Gold was first found on Tarryall Creek in the summer of 1859. Rumors of the discovery soon brought hordes of prospectors. But the original discoverers had quickly staked all worthwhile claims and armed guards "encouraged" the late comers to move on. The disgruntled new-comers derided the claim holders, dubbing the camp as Grab-All, and moved on westward to the Middle Fork of the South Platte river.
There in August 1859, gold was discovered in the channels and margins of the river. As soon as the new strike was rumored through the camps, gold seekers swarmed in and a substantial log-cabin town began.
The leader of the discovering party was Jim Reynolds, who later, with his brother John, led the far-famed Reynolds gang of hiwaymen who operated all over South Park to Canon City, Leadville, and Denver.
Jim Reynolds confined each man's claim to no more than what could be worked says mine history. This camp will not be another grab-all, he swore. Every man is going to have his fair play. The camp soon became known as Fairplay. And for over 100 years the camp with the inviting romantic name has endured the mining booms and depressions. Fairplay, the county seat and the largest town in the county is a thriving, prosperous town, and a favorite stop on tourist itineraries.
The town of Fairplay suffered a devastating fire in 1873 and a large part was destroyed, but reconstruction soon followed. A man named Matthew McLaughlin had been prospecting in the area, but to no avail. He was born in Clark, Ohio in 1833 and his experience with horses was quite extensive. He decided to construct a large barn to supply the need for the hauling from the mines, freight, and people via stagecoach, as well as renting horses for riding and other purposes.
With financial assistance from a Mr. Hall, the McLaughlin Livery & Stable was constructed. It was a large two-story building with adequate space for many animals and a goodly supply of feed.
Records reveal that charges for supplies and services in those times were quite reasonable.
A horse and buggy to Alma $2
A team and buggy to Hartsel $5
Saddle horse to Leadville 35¢
Team to Como $4
Team fed and kept overnight 75¢
Passenger fares to depot 25¢
Shoe your horse 35¢
There were many exciting events over the years; one that has not been forgotten is as follows: Naturally, there was quite a quantity of animal feed on hand to care for the large number of animals. Well, there was a large room where grain was kept and the door was to be kept closed at all times. Someone left the door open one evening and a steer entered and proceeded to feast on the grain. When discovered, the call for HELP was sounded. It was decided that the most convincing way to get the steer out was to give it a "nudge" when necessary with a pitchfork. Two helpers went into the room and several remained outside the door. The steer, motivated by the pitchforks, took off up the stairway to the barn's loft and ended up on the roof. The roundup ended when the steer decided to become "airborne" and it ended up on Front Street - none the worse for the experience.
The Military Militia held a meeting in the offices one time, but the minutes of that meeting have been misfiled.
The first telegraph office was housed in the McLaughlin Livery Barn.
Matthew McLaughlin married Jeannie Pumphrey who was born in Jackson, Mississippi and they lived in downtown Fairplay. A magnificent pump organ was a wedding gift from Matthew to Jenney in June of 1877, and is now in the home of his great-great granddaughter in Longmont, Colorado. The organ is still in working condition if you have the leg power to pump it. They had a daughter, Alice, and two sons, Paul and George. They left Park County when the mining industry fell on hard times and moved to Rifle, Colorado.