Archive for April, 2020

The Final Day of A Ghost Town a Day feautures Garcia, Colorado and its sister-community Costilla, New Mexico

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Garcia is the oldest permanent European settlement in Colorado. Originally called “Plaza de los Mananares” the spot was settled by Hispanic families from Taos County, New Mexico. Adobe plazas with thick, windowless walls protected the early settlers from raids by Ute warriors.

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Located in the far southeast corner of the San Luis Valley just two miles north of the New Mexico border, Garcia was part of the once sprawling network of Rio de Costilla Valley settlements, which at their height in the mid-1800s numbered over 4,000 inhabitants. Today Garcia, and the sleepy village of Costilla across the border in New Mexico are home to roughly 475 people,  1/10th of the regions peak population, and very few of that 475 live in Garcia or Costilla proper, most reside on ranches and farms scattered in the hills nearby.

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The histories of Garcia and Costilla are so intermingled that Costilla County, Colorado is named for Costilla, the village in New Mexico- Costilla once being part of Colorado Territory, until a surveying error was discovered in 1869, which gave Costilla back to New Mexico. When Costilla, which pre-dated Garcia by a few years, returned to New Mexico, Garcia became the oldest settlement in Colorado.

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Today Garcia is a collection of homes, many abandoned adobes, and a few occupied. A stunningly beautiful church, and the remains of several adobe plazas. When traveling south out of Garcia, it is hard to tell where Garcia ends, and Costilla, New Mexico begins.

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Day #29 feautures Boston, Colorado

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Boston, at the head of Mayflower Gulch

Boston is an 1890s era mining camp situated at the head of Mayflower Gulch in Summit County.  There are around a half-dozen log cabins in varying states of decay, the sagging ruins of the boarding house, and rusted mining implements scattered around the site. Boston sits in a natural bowl, or ampitheater, and is surrounded by snow capped crags on three sides, making for some great photos. When I visited, there was a dense fog, and I was not able to capture the rocky spires that make a stunning backdrop to the camp.

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A cabin along the trail to Boston

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A combination hiking trail/seldom used 4×4 trail leads two miles into the site from a parking lot just off the side of Highway 91 that runs from Copper Mountain to Leadville. It is a popular hiking spot, and it is usually overrun with people on weekends. It is best to visit Boston early in the morning on weekdays to avoid crowds. Unfortunately, easy access also means Boston has suffered heavy vandalism and the trail in to the site is strewn with garbage from unscrupulous hikers who think it is the Forest Service’s job to clean up after them. Some “visitors” have even torn down log cabins at the site and burned the logs in bonfires.

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Day # 28 feautures Keota, Colorado

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The Methodist chrch and water tower at Keota

Keota dates to the 1880 when sisters Mary and Eva Beardsley built a homestead at the spot on the eastern Colorado plains in present-day Weld County. The sisters sold their homestead in 1888 to the Lincoln Land and Cattle Company. A few more farmers and ranchers establsihed roots at the spot.

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When the Colorado-Wyoming spur of the Burlington Railroad passed through Keota in the late-1800s, it allowed the birth of the town- The railroad brought water, which was stored in the huge water tank on the northwest corner of town. The water tank still stands today and is emblazoned with the name “Keota” and can be seen for miles of the flat, open expanse of prairie surrounding the town.

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Keota faded in the middle-20th century, the railroad stopped running through town, and tracks were ripped up in 1975. Most of the town’s residents moved away, the last in 1999. Up until very recently, those who grew up in Keota would return each for a reunion and picnic. At Christmas time each year, an unknown visitor still places a wreath on the door of the old Methodist church.

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Keota today is uninhabited. A few modern homes have been built on the prairie near Keota, but no one resides in the town itself anymore. Weld County has a heavy equipment shed at the site, and oil exploration companies and workers pass through once in a while. A couple of homes, the church, water tower, general store, and some barns and sheds remain at the site.

 

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Day # 27 features Geneva City, Colorado

 

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Geneva City is one of the most remote ghost towns in the Centennial State located at the headwaters of Geneva Creek in Clear Creek County and sitting in a bowl at timberline. Surrounded by snowcapped year-round, Geneva City can only be reached in the summer months, usually late-July through early-September, outisde of that the narrow, rugged 4×4 trail into the site is covered in snow.

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Geneva City is an old-timer- Prospectors first set up camp here after the end of the Civil War in the mid-1860s. Sturdy log cabins were built at the very edge of the pine trees to shelter prospectors from the harsh elements and electrical storms that plague the basin where Geneva City is located.

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The mountains surrounding Geneva City are rich in iron deposits, and Geneva Creek itself features extremely rare natural iron fens- a geological occurence where iron rich mineral water springs bubble up from the ground and creates rusty colored natural terraces. The high iron content of the Geneva basin area makes metal detecting nearly impossible, and attracts fierce electrical storms.

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Prospectors and miners have worked the rock in Geneva basin for over 100 years, finding small deposits of gold, and largeer depositis of silver, along with the plentiful iron. A smelter was built in the valley far below Geneva City in 1870, and the primitive rfining methods result in the slag from the old smelter still holding about a 10% silver content. The smelter has long since tumbled down, but crumbling red bricks and piles of black slag mark the spot. A sawmill was once operated nearby as well providing support beams and other wood products for the mines of Geneva City.

