By 1900 there were 540,000 people in Colorado. Most of the economic action had shifted from the silver mines of Leadville to the gold fields around Cripple Creek. In 1900 alone, production in the Cripple Creek – Victor mining district reached $20 million and over 80,000 people lived in the District.
In the election of 1900 Democrat James Orsman was elected Governor of Colorado and a 69-year-old Georgetown lawyer, Charles C. Post, was elected Attorney General. He was elected on a fusion ticket of the Populist, Silver Republicans and Democratic parties. Post’s election as Attorney General was the culmination of an extraordinary career.
Born on November 29, 1831 on a farm in Washetenaw, Michigan, Post spent his early life on a family farm and attending common schools. At the age of twenty, he went to Decatur, Illinois to begin the study of law with his brother, Captain J. S. Post. Charles Post was admitted to the bar in 1854 and remained in the practice of law with his brother for five years. He married Angelina Kaufman in May 1856. They would have six children. In May of 1859 he joined a party of emigrants headed for the gold fields of Colorado. “Pikes Peak or Bust” was their slogan. They outfitted in Kansas City, Missouri and came west by the Arkansas River route, reaching Denver on June 17, 1859. He kept a diary of his experiences on the trip west which was published in 1942.
Post first tried his hand at gulch mining near Central City. He had brought his law books with him and also practiced law to support himself. He appeared frequently in the miners’ court in Idaho Springs to advocate for fellow miners. He was elected as a delegate from Gilpin County to the constitutional convention that established the short-lived territory of Jefferson. He was elected a member of the provisional government and elected a judge in 1860. During the Civil War, Post served as a recruiting officer for the Union and helped raise and organize the Second Colorado Calvary.
In 1868 Post was elected District Attorney of the Second Judicial District, which at that time included Jefferson, Boulder, Gilpin, Clear Creek, Larimer and Summit Counties. At the conclusion of his term he moved to Georgetown and practiced law, becoming very successful in mining litigation. He also served several years as County Attorney. In 1887 he moved to Denver.
The Biennial Report filed by Post at the end of his term described the work of his office after his election as Attorney General in November of 1900. Of great historical interest is his appearance in the United States Supreme Court in the case of Kansas v. Colorado, 185 U.S. 125 (1902). The case was a preliminary procedural skirmish in a chronic dispute over waters of the Arkansas River. Despite an interstate compact between the states approved by Congress in 1949, the states would still be litigating over the Arkansas 105 years later. Post recommended a liberal appropriation from the legislature to fund the litigation, believing it could be lengthy. Little did he know….
The legislature also completely revised the revenue laws of Colorado in hopes of obtaining a fairer valuation of real property. Post handled the resulting litigation. He also succeeded in securing a court ruling that the state, and not the counties, was entitled to interest on amounts collected for state taxes.
The Attorney General remained a member of the Board of Equalization, the State Board of Education, the State Board of Land Commissioners, the Auditing Board and the Military Board. Post recommended to the legislature that the Attorney General be relieved of membership on the Board of Equalization and that the voters amend the Constitution to create a State Land Board to manage the state’s school lands. They would soon do so. Post also recommended that the legislature reinstate grand juries in Colorado, because their unique investigative powers were sorely needed in certain cases.
Post issued opinions holding that school districts could issue bonds to finance school construction, that the Governor could pardon an inmate or commute his sentence regardless of how little time he had served, and that school boards could enter into multi-year contracts with teachers.
In the 1902 Attorney General’s race, Post did not get a major party nomination. He was the nominee of the People’s Party and fared poorly in the election. Charles Post remained in Denver after completion of his term. He died after a long illness at his home on November 27, 1906, a week short of his 75th birthday.