Five Colorado Ghost Towns With Tragic Stories

Posted: November 22, 2015 in Cemeteries and Graves

1. Ludlow- Perhaps the most tragic of Colorado’s ghost towns. Ludlow was a company town, or more appropriately, a tent city for the workers of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company  (C.F.&I.) who owned most of the coal mines in the region in the early-1900’s.  A small cluster of permanent structures, all owned by C.F.&I., including a saloon, train depot, and company store marked the heart of the colony.

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Ludlow Saloon, Company Store and Train Depot

A dispute between coal miners fighting for better working and living conditions, and the C.F.&I. mine bosses escalated throughout the early spring of 1914. The Colorado National Guard was called in to maintain order, assisted by hired goon squads working for the C.F.&II. bosses, a skirmish broke out April 20, 1914. A gunshot ignited a fire, presumably by hitting a lantern or a fuel oil can, in the tent colony where the miner’s wives and children were hiding in pits dug under their tents. The tent colony went up in flames as the Colorado National Guard and the C.F.&I. goon squads fired their weapons indiscriminately into the chaos. By the time the Red Cross arrived 18 people had been killed, 11 of them children.

The few, tumbledown remains of Ludlow, and the Ludlow Massacre Memorial erected by the United Mine Workers of America can be found easily today, just west of Interstate 25 about 15 miles north of Trinidad. Signs clearly mark the exit, and the ruins, although behind a fence on private property, can be easily viewed from the county road that passes through the site.

2. Andrix- Andrix was a tiny rural town in Las Animas County between Trinidad and Kim along Highway 160. Andrix served the needs of local farmers and ranchers, and once had a school, post office, church and a tiny store. A few scattered homes made up the rest of Andrix, and the population never amounted to much more than 50 or so. Andrix was typical of the many small rural communities found in Las Animas and Baca counties prior to the Dust Bowl years of the 1930’s.

Andrix struggled through the Dust Bowl and the depression, and the tiny general store was the center of activity in the town. A husband and wife ran the store starting in the late 1930’s.  Barely eking out an existence, the couple remained faithful to the shrinking Andrix community, and kept a small inventory on hand to meet their needs.

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Andrix  General Store

The husband eventually passed away, his wife remaining in Andrix to run the store alone. In 1955 two locals robbed store and roughed up the poor widow (one of the robbers the widow had known since his birth) taking all the money she had to her name and stealing the few items left on her shelves. The thieves were apprehended down the road in Kim. The poor old widow never recovered from the shock of the robbery saying “The only place you are safe is heaven” although she remained faithful to her duty at the Andrix store, and was the last resident of the town in 1969.

The old Andrix store sits empty along Highway 160 today, a couple other structures, an abandoned car, and other refuse from the modern era mark the site. Someone, recently, has painted a memorial tribute to the Andrix community on the old storefront.

3. Bloomerville- Bloomerville was small mining town located between Ward and Nederland during the boom years of the Ward Mining District in the 1890’s. Not much is known about Bloomerville, but the few accounts that can be found praised it deeply, saying it was as fine a camp as to be found in the Ward District, boasting several good shafts with rich ore, a railroad spur to service the camp, and creature comforts and luxuries for the miners soon to come.

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Bloomerville, quite possibly the only cabin to survive the fire of 1894.

Then, in November 1894, tragedy struck the Ward District in the form of forest fire. Ward, Gold Hill, and numerous other camps in the area were fully or partially burned. Bloomerville was among the camps entirely lost to flame. The last mention of Bloomerville was a short quip in a San Francisco newspaper following the fires that stated simply “…no more news out of Bloomerville…”

The site of Bloomerville lies along the Peak-to-Peak Highway a few miles south of Ward where the highway curves and passes a large mine tailings pile on the west side of the road.   A steep hike into the gulch below the road reveals trace remnants of Bloomerville- A scattered brick here and there, evidence of mining, the old railroad grade, tin cans, twisted cable. A closer inspection reveals one forlorn, and nearly gone log cabin deep in the woods on the side slope of hill. Evidence of the fire of 1894 can be found as well, under about 6 inches of dirt a thick layer of ash is found, and under this ash I found numerous nails, railroad spikes, and even melted bits of window panes from the buildings of Bloomerville.

