Archive for the ‘Cemeteries and Graves’ Category

For those of you who are interested here are links to my 2017 calendars, Colorado Ghost Town Guide Books, and subscription information for “Ghost Towns of Montana and Beyond” magazine which I contribute articles and photos to.

I thank you all for your continued support and once the snow melts I’ll be back at it in 2017!

Also stay tuned for my upcoming book “The Gray Ghost of Colorado” which is the definitive true history of “The Reynolds Gang” a Confederate Cavalry company from Texas which raided the South Park region of Colorado in the summer of 1864. Their story is an intriguing tale of exiled Colorado miners who returned to Colorado on military orders to disrupt Union supply trains and mail deliveries and steal Colorado gold and currency to fund the Confederacy late in the Civil War. The Reynolds Gang left behind a buried horde of stolen gold and paper money worth an estimated $3.5 million which remains to be found today.

The gang was ambushed, and several men made harrowing escapes, and those who were captured were murdered on illegal orders of Colonel John Chivington by members of the 3rd Colorado Cavalry. Many legends have sprung over the years about the Reynolds Gang, but my book is the only true account of events and is based on the cold, hard, facts with the sources and documentation to prove all of the “accepted” versions of the story to be lies. My book will rewrite the history of The Reynolds Gang with irrefutable evidence.

“The Gray Ghosts of Colorado” should be available by May 1, 2017 and I will post updates here.

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Sandwiched in between the Sangre de Cristos to the west, and the Wet Mountains to the east in Southern Colorado, a few miles west of Gardner, Colorado I came across the forlorn and tattered remains of an old settlement about a year ago. (I’m certainly not “on to” something new here, these ruins have appeared in books and in photos across the web for years.) Tucked in close at the foot of a rocky bluff near the Huerfano River, surrounded by ranches sat this little gem with no name. I have searched high and low for information on this settlement and have found a few, vague leads, but no definitive answer as to what this place was called…or if it was ever called anything.




Rito Oso? Archuletaville? Sharpsdale?



According to Colorado Ghost Town aficionado Ken Jessen, for a short time in the late-1960s and early-1970s the site was occupied by members of a hippie community that named the site “Archuletaville” but the buildings were there long before the 1960s. When the hippies arrived, the buildings were being used as goat pens by a local rancher who agreed to let the hippies live at the site. This is the most recent account of the site’s history.




Prior to the arrival of the hippies and the establishment of Archuletaville, the site is shrouded in mystery. Many have claimed it to be the ruins of “Sharpsdale” an 1800s era supply stop on the route over Mosca Pass into the San Luis Valley. But evidence suggests that Sharpsdale was located nearby and closer to Tom Sharp’s “Buzzard’s Roost Ranch” which still stands today a few miles down the Huerfano from Archuletaville.



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Another possibility is that the ruins are the site of Rito Oso an old Mexican settlement dating back to the era when Southern Colorado was still a part of Mexico. A walk through the broken and crumbling ruins at the site lend credence to this possibility- Clearly, some of the structures are newer and date to, or have repairs and improvements that were made in the “Archuletaville” era of the 1960s, but a look around reveals a handful of much, much older structures of stone, log and adobe brick at the site.  A rough hewn log cabin without a single iron nail present, it’s logs splintered and dry rotted in a way that only decades of exposure to the elements can produce. Stone pens and sheds for animals. The location- Tucked in at the base of a bluff, on a prominence overlooking the vast plain of the Huerfano- An excellent defensive locale if you were concerned with attacks from roving Indians and bandits. Perhaps the most compelling evidence is the ranch across the road from the site which bears the name “Rito Oso”  but nobody seems to know for sure what the ruins were called or when they date to. Does anyone out there know the facts about this enigmatic site on the Huerfano?


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Highway 12, known as “The Highway of Legends” heads west from Trinidad, Colorado along the Purgatoire River into the foothills. Along this strip of highway from Trinidad to the east base of the Sangre de Cristos are numerous plazas- small communities punctuated by their picturesque Catholic churches, tiny congregational cemeteries, and small clusters of homes. Many of these plazas date back to the 1860’s when thirteen families from Mora, New Mexico settled the area, although the Purgatoire valley had been frequented and populated intermittently long before that by Spanish and Mexican ranchers. The plazas took the name of the founding family such as “Cordova Plaza” and “Parras Plaza.”

