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Two 2-story industrial buildings with two smokestacks,a small cottage in a fenced yard next door, and team and wagon in front
The Golden Paper Mill, as shown in the 1893 Golden Globe Industrial Edition

157 Years Ago
The May 1, 1867 Colorado Transcript announced that construction would soon begin on a paper mill. The owners hoped to have the mill in operation by early July.

They expected to begin by producing lower grade paper, including newsprint, wrapping paper, and “cartridge paper.” They hoped to eventually move on to writing paper. The same edition included an advertisement offering to buy clean rags for use in making paper. Since trees were scarce in this region, the mill also used straw and occasionally rope in the manufacturing process.

Drawing of Golden in 1873, showing the Golden Paper Mill and the Rock Flour Mill
Excerpt from the 1873 Birdseye Map of Golden

The editor of the Transcript was delighted to have a paper mill in town. He occasionally goaded his fellow newspaper owners when they ran short of paper, reminding them that Golden had a paper mill, so he was able to get paper when they could not. On the other hand, the Golden Paper Mill seldom produced suitable stock for newspapers. It generally produced wrapping paper. When necessary, early Transcripts were printed on wrapping paper.

In 1869, the Paper Mill was sold to Mr. E. C. Wells, who upgraded the machinery and increased the capacity of the mill. He upgraded again in 1874, but ran into financial difficulties later that year, and the Mill was put up for auction. The country was in a depression at that time. Apparently he retained or recovered it, because he was the owner again and running for the State Senate in 1878. He must have won the election, because later Transcript articles referred to him as Senator Wells.

In 1878, the Mill was severely damaged in a flood, but rebuilt and expanded and was back in operation by the end of the year. It employed 15 men at that time. The machinery was powered by the diverted Clear Creek water, but they also had a large, coal-powered steam boiler to heat their bleaching vat and dry the paper. The boiler consumed about 2 tons of coal per day.

Excerpt from an 1882 Birdseye Map of Golden

The 1893 Golden Globe Industrial Edition stated that Senator Wells and his business partner were both in poor health and would be glad to find a purchaser. Apparently, none appeared. The country was again in a depression, which may have complicated the prospects for a sale.

In 1896, the Mill was again severely damaged by a flood, but again rebuilt. Later that year, the water in the flume froze, again forcing a shutdown. In the spring of 1898 the Mill was shut down due to low water in Clear Creek (and therefore, in the flume that powered the Mill).

Mr. Wells upgraded his machinery again in the spring of 1900 and afterwards was running two shifts of workers. In November of that year, the mill caught fire and was entirely destroyed. It was valued at $45,000 and only insured for $12,000. It was never rebuilt. The Transcript placed some blame on the superintendent of our water works. The fireplugs were so rusty that the firemen had trouble opening them, and the rust in the lines was so thick they had very low water pressure.

In 1901, an eastern company bought the property, intending to build a “concentrator” (smelter) there. Apparently (fortunately) the plan didn’t go through and the property was for sale again not long after. Mr. Wells died in Golden in 1914. In addition to his 30 years ownership of the Golden Paper Mill, he served two terms in the state legislature, several terms on Golden City Council, and one term on the Board of Trustees for the School of Mines. He is buried in the Golden Cemetery.

old map showing the location of the paper mill and the watercourse that powered it
Excerpt from the 1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Golden Colorado. This map shows the flume that originally powered both the paper mill and the flour mill.

The mill was originally powered by water diverted from Clear Creek. This proved to be an unreliable power source, so the mill owners later installed a coal-powered boiler.

two story apartment building
Miners Mesa apartments (map) on the site of the Golden Paper Mill.

The Golden Paper Mill operated until 1900. That property is now occupied by the Miners Mesa apartments (map).