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In the late 1800’s, miners immigrated to Colorado from Cornwall, England to work the Gold and Silver mines in Clear Creek County. They brought with them superstitions and tales of little elf-like beings who lived in the cracks and crevices of the mines. These little creatures, known as Tommyknockers, were rarely seen, but were often heard singing and working.

There were two types of Tommyknockers. The mischievous Tommyknockers dumped over the miner’s lunch pails, blew out their candles and lamps, and hid picks and shovels. Friendly Tommyknockers knock-knocked on the walls of the mines to show the miners where the richest ore veins could be found. That is the origin of their name. They were short in stature, standing only two feet tall, wore colorful shirts, and had wrinkled, kindly faces with large heads.

There are many tales of Tommyknockers saving the lives of miners. One such story tells about a miner who was trapped in a deep pool of water down in a mine shaft. From nowhere, a pair of hands shoved him from behind, up and out of the pool. Seconds later, a gigantic boulder fell exactly where the miner had been trapped.

Miners were never harsh with even the most mischievous Tommyknockers because they believed the creaking timbers, tapping on pipes, falling stones and misplaced equipment were warning signs from the Tommyknockers of impending danger. Many miners left tidbits of their lunch to encourage good fortune and safety brought about by the Tommyknockers.

Today, the legend continues with quality handcrafted lagers and ales, honoring the tales and superstitions of Tommyknockers in Clear Creek County.


An ancient legend

Tommyknockers, those little gnomes who live beneath the ground, deep in caves and like to inhabit mines. Remember the seven dwarfs in Snow White, or how about the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, the Tommyknockers; Gnomes, mysterious creatures of the underworld, spirit beings that may be your best friend or your worst enemy.

There are those who believe them to be very real, especially if you are a miner, even in this day of modern science and technology, some still believe. Is it just superstition? I don’t think so. I’ve heard the tales. They are real enough to keep me out of the mine.

They say these little gnome-like creatures are about two feet tall with human like features, slightly greenish in color. Miners have seen them but more often felt their presence or heard them, tapping, knocking on the walls of the mines, warning the miners of danger, telling them to get out. You don’t ignore a Tommyknocker, not if you want to live. Those who have died in the mines. Mining is a dangerous business, even today.

These little gnome-like creatures are known to be mischief makers as well. They will eat your lunch, hide your tools, knock your hardhat off your head, tweak your ear and may even appear as the ghost of some miner who died in the mine years ago or maybe it is a ghost that the gnomes can call out of the darkness, the beyond.

More than one ghost has been seen in the mines, a strange glowing light at the end of a tunnel that suddenly takes on human form and then vanishes in a misty white cloud. They say it is probably just a mixture of gases and dust and when you see such an enigma, get out. Don’t wait, an explosion is imminent; but maybe it is a ghost or the Tommyknockers giving the warning. It is wise to heed the warning. There are those who didn’t and those who made it out barely in the knick of time. They say that if you believe in the Tommyknockers, listen to their warnings, they will do favors and assist the miners, work right along beside them and lead them to the riches ore veins but if you didn’t, if you mock them, these gnome-like being will cause injury and even death to those who ignore them. It is not wise to mock a Tommyknocker. I’ve heard the legends.

I’ve heard a legend about the Tommyknockers. It happened nearly 200 years ago in the hills of Smokeshire. There is a gold mine there. I’ve been to the mine. I know. The mine is abandoned now. Though there is still gold there no one will mine it because of the Tommyknockers. They say three men died there because they ignored the warning while four others escaped. The three who died were never found and the mine was seal. No one would go back in there to work. Those who escaped told how they had been warned, heard the tapping and saw the gnomes as they raced toward the entrance just ahead of the mine collapsing. Four heeded the warning and three stayed behind, mocking the others for their superstition. They aren’t laughing anymore.

 The legends of the Tommyknockers has been around for thousands of years

Beginning in the tin mines in the days of the Roman Empire when these creatures of the underworld took pity on the slaves who were forced to work the mines and warned them of danger and often helped them with their mining chores. Maybe it is all superstition and then again, maybe its not.

Sometimes at night if you sit quietly and listen near the entrance of this old abandoned mine you can still hear the Tommyknockers at work. You can hear the tapping of their picks as they mine the gold that was left behind. Sometimes you can hear the faint echo of their voices beneath the hills of Smokeshire and if you are lucky, if you believe you may just find a small nugget or two, maybe some placer gold in the brook that runs down the hill below the mine that the Tommyknockers dropped and left behind.




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