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The Brittanic Mine was the last mine in operation at Geneva City, and small scale operations were still carried out there into the early-1960s. Geneva City is unique because it never had a year-round population in its entire 100-year history. The winters at the site were just too harsh, and the town too remote to warrant year-round settlement. A number of log cabins, a large saloon/mess hall, a boarding house, and at least one small home, built of milled lumber which still exists, albeit precariously today. Mining remnants can be found all around the Geneva City site, as well as the Brittanic Mine site.

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Day # 26 features Modena, Utah

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Modena was a railroad town born in December of 1899 when tracks from the Utah and Nevada Railroad reached the area. Located west of the iron mines at Iron City, Utah, Modena  grew into an important shipping and supply center, as well as a water stop for the steam engines of the railroad.

 

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It is said the town was named after the Chinese cook on the railroad crew who laid the tracks to the site- He would call from his stoves “Mo dinna! Mo dinna!” (More dinner! More dinner!) each evening. Another tale claims the town was named after Modena, Italy. There was also famous mountain man in the Rockies at one time named Manuel Modena. Exactly how Modena was named seems to be lost to time.

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Brigham Lund established a freighting business serving the region, based in Modena, and successful mercantile/hotel in the town.  In 1903 a U.S. government Weather Station was established in the town. By 1905 the Los Angeles and Salt Lake City Railroad routed its line through Modena and brought more commerce to the town.

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Water tank and pump house for the Utah and Nevada Railroad at Modena

 

 

 

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Today Modena is largely abandoned or vacant, a few residents remain in the residential section of town, but the old business district is vacant.  The train still passes through Modena, but no longer stops. Brigham Lund’s Merchandise & Hotel building dominates the town site. A false-fronted shop next door to Lund’s Hotel along the dirt main street looks could be a still shot from any “Wild West” movie of the 1950s. Modena sits just a few feet off the railroad tracks, and it must have been quite an experience to be a guest in the hotel when the steam engine came rolling into town, blaring its whistle more than a Century ago.

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Lund’s Merchandise and Hotel

 

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Day # 25 features Twin Lakes, Colorado

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Founded in 1865 as a mining camp near two, large, natural lakes at the eastern foot of Independence Pass, the town was initially called “Dayton.”  Around 1878-1879 silver was discovered on the western foot of Independence Pass and the town of Aspen, Colorado was born. Prospectors and merchants, many coming from Leadville, flooded through Dayton on their way up and over the pass to the new boom town of Aspen. Around 1880 the name of Dayton was changed to “Twin Lakes.”

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Twin Lakes became a vital supply station on the route between Leadville and Aspen, and the town grew in size. As fortunes were made in the silver mines, wealthy mine owners their families came to Twin Lakes for rest and relaxation in its idyllic setting between snow-capped peaks and the beautiful twin lakes. A lodge called Interlaken was built on an island in one of the lakes, and boats would ferry guests from Twin Lakes to the lodge.  Visitors could fish the lakes for native cutthroat trout, and until around 1900, the much larger yellowfin trout, which was found only in the waters of Twin Lakes, and which is now extinct.

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This was once a saloon

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Original Dayton Hotel built in 1865, now part of the Twin Lakes Historic Park

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With the silver market crash of 1893, and the demonitization of precious metals in ensuing years, Twin Lakes faded into shadow of its former glory. The lodge at Interlaken now sits abandoned on its island, getting a few curious fisherman who stop by for a look each year. The town of Twin Lakes itself remains a sleepy community, a cafe and historic hotel dating to the town’s prime remain open in the summer months for tourists. A single gas pump and a fishing tackle shop round out the town’s current services.

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Twin Lakes has a few seasonally occupied homes, and a large number of vacant and abandoned buildings. An historic park free to visit features a number of abandoned buildings to explore, including a two-story log saloon, and an adobe hotel dating to 1865- Remnants of the original town of Dayton. Across the street tucked in the far corner of a tree-lined street behind the cafe and hotel is the old school house, preserved by locals with a fresh coating of white paint with green trim. The best time of year to visit Twin Lakes is in mid-September when the summer tourists have gone home, and the aspen and Gilead trees have turned gold and orange. Twin Lakes is a true beauty among the many small towns of the Rockies.

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Twin Lakes school house

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Day #24 features Grenville, New Mexico

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Grenville, New Mexico dates to the 1880s and was founded as a camp for workers laying the new tracks of the Denver & Fort Worth Railroad, which would eventually be absorbed by the Burlington Railroad.

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A town plat was filed in July 1888, several years after the camp had already been established. and a full four months after the last spike in the Denver & Fort Worth line had been driven at the site on March 14, 1888.

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Grenville, located on the barren high plains of eastern New Mexico 27 miles northwest of Clayton on present-day US-87, was a typical western railtroad town featuring the usual businesses and amenities for railraod travelers.  The town was also a supply and shipping center for nearby ranches and farms, beans being the top producing crop until the Dust Bowl years.  A combination of the Dust Bowl and the end of the railroad era led to the decline of Grenville.

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Grenville today is home to a number of abandoned residential dwellings, stores, and a school house which is one of the most photogenic I have come across in my ghost towning adventures. An old restored Texaco station on the edge of town recently housed an antique store, but it too has now closed its doors.

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