“Holy Moses!” shouted Nicholas C. Creede upon striking a silver lode on Willow Creek two miles above its junction with the Rio Grande. His discovery in 1889 of what became the Holy Moses Mine started a rush that brought an estimated 10,000 people into this remote chasm and led to the establishment of Creede (1891, 8,852 feet), which soon replaced Wason as the county seat. Creede also struck pay dirt with the Amethyst Mine. He sold his Holy Moses (whose ruins may still be seen 3 miles up East Willow Creek) to David H. Moffat, president of the D&RG, which built a spur line to Creede in 1891 from Wagon Wheel Gap. Seven camps thrived in the extremely narrow gorge of Willow Creek: Amethyst, Bachelor, Creede, Jimtown, North Creede, Stringtown, and Weaver.
As Richard Harding Davis marveled in The West from a Car Window (1892), Creede had “hundreds of little pine boxes of houses and log-cabins, and the simple quadrangles of four planks which mark a building site.… There is not a brick, a painted front, nor an awning in the whole town. It is like a city of fresh card-board.”
This “card-board” town squeezed in between towering basaltic spires was scorched by fires and drowned by several major floods. But nothing stopped the eternal hubbub of mining and ore processing, of gambling and carousing in some thirty saloons strung out along Willow Creek. Creede attracted a rogue's gallery of western characters, including Poker Alice Tubbs, Bob Ford, Calamity Jane, Bat Masterson, and Soapy Smith. Cy Warman, editor of The Creede Candle, wrote of the frenetic frontier boom town that “it's day all day in the daytime, and there is no night in Creede.”
In the awesome canyons surrounding this resilient silver city, the principal mines lie on Campbell Mountain and Bachelor Hill, north of town, while many smaller head-frames and mill ruins perch on steep canyon walls. Awesome milling and mining structures top the five-to-seven-story-high cribbing at the upper end of Main Street for the Amethyst, Last Chance, and Commodore mines. Creede's subterranean heritage—some 2,000 miles of underground mining tunnels—is commemorated by an underground community center, mining museum, and fire station (1993–1994), 9 Canyon Road at the northwest end of town. Much of modern Creede spills south, to more open terrain to capture more sunshine, leaving the old town to its narrow, spooky canyon.
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