 

4. Sherman- Sherman was a promising mining town that enjoyed several successful years in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It was located west of Lake City in the San Juan Mountains in an idyllic meadow setting, surrounded by towering, snow capped peaks, laden with valuable minerals.  People flocked to Sherman in the 1870’s after the first reports of gold and silver came out of the area. A town was set up along wide streets, and several businesses and a hotel sprang up, as well as a mill for refining the ores mined nearby.

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A Cabin at Sherman, buried to the windows by floods

 

The changing of the seasons and nature soon became Sherman’s achilles heel. In summer months when the living was easy, Sherman proudly boasted a population of around 300. But, winter brought heavy San Juan snows which made accessing the remote town a nightmare, supplies would often run low, or disappear altogether, thus, many would leave the town and head for Lake City in the winter months. Then, heavy spring runoff from the melting snows, coupled with seasonal rains meant that Sherman, nestled in its narrow little valley at the base of the snowy giants would face regular flooding.  The people of Sherman struggled through these hardships, but finally gave in to nature after a particularly fierce flood roared through and wiped out most of the town. Instead of rebuilding Sherman, again, the people simply left.  A few stragglers and die-hards remained and worked the mines in the area until around 1930.

 

What scarcely remains of Sherman today can be seen just off the Alpine Loop west of Lake City. A tiny sign marks the town site. A few old cabins, buried up to their windows by floods, with trees growing out of their living rooms, a rock foundation and some twisted and torn equipment can be seen from the road. All of the site is on private property.

5. Holtville- Holtville can be described as a town that really was never much of a town. High in the mountains above Boulder, and west of Gold Hill, along the old Switzerland Trail railroad route, an employee of the railroad named “Holt” discovered some promising looking ore in a serene, but hard to access gulch. Holt, along with a handful of others from the railroad began to work the gulch in their free time and made a few small strikes. They set up some crude log cabins, and dubbed their camp “Holtville”. Holtville never had a post office or a train station, even though the tracks ran around the camp on both sides like a horseshoe. It probably never had any businesses for that matter other than the few mine shafts being worked.

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One of Holtville’s hard to spot cabins

Holt and the other miners would work their regular jobs on the railroad, then catching the last train of the evening would hitch a ride back home to Holtville. As the train slowed to make the sharp U-turn of the horseshoe topography surrounding the camp, the men would jump off the train and walk to their cabins.  One night, Holt jumped off the train, became tangled, and was killed falling under the train. Little was heard from Holtville after this accident, it is safe to say that when Holt died, so did the dreams of “Holtville.”

The site of Holtville clings to a precarious existence today, it’s ruins nearly invisible to even the best eye. About three miles west of Gold Hill on Gold Hill Road there is a well-marked junction with a mild 4X4 trail that leads south to Sunset, this trail is the old Switzerland Trail railroad grade. Instead of taking the trail south to Sunset, take it north, past a small dirt parking lot, and into the trees. This isn’t technically a marked road, it is just the old railroad grade, and many mountain bikers and hikers use it on the weekend, but it is safe for 4x4s as well. The abandoned railroad grade grows increasingly narrow and overgrown, at around 2.5 miles, you’ll see the “horsehoe loop.” Hiking down into the deep gulch from the point of the horseshoe, following the tiny creek will lead you to some evidence of mining, and two, hard to find toppled log cabins that were once part of Holtville.

 

2016 Colorado Ghost Town Calendar by Jeff Eberle $14.99!

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Comments
  1. mikemacey says:

    Jess, you have wonderful photos and content. Your content brings life to your images. I hope to share some of your blog post on our future website InColorfulColorado. Our current website is http://ColoradoMuseums.CO. InColorful Colorado will include maps for everything and I’d like to tie your stories to our future maps for ghost towns.

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