In 1858, word of the Pike's Peak gold rush (named for the nearest known prominence) reached John Gregory at what is now Cheyenne, Wyoming. Gregory, a native of a gold-producing region of Georgia and a former California forty-niner, headed south with a party of men to join the diggings at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River.
Panning all the streams emanating from the Front Range along the way, Gregory struck color in Clear Creek a few miles short of his goal. In a decision momentous for the future growth of the region, Gregory veered westward. He prospected, with increasing success, to the gateway of the mountains, now the city of Golden.
With the spring thaw, Gregory panned his way up Clear Creek Canyon to a fork in the stream. Weeks previously, George Jackson had followed the left branch to rich but not very extensive placer digs at current Idaho Springs. Gregory selected the right-hand branch which, a few miles upstream, culminated in the rich lodes of what became Gregory Gulch, comprising much of present day Blackhawk and Central City in Gilpin County. Like nearly all prospectors, Gregory had neither the expertise nor the financing for hard rock mining. He sold his interest for cash, then he dropped from historical view. Some believe that he died years later in Montana, in poverty.
Central City and its satellite mining camps in Gilpin County boomed through most of the rest of the century and carried Colorado with them. Gold mining brought prosperity which provided high living standards and promoted culture and the fine arts. After 1900, the mining camps began a long, slow decline. By the 1970s mining had virtually ended and Central City and environs had fallen into decay. But now gaming and tourism are the impetus for a resurgence and Gilpin is once again "The Little Kingdom!"