Sunshine, Colorado, located just west of Boulder in Sunshine Canyon, sprang to life between 1870 and 1873, after George A, Jackson (who first found gold at the spot which is now Idaho Springs back in 1859) discovered rich gold deposits in the sandy terrain of Sunshine Canyon. George A. Jackson was a lucky man in many ways- He had made the first big gold strike in 1859 at what became Idaho Springs, and can be considered one of the “Founding Fathers” of Colorado, alongside William Green Russell and John Gregory- Were it not for the gold strikes of these three men, the Gold Rush of 1859 might not have happened. Jackson fell in with the secessionist crowd in the months prior to the Civil War breaking out in 1861, and he soon found himself arrested and languishing in the Colorado Territorial Prison in Denver for his allegiances to the rebel cause. In February of 1862, Jackson escaped the prison and made his way to Texas, where he joined a Confederate Cavalry unit. During this period, Jackson was a wanted man in Colorado, and had a $100 price tag on his head- A hefty sum in the 1860s. Jackson survived the war in the Red River country of west Texas, in relative anonymity. Jackson returned to Colorado following President Johnson’s general amnesty of 1868, which restored full citizenship status to former members of the Confederate Army, and absolved them of any charges they may have have been facing for wartime activities. This is when Jackson began prospecting again, and had the uncommon fortune of striking it rich a second time in Sunshine Canyon!  

 

George A. Jackson- Had Luck on His Side

By 1874 Sunshine had a population of over two hundred, and seven mines operating in the surrounding area. Sunshine canyon is narrow and steep, and homes of every configuration sprang up in unusual places at odd angles and on steep inclines. Mine workings intertwined with the residences giving the town a chaotic look. Down towards the bottom of the narrow gulch was the business district with a haphazard row of false-fronted shops and saloons. It is said, at its peak, Sunshine even had seven hotels! In 1900 a beautiful stone school house was built towards the head of Sunshine Canyon which still stands today.

 

 

Sunshine at its peak
Old dwelling at Sunshine today

Today not much is left of the “old” Sunshine- Much has been torn down or lost to flooding and forest fires in the past 100 years. Much new construction has gone on in Sunshine Canyon in recent years, and most of the homes and buldings in the area are of more recent times. A keen set of eyes can, however, pick out a few remants of the past scattered in among the new at Sunshine. The school house is a must see.  All of the property and buildings in Sunshine canyon is privately owned, so please respect the locals and their privacy if you plan to visit.

 

On a small, grassy, knoll above the canyon is the tiny Sunshine Cemetery where many of the early pioneers of the town are buried. There are a handful of recent burials for current residents as well. A small parking lot is open to visitors, and a simple gate allows access to the graveyard.

 

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