by Joyce and Linda Wommack
Robert "Bob" Miller Womack was the discoverer of gold in the greatest gold camp on earth and sparked the "last great gold rush" in Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1890.
In 1890, less than 500 hundred people lived in Cripple Creek (named so because of a cow who fell in the creek and broke her leg), by 1893 there were 10,000 people and they were still coming at the rate of 500 per month. By 1961 the last of the gold was dug and the mines were silent and it is estimated that $500,000,000 worth of ore was dug from the Cripple Creek hills.
Below is an excerpt from the booklet Cripple Creek Tailings: A Centennial Reading 1891 - 1991, by Linda Wommack:
He was a common cowpoke who loved his horses and cows on his small ranch in the Cripple Creek area. With a limited education, Bob Womack grew up on the family farm back in Kentucky until he came west with his father, mother, brother and sister in 1876. His father homesteaded land in Poverty Gulch . After settling in area, the unexplainable fever of searching for gold crept into Ole' Bob as it did thousand of other men who journeyed west for the taste of adventure and fortune.
Bob had his dreams and followed the creek beds with his keen eye, searching for that last gold strike. He had a theory there was still gold in the valley of Cripple Creek. Not in the hills, but probably washed down in the creeks and rivers over the hundreds of thousands of years those hills had been there. One day, sure enough! He spotted gold in a creek bed near his family's ranch in 1878. He followed the creek for years and figured a rich vein of gold was the supplier to this creek.
Photo left: Robert "Bob" Miller Womack. Picture taken in July, 1902 in Cripple Creek, Colorado when he was the guest of honor and Grand Marshall of the 4th of July parade. (Photo from collection of Linda Wommack)
His search finally paid off on October 20, 1890 and Bob Womack staked his claim at the assay office in Colorado Springs. He called it the El Paso Lode. The find assayed at $250 a ton, but nobody paid attention to Ole' Bob; they'd heard it before. The following spring, a mining man, Ed De LaVergne took some interest and formed the Cripple Creek Mining District on April 5, 1891. With the filing of his claim and the new mining district, Womack started the Last gold rush in Colorado. Within weeks, thousands of miners and prospectors, gambler and fortune seekers set up tents, cabins and lean-to's up and down the main dirt street of Cripple Creek.
The story goes, Ole' Bob had a passion for liquor and sold his claim for $500.00 and a bottle one night at the local saloon. Some old-timers don't hold with this theory. It must have been an overwhelming sense of euphoria for Bob to have finally located the source of the gold vein he knew all along was there. Whatever the story, Womack didn't make out too well with his claim; about five million total dollars eventually came out of his original find. The El Paso Lode later became part of the rich Gold King Mining operations.
It wasn't so much that Bob was looking to get rich, but to discover the elusive vein and piece together that incredible jigsaw puzzle of rock formations and erosion causing threads of high grade ore to run rampant. It may be true Bob sold his claim for $500.00 and a bottle, but probably because he had finally, after fifteen years of searching, proven, if only to himself, that there really was a vein of gold running smack-dab through Poverty Gulch! It most likely didn't occur to him what a rich vein it really was. So went the story of hundreds of prospectors.
In 1893, the health of Bob's father, Sam, was failing fast. His sister, Eliza had been running the family ranch single-handedly and could no longer manage with Sam's poor health. Eliza had a notion to change her brother's ways and put him to good use. She decided to sell the family ranch and open a boarding house in Colorado Springs. Bob worked at the boarding house off and on and prospected on the side.
He was honored in the Fourth of July Parade in 1902, after which Ole' Bob kinda' faded from the pages of history after his discovery. His old friend, W. S. Stratton lent him money from time to time. He developed paralysis and was bed-ridden for many years. After the death of his beloved niece, Dorsey Womack in 1909, Bob's condition rapidly declined.
Bob Womack, discoverer of Cripple Creek's gold, died a poor and lonely man in Colorado Springs on August 10, 1909. He was buried in the family plot in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, next to Dorsey.
