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Helping keep mining history alive

Christopher George will be at the Powerhouse Science Center to discuss his new book, “Preserving the Mining Past in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.” (Courtesy)
Christopher George to talk about his new book

Local and longtime Durango resident Christopher George is an enthusiastic transplant from Surry, England. A survivor of Nazi bombardments, George first came to the state in 1967 after his friend, Brian Serff, recommended him to the bosses at Colorado Outward Bound. He made the trip across the pond, and Colorado has in many ways reaped the benefit of his presence.

George is an ultimate outdoorsman. Skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing and other sports made him well suited to Colorado and its captivating landscapes. Sharing his expertise with students for 10 years in Outward Bound, he learned that his life’s path would keep him in the high mountains of his adopted state.

If you go

WHAT: Author event and book-signing: Christopher George, “Preserving the Mining Past in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.”

WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: Powerhouse Science Center, 1333 Camino del Rio.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit https://tinyurl.com/2ntkv954.

George was involved in making the mountains safer in winter by becoming involved in avalanche studies. The San Juan Mountains are unusual in that they have a complex snowpack caused by the copious amounts of sunshine that makes it unstable. George made his home in Silverton for years until health issues caused him to move to Durango a little over a dozen years ago.

Christopher George (Courtesy)

In his book, “Preserving the Mining Past in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado,” George writes about working at the Hillside Cemetery in Silverton. It’s a brief but interesting story about helping bury friends and neighbors in this unique place. Silverton has an unusual issue when deaths occur in the winter. The ground is deeply frozen and the town is no longer able to use dynamite to blow holes to facilitate burials. So George, who also does masonry, was asked to build a holding facility for Silverton.

The main emphasis of this book is the many historical buildings that George, for more than 40 years, helped save by repairing and restoring them from the harsh elements of the high mountain weather, time and vandals. Most of the work was done in the Red Mountain area of the San Juans. The projects included a range of structures – from a lowly outhouse to houses, cabins, mines, boardinghouses and more.

The working conditions for these many projects were poor and dangerous, but George was in great physical condition because of all his outdoor activities. Getting tools and equipment to remote sites was a challenge; one time, he even used a mule to pack in supplies. Emphasis was placed on protecting sites from the elements, which included replacing roofs, putting in non-timber foundations and sometimes boarding up windows.

In his book, George added footnotes to explain mining terms that may be unfamiliar to readers. There also are plenty of photos, some showing before and after repairs were done. He wrote this book in the first person, allowing him to share small details, which let readers experience the magnitude of the work that was accomplished. Also included in the book is a map that shows the locations of the sites that have been repaired.

George is sharing his story about what he and others have accomplished to help save this history for the future. This small gem will appeal to history buffs and many local residents who want to learn more about how mining helped Durango and Silverton become what they are today.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher and freelance writer.