In 1880, James A. McCandless purchased a 160-acre homestead just south of the Arkansas River. Soon after, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad laid tracks to the Arkansas Valley’s coal mines. The railroad stop became known as Frazierville or La Bran. The McCandless homestead adjoined the railroad’s branch line to the coal mines. McCandless staked his fortune on the railroad and platted part of his farm as a town site. He named the town “Florence” in honor of his young daughter.
The discovery of the Florence Oil Field in 1881 brought increased prosperity to the area. Over the next several decades, Florence became an important center for oil production and refining. Residential areas and the downtown business district expanded to provide the goods and services required by the thousands of people employed by Standard Oil.
In 1890, the discovery of gold in Cripple Creek proved a boon to Florence, too. Once again, James A. McCandless led the push for a road from Florence to the gold mines. The Arkansas River possessed plentiful land, water, and fuel – all scarce in the mining district. Mc Candless joined forces with several other prominent citizens and built the Florence Free Road in 1892, following the canyon of Eightmile Creek. The road was a roaring success – carrying supplies to the burgeoning mining district.
Just over one year later, Denver tycoon David H. Moffat financed the transformation of the Florence Free Road to the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad. Construction began in December of 1893. On July 1, 1894, hundreds of people celebrated the arrival of the first train in Cripple Creek – a Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad passenger train.
In 1900, Florence’s prosperity reflected the immense wealth flowing from the Cripple Creek Mining District. Now, Florence’s population numbered seven thousand. Each day, several trains carried coal, lumber bricks, merchandise, machinery, and food into the mining district and returned heavy with gold ore. Florence’s eight mills processed more than 1,300 tons of gold ore daily.
At present the myriad of antique stores and art galleries in Florence are honoring our historical past and recycling for future generations. Come and enjoy all the fine shops, restaurants, historical buildings and many family activities in friendly Florence.
Listen to a narrative about Florence: