Winfield Scott Stratton (July 22, 1848 - September 14, 1902) American prospector, capitalist, and philanthropist. He discovered the Independence Lode near Victor, Colorado on July 4, 1891, one of the richest gold mines ever located on earth, and became the Cripple Creek district's first millionaire in 1894.
Born in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Stratton arrived in the Colorado Springs, Colorado area in 1868 and worked as a carpenter. He descends from the Windsor, [Conn.] line of the Stratton family. His marriage to Zura V. [Stewart], in June 1876, ended shortly after the wedding when Stratton declared that he was not responsible for his wife's pregnancy, and sent her back to her parents. He set out following the gold and silver rushes in Colorado, but without success. On hearing word of gold on the south slope of Pike's Peak he made his big strike on July 4, 1891, near the present town of Victor, Colorado, in the Cripple Creek mining district.
Stratton had a hard time getting started developing Independence mine, but once going, it was like an underground bank. Not only was Stratton rich, he was generous. After the Cripple Creek fire of 1896, Stratton paid for food and shelter for the thousands left homeless by the fire. He wrote a check for $5,000 to “Crazy Bob” Womack, the prospector who first discovered gold at Cripple, but was down on his luck. He gave $15,000 to Horace A. W. Tabor when Tabor was broke. However, he tired of having people pester him for money, and he became reclusive and eccentric. He drank and read a great deal, but almost never had guests or went out socially.
In 1900, Stratton sold the Independence Mine to the Venture Corporation of London for $10 million. The Venture Corporation incorporated the property as Stratton's Independence Ltd. and sold shares on the London stock exchange. The ore reserves were discovered to be less than previously thought in late 1900, and the share price crashed. Venture Corporation later sued the Stratton estate, claiming that the mine had been salted, but lost in the U. S. courts.
When Winfield Scott Stratton died on 14 September 1902, he left the bulk of his estate for the establishment of the Myron Stratton Home, for "the aged poor and dependent children;" named for his father Myron Stratton. This bequest was not popular with many. After extended litigation from many, including his son, the Venture Corporation, and thirteen women who claimed to have been secretly married to Stratton, only 6 million was finally available; but the home was established successfully in 1913.
Stratton's other legacies include the Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway, a trolley system connecting Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs; the ground on which the current Colorado Springs City Hall stands on; and money to complete the Short Line railroad.
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