On The Road — Meet Mosch
My journey from Morton to Idaho Springs, Colorado, has taken me across the paths of many intriguing and eclectic people.
I have crossed paths with a faith healer, a Native American masseuse, a cattle rancher, a multimillionaire Norwegian, a Wiccan witch, gold prospectors, an African pastor, and now a former American intelligence operative.
Alvin Mosch ,the subject of this column, was born into the oldest continuous gold-mining family in Colorado at the beginning of the Great Depression in 1930.
Al’s grandfather, Rudolf Gerhard von Mosch, was born into German nobility in 1860. In 1876, right around when Gen. George Custer and his 7th Cavalry unit were massacred at the Little Big Horn, von Mosch’s step-father, a very harsh man, was preparing to force him to attend the Prussian Military Academy, and in the process beat him repeatedly. To avoid his horrible treatment and military service, von Mosch ran away from home and emigrated to the United States, sailing into New York Harbor in late 1876.
From there, he walked across the Alleghenies and westward until he reached a German enclave in the north woods of Wisconsin, where his uncle operated a resort for the very wealthy.
So von Mosch, believing that running a pleasure resort in this wild new land was a fantastic idea, left Wisconsin and once again traveled on foot and trudged up to Grand Lake, Colorado, with the intention of founding a resort much like his uncle’s back in Wisconsin.
Shortly after arriving at Grand Lake, von Mosch homesteaded 200 acres and began cutting down pine trees in order to build the resort lodge. However, fate intervened when the Utes and the Arapaho went on the warpath. Von Mosch figured he would lose his scalp, or worse, so he abandoned his homestead and walked into Gilpin County, Colorado, a stones throw from here, and began prospecting for gold.
His luck turned with his finding gold high up on James Peak. Eventually, he led the survey party to blast out what was to become the Moffat Tunnel, a 6-mile long, 24-foot high, 18-foot wide tunnel and 9,200 feet above sea level. It cut deep through the Continental Divide some 50 miles west of Denver.
Von Mosch’s son Hans, dropped the von from the family name, and followed in his father’s footsteps and took over the gold mine. Eventually, Al succeeded his father and now his son, David, runs the mine up near Spring Gulch. Four generations of the Mosch family have been involved in mining operations in Colorado.
When Al was 17, he left the tedium and doldrums of high school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, rising to petty officer. In fact, he was the youngest petty officer at the time. Naval intelligence then recruited him to gather communications data on the Soviet Union in the early 1950s.
His assignments took him to North Africa, specifically French Morocco. From a secret U.S. air base, Al would make flights skirting the Soviet border and gathering intelligence data for the Pentagon.
Many of the stories Al recounts cannot be shared due to the oath of secrecy required by law.
Al eventually mustered out of the Navy, settled down and started a family here in Idaho Springs while taking over his family’s mining operation.
His youngest child, Victor, has Down syndrome and lives in a group home here in town. Al plans on bequeathing the family mine to a foundation held in trust in Victor’s name with a vision to educate tomorrow’s youth about mining in Colorado.
Al has become a veritable public figure in town so much that he cannot walk down the street without someone flagging him down to hear yet another story about the old days, back when men were carving out mountains looking for gold, and in the process, carved out a new nation in the Old West.
To follow my journey through the mountains of Colorado, see my website at www.mountainpilgrimministries.com.
— Submitted by Brucce Schoenbein