Gateway- Unaweep History
Gateway has a long and fascinating history dating back to the 1800's. The Ute Indians inhabited the Gunnison area until settlers gave them cattle to move to this canyon. Then in 1881 there was a treaty removing the Ute Indians and sending them to reservations. That year is the earliest documentation of white settlers in Unaweep Canyon.
For decades following that, families settled into the canyon and began cattle ranching. They used this land for cattle grazing and ran the livestock up to the Uncompahgre Forest and Pinon Mesa Plateaus during summer months. They became experts on the land. Some of these ranching families still live in Unaweep today and are called Legacy Families. They built the first school in Gateway in 1903. It was a single room building, made of cottonwood logs and a dirt floor. A second wave of ranchers came in the 1890's and early 1900's when they were allowed to homestead. As the town grew, so did the school. In 1926, a new Gateway School was built and it is still part of the current Gateway School. The school has been expanded since then but the secondary students today sit in the same classroom as the students in 1926 did. The legacy families have sent several generations of students to the Gateway School.
Not all settlers that came to Unaweep were ranchers. Prospectors found mineralized deposits of copper and silver in 1875 on the East Creek drainage. Prospecting and mining began in 1882. Copper and silver mining came to a end in 1912 as resources started dwindling.
This was not the end of mining in Unaweep Canyon. The most notable mining period was inspired by Pierre and Marie Curie's discovery of the element radium. Radium was used for self-luminous paint on watches and instrument dials for aircrafts and other machinery. In 1899, carnotite (an ore containing radium, uranium, and vanadium) in western Colorado was discovered and publicized. People fled to Colorado to get in on the action. In 1913, a carnotite mine was established for radium content. The mined ores would be transported through Unaweep to Whitewater. From 1910-1923 almost all of the radium in the world came from western Colorado. The mines opened and closed a couple of times throughout the 1900's during wars or in times of increased demand for the elements. The need for uranium and vanadium spiked during WWll. Uranium was used for the atomic bomb causing the mines to reopen. In 1924, radium was discovered to be very dangerous and mines started shutting down slowly but surely. Throughout the 1900's, this area went through periods of mining other resources including granite, fluorite, amethyst, and beryl. There are no active mines here today but we can thank the mining boom for developing the road now known as CO- 141, making the rugged terrain of Unaweep Canyon more accessible.
Today, the canyon is home to legacy families, new families, ranchers, and more. They have preserved the history and culture that is Gateway, Colorado.
Dan Casement rides Concho Colonel with son Jack Casement watching in 1911 at Unaweep Ranch
In the 1940's, uranium mining boomed in western Colorado
Around 1918, Laurence Driggs hired Nunzio Grasso to build what is now called Driggs Mansion, a Historic Property