The History of Breckenridge, CO: Breckenridge and Boreas Pass
For centuries, numerous passes over the Continental Divide allowed people to enter or leave what is now Summit County: Ute Pass in the Williams Fork Range, Loveland Pass, Argentine Pass -formerly known as Sanderson’s Pass and Snake River Pass, Grizzley Pass, Webster Pass - formerly known as Hand Cart Pass, Georgia Pass - formerly called Swan River Pass, French Pass, Hoosier Pass - formerly called Ute Pass, Fremont Pass, Shrine Pass, Vail Pass-----and Breckenridge Pass. Breckenridge Pass? Where was Breckenridge Pass? Was it originally Hamilton Pass as some have said? Or is it a separate pass with an unknown location? Could it be the original name of Boreas Pass?
Historians have debated the location of Breckenridge Pass for decades. Many have searched maps looking for a clue. Maps through the 1870s show Breckenridge Pass, but after the early 1880s, Breckenridge Pass disappears and Boreas Pass appears. Newspapers and other publications tell the story.
The December 19, 1874, edition of the Colorado Miner, a weekly publication, specified Breckenridge Pass as the route wagons followed to carry rich lead ore to Hamilton (in South Park) and on to Denver. But, where exactly was the pass?
The Fairplay Flume on November 10, 1881, gave the location while reporting a “brutal and unprovoked shooting.” Three discharged laborers, James Simmons, Wm. Cunningham and Wm. McNally, entered the office of John Evans, the division engineer of the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad at the end of the tracks, near the summit of Breckenridge Pass. Simmons felt that he had been cheated on his pay and demanded an extra 50 cents. When Evans affirmed that Simmons had received the correct amount, Simmons drew a 38-calibre revolver and shot Evans in the lower jaw. Witnesses took the three to Breckenridge to prevent a lynching. Evans recovered after receiving medical attention in Denver. Where was the office? Beside the railroad tracks being built over Breckenridge Pass.
A week later, November 17, 1881, the Fairplay Flume noted that “Boreas is the very appropriate name of the station on the summit of Breckenridge pass.” Most likely people soon began transferring the name of the station to the pass.
Crofutt’s Grip Sack Guide to Colorado, 1881, confirms the location: “The Breckenridge Pass road from Como is via Hamilton, up Tarryall Creek and over the ‘Range,’ as is also the branch railroad to Breckenridge, now building.”
A letter from a reader to the editor of the Montezuma Millrun appeared in the February 3, 1882, edition. The editor entitled the article, “A Night on Breckenridge Pass via the South Park R.R. The story confirms the fact that Breckenridge Pass and Boreas Pass are one-and-the same. The writer boarded the cars in Denver en route to Summit County. “The summit of Kenosha hill showed us that the Range was capped with heavy clouds and the chilling winds told us that anything but summer reigned over the Continental divide. Arrived at Como we found that trouble was in the air. Instead of the truthful statements of the Denver official, we found there had been no train across the range for three days until about two hours before our arrival. We arrived at 1 o’clock and were tortured until 9 p.m. with the same old story, ‘Start in a few minutes.’
Well, we started with four engines, a passenger coach, a few flat cars and about thirty men to shovel a road to the Pacific slope. For several miles we got along smoothly but at timber line ‘The trouble begins.’ Every cut was drifted full of snow and the engines were without a snow plow, so that we were compelled to sit still and wait until the shovelers had made clear the way. For four weary hours, kept awake by the jolting of running into snow banks, by the swearing and yelling of the railroad men, and the shrill whistle of the mountain hurricane, we were compelled to sit and endure it until finally at one o’clock in the morning we reached Boreas.“ Thus the writer confirms the location of Boreas--on Breckenridge Pass.
The editor of the Colorado Daily Chieftain, on July 5, 1891, established the location with this quote: “. . .The Denver and South Park road (railroad) traverses the county from Breckenridge pass to the long famous Fremont’s pass on its route from Denver to Leadville. . .”
And finally, the January 10, 1913 edition of the Summit County Journal & Breckenridge Bulletin included this article about the condition of the roads: “A Communication from T.A. Brown to President Good Roads Association. . . We have the road over Breckenridge pass, at Boreas, on the Colorado & Southern railroad, elevation 11,470’. ”
Thus it seems that thanks to the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad, Breckenridge Pass became Boreas Pass when the railroad built their station at the summit of the pass and named it Boreas, in recognition of the North Wind.
written by Sandra F. Mather, PhD