Hard Rock Mining Tour: Mining Life

Life in a Mining Camp

Sleeping Quarters

Most mining towns, even small ones, had a boardinghouse or bunkhouse that slept between 10 and 30 men. Often the beds in bunkhouses were never empty: as one miner woke to begin work, another was finishing his shift and heading to bed.

Family Life

Many miners left their families at home while working in the camp, while other families made the mining camp a permanent home. Some mining towns had schoolhouses that usually doubled as community meeting spots where dances, church services, and holiday celebrations were held.

Child Labor

1885 labor laws banned children younger than 12 years old from working in the mines. The age was later raised to 14 in 1902, but children were still expected to help support the family. When a father worked the late shift, a child would often carry his lunch down to the mine in the dark.


Mine collapses, fires, explosions, and gas poisoning were all possible causes of death in the mine. Miners often died of treatable injuries. Areas were too remote or professional knowledge was lacking for proper or speedy treatment.


In the late 1800s and early 1900s, newspapers published news about new strikes, the construction of mills, and claims that had been bought and sold. Booms and busts were sparked as miners followed the newspaper leads hoping to claim a profit. When electricity became available in the late 1800s, power and phone lines were often brought to mining camps before reaching rural farms.

Did You Know?

For fun, miners would hold rock-drilling contests. The winner drilled the deepest hole within a specified time limit. The ability to drill 24 inches in 10 minutes was considered a good drill. A competition was held in Boulder called the Pay Dirt Pow Wow (later the Boulder Pow Wow) which was held every 4th of July.

Oral Histories

Oral histories are courtesy of the Maria Rogers Oral History Program Collection, Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder, Colorado.


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