By Lyndsie Ferrell
CREEDE— Jack Morris, owner of the Last Chance Mine in Creede, has been very busy over the last two years and the public is in for a huge treat when he is finished. The Last Chance Mine was bought by Morris several years ago from the Granger family that owned it for several years. One of Morris’ most favorite stories to tell, is how he came to be the owner of the mine and how far it has come throughout the years.
The Last Chance was one of the area’s richest mines, producing as much as 150 metric tons of ore during the boom days in Creede. Morris was intrigued by the mine from the very first time he saw it and after contacting the Granger family, was told that he could purchase the mine. “I knew there was no way I could afford a place like that, but when Nancy Granger asked me if I wanted to buy it, I said yes, but that I couldn’t afford it,” says Morris.
“Nancy asked me what I would do if I did buy the mine and I told her I would restore it and open it to the public in order to preserve the historical integrity of the area. It was the right answer I guess because she sold me the Last Chance for the assessed property tax value and I have spent the last several years getting it ready to open,” said Morris.
Morris was one of the first people to enter the mine after 40 years due to the fact that the last ore was pulled from the mine in 1974 and the place stayed abandoned until he took over. In 2015, Morris announced that he planned to open the mine for tours and after some work and red tape was able to allow the public inside the mine to see the famous Amethyst vein.
Though Morris had done what he set out to do, he wasn’t going to stop there. The entire mine is 13 levels and consists of almost 40 miles of tunnels deep into the mountain side. The tunnel that is open for tours is the second level and Morris has been busy opening more and more miles of tunnels for tours. “I am waiting on the mining inspector to come and give me the go-ahead, but from previous experience that could take a while,” stated Morris.
The tunnel branches off of the main path and leads to the south of the mine. The lights strung along the cavern ceiling illuminate the moist walls, causing a refraction of light to dance along the corridor as Morris leads the way deeper and deeper into the mine. Along the way, he stops to point out abandoned shafts, filled to the brim with debris and tells tales of how the miners used to work over 100 years ago.
Though Morris is a master story teller and only the fortunate few get to meet the man himself when they visit the mine, he has trained his staff to point out the most important part of the tour— the Amethyst vein. Deep purple crystals shimmer in the light of a flashlight, glinting untouched for over 100 years just waiting for Morris to come along and showcase the precious gem.
The second portion of the tour is not yet open to the public, but when the day comes, and Morris is able to take people down the long, weaving corridors and into the main ballroom that he discovered, people will not be able to believe their eyes. In some portions along the mine, the vein grows up to two feet in width and runs all along the walls, ceilings and even in some areas, the floor.
Morris has plans to expand his tour even further into the mine as time and finances allow. He has compiled a beautiful collection of rocks that he plans to display in the museum in one of the old mining building he refurbished. Morris also works with his wife Margaret and daughter Brandi to make their own jewelry from the precious gems found inside the Last Chance.
“I would really like to open the ballroom to people and offer lunch at some point where they can come enjoy a meal as part of their tour and listen to me give a lecture about the history of the mine and the material we pull out of it. That is a ways down the road but for now, just to be able to offer more on the tour will be exciting enough,” said Morris. “I could not have done it without the love and help of my wife.”
For more information and to get directions to the mine, please visit www.lastchancemine.com.