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Lewis Hamilton

One of America's earliest mineral dealers was the Rev. Lewis Hamilton, who became known as the "Pioneer Presbyterian Preacher in the Rocky Mountains" because he was the first Presbyterian minister in Colorado. He was born in New Jersey in 1810 and attended the Bloomfield Academy and Seminary, graduating sometime in the 1830's. He assumed a post as minister in communities in Livingston, Steuben and Chautauqua Counties, New York in 1842-1850 (he married Mary E. Balcom on Feb. 1, 1843 in Campbell; they had two children, Edward and Francis).

In the mid-1850's Hamilton moved west with his family, spending several years in La Grange County, Indiana before arriving in Denver, Colorado in 1859. He held his first services on the second floor of the unfinished Pollock Hotel, then in June of 1859 he began holding outdoor services for the gold miners and their families at "Gregory Diggins" near Central City. He organized a church and school in the area, which he superintended until 1862 when he stepped down to join the 2nd Regiment of Colorado Cavalry Volunteers as chaplain. After the end of the Civil War he returned to Denver, where he probably resumed his duties as a Presbyterian minister for some years.

Hamilton was clearly an active collector of minerals and fossils, because he appears in the Denver City Director as proprietor of "Hamilton's Museum" and of a shop called "Hamilton's Rocky Mountain Curiosities," located at 245 Sixteenth Street in 1876 and 389 Larimer Street in 1877. He specialized strictly in:

"Minerals, fossils and precious stones, collected in Colorado. These collections are carefully arranged, and labeled, so that the children can study them, and will be a constant source of amusement and instruction in any family, and an attractive ornament in the parlor. Cabinets will be made up to order, suitable for Museums, Institutes, Associations and Schools of every grade, etc., at prices varying from $5 to $1000."

He appears only in the 1876 and 1877 Denver City Directories, and does not appear in the 1880 census. Rerick (1882) wrote that "a short time ago" (probably in 1878-1879) the Rev. Lewis Hamilton had been killed in Colorado by a switch-engine.

RERICK, J.H. (1882) History of La Grange County.
10,000 Vital Records of Central New York.
WOODFORD, W. (1879) History of Steuben Co., New York.
SMITH, J.H. (1881) History of Livingston Co., New York.
YOUNG, A.W. (1875) History of Chautauqua County.
US Federal Census, 1850, 1860.
BASKIN, O.L.(1880) History of Clear Creek and Boulder Valleys, Colorado.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Lewis Hamilton Rev. Lewis Hamilton (1859)
The Mineralogical Record - Lewis Hamilton Ad for Hamilton's "Minerals, Fossils and Precious Stones," from the 1876 Denver City Directory.
The Mineralogical Record - Lewis Hamilton Promotional postcard for Hamilton "Curiosities of the Rocky Mountains," showing a photo of his museum and shop building at 245 Sixteenth Street in Denver, ca. 1876 or before.
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