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s coal mining revitalized some of these little communities, and evidence of the coal mining era can be seen along way as you wind westward through the valley. When the coal mines closed, and the plazas returned to their sleepy existence as ranching   communities. Some of the plazas that dot the road are still occupied, a few are abandoned. A trip down the Highway of Legends today gives you a chance to view the crumbling adobe of these early Colorado settlements.


Church at Tijeras Plaza


Tijeras Plaza Cemetery with Sangre de Cristo mountains in the distance


Abandoned home along the Highway of Legends


A weathered headstone at one of the tiny cemeteries


Another of the abandoned catholic Churches along the way




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Abandoned cars at Valdez







Crown of a human skull exposed by time and the elements at one of the tiny cemeteries along the route.

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General Store at Weston

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Weston Elementary School


Unique House at Weston

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Church at Vigil



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Parras Plaza

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Parras Plaza

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Parras Plaza


Parras Plaza


Parras Plaza

Please Note: This is not a commentary for or against any view point, this is the factual history of a man and the events surrounding his life that have been largely covered up and/or forgotten by time. It is not my intent to start a debate on the controversial subject of the Civil War, but to merely describe the circumstances of a man’s life during this troubled period in United States history.

“History is written by the victors.” – Walter Benjamin 1892-1940

As Americans, we have been raised to believe in the power of good over evil. That our way is the right way. In the 20th Century we Americans cheered our Army on as they played vital roles in defeating our enemies around the globe,  our patriotic fervor and unity reaching a crescendo 1945 as our tanks and infantry marched into the heart of Nazi Germany, and our Marines on the beaches and our bombers in the sky dealt a death blow to Japanese fanaticism in the Pacific.  Often, our version leads us to believe that the United States conquered evil singlehandedly. Seldom are our allies mentioned, and never do we read an enemy account of things. We tend not think twice about our enemies.

We read our version of the events of World War I and World War II in our history books. We grew up watching our version of the great battles of our time reenacted on the movie screen or on the TV by celebrities we all loved. We were the victor and the history was ours to write. We are a united country- The United States of America, and damn the German or Japanese (or Iraqi for that matter) version of events.

But let’s look back eighty years prior to our triumphant victory parades of VE and VJ Day in 1945. Let’s look back 140 years before our Abrams tanks rolled into Baghdad and statues of Saddam were toppled. Let’s look back to a time when there was no “we” “us” or “our” Let’s look back to the brutal, bloody, Civil War which divided “us” into two separate Nations between the years of 1861 and 1865. A time when we were either “Yankees” or “Rebs”-  A unique era in our  history when two different Americans- Abraham Lincoln, and Jefferson Davis were called “Mr. President”  and both could rightfully claim that title. A troubling time  when a war was fought by Americans, against Americans, in America- A war that left 750,000 of us dead on our soil.

In the case of the Civil War, how did we effectively and accurately write the history of a war we fought against ourselves?  What do we say of our enemies when they are us? Simply put, we say nothing. It is perhaps the greatest spoil of war that the victor writes the history- omitting, hiding, changing, glorifying and altering in general the events of a particular conflict to fit their ideal and their agenda. Below is the story of one of the men who fought in our war against ourselves. This man was on the losing side, and, subsequently, much of his life story has been erased by the victor. His name was John C. Moore.


John C. Moore, Mayor, Denver City, Kansas Territory 1860

On August 18, 1832 a man named John C. Moore was born in Pulaski, Tennessee. This man would pass away 83 years later in Excelsior Springs, Missouri on October 27, 1915. He was a politician, and the first official mayor of Denver City, Kansas Territory (you read that right- Kansas.) This is about the only information you will find regarding John C. Moore on the internet today. It seems a rather lackluster and dull description of a man who was elected the first mayor of a wild, then-frontier town that was the gateway to the Rocky Mountains and the great Colorado Gold Rush. Certainly there must be more to John C. Moore’s life than the few lines you find about him in most sources.

