forced to capitulate completely as lost revenues from a lack of gold mounted.  The miners went back to work, usual hours, usual pay.

Trouble continued to plague Altman. Facing declining room demand In 1903, the female proprietor of the Altman Hotel, Mrs. Ollie Davisson, with co-conspirators, contrived a plan to torch the hostelry for the insurance money.  Enlisting a former employee of the Altman Water Company in their scheme, they shut off the town water supply and started a fire in the hotel.  According to one newspaper account: “Being on a windy hilltop, the blaze quickly got out of control and no water was available to fight it.  The fire burned the entire business district and most of the homes in the town. Losses were estimated to be $75,000 while insurance would only cover $10,000 of the losses.”  Ms. Davisson's fire sounded the death knell for Altman.

In the meantime Mitterer had made a life there.  In April 1897 in Denver he married Amalia F. Staiger, an immigrant from Germany who was eight years his junior and brought her back to Altman to live. Their first son, Albert, would be born there. My assumption is that the family may have lived over the saloon, a common practice.  Whether it was the violence or a premonition of Altman’s decline, Mitterer soon moved to another district mining town, aptly named “Goldfield.” 

Shown above as it looked in the early 1900s, Goldfield was a more settled community than Altman, one with churches, schools and solidly built homes, although its economic engine also was the lucrative gold mines.  Goldfield was the third largest community in the Cripple Creek District with about 3,500 citizens at its peak in 1900. The town was built around the Portland mine, one of the best gold-producers in the district.  Although miner unrest had occurred there, Goldfield had avoided major conflict.  

Mitterer opened his new drinking establishment at 908 Portland Street, calling it the “Portland Saloon.”  No liquor jugs are known from this saloon but the proprietor was notable for issuing bar tokens that have survived, all considered very rare.  One token was made of aluminum, a costly metal in that day, and a second, in brass or bronze.  Both carry the same message.  The front bears Mitterer’s name, and Goldfield, Colo.  The back designates its value at five cents.  In boomtown Goldfield that may have been enough to buy a beer, but likely not a shot of bar whiskey.

A Cripple Creek directory indicates that the Mitterer family was growing.  Son John was born in Goldfield in August, 1899, followed by twins Olga and Adolph in January 1901.  The 1910 Census found Emanuel, Amelia and the four children living there.  Mitterer’s occupation was given as “retail liquors and saloon.”  In May of that year, Amalia died,  She was buried in Sunnyside Cemetery in nearby Victor, Colorado.  Her monument is shown right.

Left with four children to raise, ages from 9 to 12, Emanuel married again within six months.  His new wife was Marie B. Gruenler, a 42-year old woman whose home was Denver.  Although Marie initially joined him in Goldfield, Mitterer subsequently sold his saloon and moved to Denver.  There he abandoned the liquor trade in favor of working as a cabinetmaker.  By 1932, he had risen to treasurer of the South Denver Planing Mills Company.  

Successfully having avoided becoming a casualty of what came to be known as the Colorado Labor Wars, Mitterer lived to be 88 years old, dying in 1951. He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Wheat Ridge, Colorado.  His gravestone is shown here.  Strangely, neither of his wives is buried with him, only a daughter-in-law.

Notes:  This post was garnered from a range of sources, including Colorado newspaper stories and Internet historical and genealogical sites.  The photos of tokens are from