Below is an excerpt from Cherry Grove by Egbert Hudson Womack:
Robert Womack, a great-grandson of Jesse, made the initial discovery which led to the development of gold mining near Cripple Creek, Colorado. The following extract is from the article on this famous bonanza in the Encyclopaedia Britannita (14 ed. Vol. 6, p. 722):"Gold was discovered in Poverty Gulch late in 1890 by Bob Womack, a cowpuncher, who died poor; and the Independence vein was struck July 4, 1891, by W. S. Stratton, a contracting carpenter, who left a fortune of $20,000,000. Before the spring of 1892, the hills swarmed with prospectors. Yellow-pine shelters, saloons, dance halls and gaming houses sprang up. Violence and primitive emotions ruled. The gold output increased each year until 1900 when the peak was reached at $18,199,736. In recent years it has averaged about $5,000,000."
There have been several stories about Robert's sale of his claim: one, that he lost it in a poker game, and another, that he sold it to pay a hospital bill. A picturesque account appeared in an article on Colorado Springs in the Saturday Evening Post (issue of January 6, 1951). There it is stated that in January, 1891, having had plenty to drink, Bob rode into the sleepy and decorous town of Colorado Springs, yipping and emptying his gun; and everyone soon knew that he claimed to have found gold along the creek where a cow's leg had been broken, Cripple Creek, they called it. Many started digging and the gold fields proved to be immensely rich. The precious stuff lay almost at the grass roots and miners claimed they dug it with pitchforks.
One day, it is said, Stratton-was sitting on a garbage can at a downtown street corner, when he saw Bob Womack. Stratton jumped up, clapped Bob on the back and urged him to step inside the bank. Two minutes later Bob had received $5000. If it is true, as has been stated that Bob was suffering from tuberculosis and nearing his end, this money probably came in very handy and may have been sufficient for his needs. If he had been in good health, he might have acted differently.
The story of Bob Womack continues. In 1994, the voters of Colorado approved limited gambling in 3 mountain towns, one of which was Cripple Creek. Today, you can visit Womack's Casino, gamble a little, have a meal you choose from a menu telling the story of Bob Womack and view his picture and that of Cripple Creek during her glory days.
Below is the lineage of Robert "Bob" Miller Womack beginning with the immigrant ancestor, William Womack, Sr. It has been simplifed to only include Bob's direct line.
This data is provided as information only. While the data comes from well respected sources on Womack genealogy, it is left to the individual researcher to confirm or deny this data for their own research.
1. William WOMACK Sr.
b ca 1607/10 Norfolk England
d bef 1677 Henrico Co, VA
m Mary Jane ALLEN (b ca 1610, d bef 1635)
1.2 Abraham WOMACK I
b 1644/45 Henrico Co, VA
d bef Oct 1733 Henrico Co, VA
m/2 Sarah SUMERSEALS/SUMERSCALES
1.2.1 Abraham WOMACK II
b ca 1668 Henrico Co, VA
d 1760 Goochland Co, VA
m Tabith HUDSON 21 Oct 1686
188.8.131.52 William WOMACK Sr.
b ca 1688 VA?
d bef 16 Mar 1762 Goochland Co, VA
m Mary ?
184.108.40.206.1 William WOMACK, Jr.
b 1710 Henrico Co, VA
d bef 10 Sep 1791 Cumberland Co, VA
m Martha ?
220.127.116.11.1.7 Jesse WOMACK
d 2 Aug 1782 Bedford Co, VA
m Sarah "Sally" Daniel ca 1767
18.104.22.168.1.7.3 John W. WOMACK
d 9 Jan 1859 Jackson Co, KY
m Phoebe Boone BRYAN 27 Sep 1813
(Phoebe's line related to the Daniel Boone)
22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199 Samuel Redd WOMACK
b 8 Dec 1819 Jackson Co, KY
d 8 Jun 1919 Colorado Springs, CO
m Corrilla A. BOOKER
188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.1 Robert Miller WOMACK
b 19 Aug 1844 KY
d 10 Aug 1909 Colorado Springs, CO