John C. Moore was more than an obscure politician in a dusty frontier town. John C. Moore was a respected and intelligent newspaper man who had come to the region to be a part of the excitement following the big news of the Russell Party finding gold in Cherry Creek. Thousands of prospectors, fortune seekers, businessman, prostitutes, gamblers, desperadoes, and any kind of camp follower, thrill seeker, adventurer and drifter you can imagine poured into what was then Kansas Territory in 1859 following news of the gold strike. Among those who came to the region was Moore, a newspaper man and aspiring politician from Missouri. He had found success in Kansas City in the 1850’s as one of the founders, and as chief editor of the “Kansas City Times” newspaper.

When Moore arrived Denver did not exist, rather two separate settlements a short distance apart on Cherry Creek, one called (obviously enough) “Cherry Creek” and the other “Auraria.” As these two small communities grew, they soon became one large community, and the civic leaders of each settlement, John C. Moore among them, convened, and decided to hold a vote on merging the two towns into one. With the successful vote, the two communities became one and adopted the new moniker of “Denver City.” It was also decided that any good city should have a proper mayor, and the fledgling city council voted that John C. Moore was the right man for the job.


Cherry Creek and Auraria soon to be “Denver City, Kansas Territory”

As John C. Moore took the inaugural reins of Denver City, Kansas Territory, opinions, posturing, and tempers boiled over “back in the States” as Unionists and Secessionists divided themselves between their respective camps based on political and moral ideology. As the rest of the world focused on the debate back in the States, few, other than fortune seekers were concerned with the far western frontier. Denver City was just a distant outpost and the events “way out there” had as little impact on the events in Washington D.C. as the events in Washington D.C. had on Denver.

John C. Moore’s main concern was not the politics back east, but the rampant disorder and violence in Denver City. In his time at the helm, Denver was notorious for its gambling halls, saloons, and bordellos. The majority of those in Denver at any given time were just passing through on their way to or from the mining camps in the foothills to the west. Denver City in 1860 was a place to buy supplies, rest for a day or two, get drunk, chase the parlor girls, and try your hand at cards. The volatile mixture of wanderers, booze, girls, guns and gambling led to the predictable results- Drunken brawls, hurt feelings, gunfights, and generally sloppiness and disorder.

Three or more gunfights a day in between fist fights and arguments was an average day in Denver back then, chronicled by many who passed through the town, and Moore was supposed to put an end to that. Unfortunately, Moore was bit too soft-spoken and complacent. Soon it was clear Moore was not the right man for the task. He was replaced after only five months as Mayor by Charles Cook.

After losing the title of Mayor, and, as the argument between the Unionists and Secessionists continued to rise meteorically towards it’s boiling point, Moore became one of Denver’s prominent voices in favor of secession. As a fledgling, and rebuked, politician Moore found a ready and willing audience among the streets of Denver. At the time, although outnumbered by pro-Unionists among the average citizens, the pro-Confederacy element in the region held the power- All of the major players at the time were from the south- The Russell Brothers who first found gold in Cherry Creek and later near Central City, John Gregory who founded Central City, George Jackson who found his fortune at present day Idaho Springs,  and A.B. Miller, one of, if not, Denver City’s most prominent businessman were just a few of the more famous secessionists living in the territory, and, since these men had the fortunes, these men held the power. Many of the other political and civic leaders in the territory had been appointed to their positions, or had their journeys to the territory funded by southern politicians and families, so their loyalties lay with the south as well. To add to the complex situation in the region, most of the high ranking military officers stationed in the area were of southern extraction, many would go on to become Generals in the Confederacy such as- Robert Ransom Jr. (Ft. Wise 1860-1861), George H. Steuart  (Ft. Wise 1860-1861),  JEB Stuart (Ft. Wise 1860-1861), John Forney (Ft. Garland 1859-1861), William Walker (Ft. Wise 1860-1861) In simple terms, in 1860-1861 the powerful elite and the military in the territory were largely secessionists and loyal to the south, while the “average Joe” was staunchly Unionist.


