Two years after gold was discovered in California, a pioneer from Georgia, Lewis Ralston, struck gold near the mouth of Clear Creek. It was 1850 and the find was worth about $5. His companions named christened the stream Ralston’s Creek in his honor. Ralston’s eponymous creek is one of many landmarks named for the man, but little else is known about him. History buffs have been unable to locate any photos of him. The one book about Ralston, “Ralston’s Gold,” places him back in Georgia in 1863 where at 59 he joined the Confederate army.
Less is known about Ralston than about the glorious hackberry tree (at 72nd and Wadsworth today) that served as a landmark to pioneers passing through Arvada in the latter half of the 1800s. Hackberry trees were unknown in the area and the only other trees in the region sprouted up near water. Native American legend has it that a great chief was buried on the hill along with his medicine bag containing hackberry seeds. The berry and bark were used hackberry for medicinal purposes and special ceremonies. The bark of the tree was boiled down and used to induce abortions, regulate menstrual cycles, and cure venereal diseases. The fruit was consumed ripe and dried, made into porridge, jelly, and more.