General J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart

It is thought that among the civilian population of the territory in late 1860 early 1861 loyalties north of the Arkansas River among the “Anglo” settlers was split 70/30 in favor of the Union, which translates to about 21,000 pro-Union citizens to 9,000 pro-Confederate. South of the Arkansas River the population was largely Mexican and scattered, but pro-Confederate as well largely due to feelings of resentment towards the Federal Government who they felt stole Mexican land from them in the wars  and following treaties of the 1840’s. These Hispanic secessionist were known as “Confederados.” Clearly, the major issue in the territory, from the Union view point, was the pro-Confederate faction had the money and that translated to “power and guns” and they had a potentially valuable ally south of the Arkansas River if war was to break out.

With Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860, the subsequent secession of seven southern States which led to the formation of the Confederate States of America, and the skirmish at Ft. Sumter in April 1861 marking the beginning of armed hostilities, the military hierarchy across the United States and the territories fragmented along political and regional lines. The military men named above, and countless others of all ranks tendered their resignations and left the Forts of the region to return to the south and take up arms in Confederate gray. This was a blow to civilian secessionists such as John C. Moore who were preaching the Confederate cause in the streets of Denver.

Abraham Lincoln recognized the immediate danger and quickly named Colorado a new territory, and no longer a part of Kansas. This allowed Lincoln to appoint a “friendly” Territorial Governor in the form of William Gilpin who was rushed to Denver to establish law and order, weed out the secessionist elements, and secure Colorado Territory and it’s gold for the Union- If the Territory went Confederate, the enormous wealth of gold and silver in the region could tip the scales in favor of the South.


Governor William Gilpin

During this transitional period in 1860-1861, following his removal from the office of Mayor, John C. Moore and  a fellow secessionist named James Coleman established a pro-Confederacy newspaper in Denver called “The Daily Mountaineer” which was published from August 25, 1860 to May 15, 1861 with it’s distinctly pro-southern flair.  Finding an audience, Moore and Coleman played on the heartstrings of their fellow southerners working the gold fields in the new Territory.

Ads were placed in “The Daily Mountaineer” and handbills distributed around town promised top-dollar paid for pistols, rifles, and other equipment to clandestinely outfit a regiment of Colorado Volunteers for the Confederate cause. Sympathetic businessmen, miners, ranchers and farmers in Colorado Territory sold and donated arms and other supplies to the Denver secessionist leaders.  The Union element in town relied on their overwhelming numbers to keep the rebels in check. Fights and skirmishes broke out between the two factions regularly, but no serious loss of life or property ever transpired.

Charley Harrison, another prominent Denver secessionist owned a saloon called the “Critereon” which had long been a hangout for secessionists, outlaws and other seedy elements of Denver’s early days. Soon, the Critereon became the secessionist stronghold and secret recruiting center of Colorado Territory. Although most people at the time knew Charley Harrison and his lot were Confederate sympathizers, few realized the Critereon was being used to funnel men and arms to the south. The arms and equipment raised by the newspaper ads and hand bills were stored at the Critereon. Volunteers for the Confederacy coming from all over Colorado Territory would meet at the saloon, be issued arms and provisions, and then would sneak out late at night under the cover of darkness to head south and join the regular Confederate Army. It is interesting to note that this was happening in early-to-mid 1861 before William Gilpin became governor in the summer of 1861 and raised the Colorado Cavalry Regiments for the Union. So, one can surmise, based on the early accounts, that the first Colorado troops sent to fight in the Civil War were Confederates.

As Governor Gilpin began to take control of the situation, he suspended habeas corpus, thus making it legal to imprison anyone in the territory for an indefinite period of time, without trial for any reason. This action gave Gilpin the ability to pursue “rebels” in the territory based on the weakest of evidence.

The Colorado secessionists would not be bullied, and on the night of August 21, 1861, roughly one month after William Gilpin was named Governor, a wild series of melees and scuffles erupted between Unionists and rebels on the streets of Denver. Shots were fired and several men on both sides were wounded, but no one was killed, probably due to the drunken nature of the brawls. The rebels, outnumbered by the recently emboldened Unionists, retreated en masse to the Critereon and hunkered down for a protracted battle. The effects of the booze eventually wore off, and both sides lost interest in killing one another. Neither side would abandon their positions though, and the stalemate finally ended when the Denver Town Marshall pushed his way through Unionist lines, knocked on the front door of the Critereon and arrested Charley Harrison

Harrison was tried in the Hall of Justice on charges of treason for his secessionist activities, but since Colorado was only a territory at the time, he was technically guilty of nothing other than holding an unpopular opinion. He was acquitted on the charge of treason, but found guilty on the charge of “Obstructing the Territorial Government.” As the guilty charges were read, the presiding justices were informed of a party of 100 well-armed Confederates were waiting outside for Charley’s return, and to protect his well-being. The justices retreated for a short time, perhaps feeling a bit nervous about the posse outside, and returned with the unexpected verdict that instead of the customary jail term for the offense, it had been determined that Charley Harrison should walk free if he paid a fine of $5,000 and promised to leave the Colorado Territory within two weeks, never to return. Harrison agreed to the fine and terms of exile, and left the Denver Hall of Justice a free man to his waiting supporters outside.

With Harrison’s exile imposed, the majority of the Denver secessionists quickly followed suit and fled south to join the regular ranks of the Confederate Army. Among those who left following Charley Harrison’s trial were A.B. Miller (the prominent businessmen mentioned previously) and Denver’s first Mayor John C. Moore. Also leaving Colorado and their fortunes behind were William and Joseph Russell who returned to Georgia and raised their own cavalry unit known as “Captain Russell’s Company of the Georgia Cavalry”, and George Jackson left his riches in Idaho Springs to join the Arizona Brigade of the Confederate States Army.

A.B. Miller’s band of Confederates were surrounded by Union troops while trying to cross south across Kansas to friendly lines in Missouri. Instead of surrendering, Miller and his men, estimated at one hundred in number, simply abandoned their wagons, livestock, and supplies, and disappeared with their guns under the cover of darkness. They changed their route, and headed for Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) which was home to the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations who were allies of the Confederate States. The next day Union forces were shocked to find twenty wagons and over four hundred cattle had been left behind, but not a single rebel.


In October of 1861 Union troops learned of a large rebel encampment southwest of Pueblo in a remote valley known as “Mace’s Hole” near present day Beulah, Colorado. Union forces launched a surprise attack and around forty Colorado confederates were arrested, with around one hundred fifty escaping south and linking up with General Sibley’s Confederate Army of New Mexico. Among those captured at Mace’s Hole were Jim and John Reynolds, two of the founding fathers of Fairplay, Colorado. The Mace’s Hole rebels would escape from the Denver City jail with the assistance of Jackson Robinson- A Denver police officer who was a clandestine operator for the southern cause. Robinson, and the Reynolds brothers would reappear in 1863 at Ft. Belknap, Texas where they enlisted in General Douglas H. Cooper’s Third Texas Cavalry Regiment. In the summer of 1864 the Reynolds brothers and around fifty other Confederate cavalry, including Jackson Robinson, marched from Ft. Belknap on orders from General Cooper to disrupt the Union supply trains in Colorado Territory. The return of these Colorado rebels became known as the “The Reynolds Gang Terror” of 1864, and many grossly exaggerated stories and legends were written about the unit.

Rebels Captured at Mace's Hole

Rebels Captured at Mace’s Hole

Denver’s first Mayor, John C. Moore, fled south, and safely crossed into Confederate territory. He joined ranks with General Joseph Shelby, a famous Confederate Cavalry General in the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. Moore went on to serve as quartermaster for the unit, holding the rank of Colonel, then earning the rank of  Adjutant General in the closing days of the Civil War.


General Joseph Shelby

At the end of the war in 1865 as the Confederate armies across the south and west laid down their arms, General Joseph Shelby and roughly one thousand of his soldiers took a defiant stand and refused to surrender. Remaining in formation, in full uniform, General Shelby and his cavalry crossed the Rio Grande River into Mexico, Union troops in pursuit, pausing briefly to throw their battle flags into the water, proclaiming “It is better to drown our colors than surrender them.”  Among the men in the group was Denver’s first Mayor, John C. Moore. These men became legendary at the time among both Union and Confederate veterans of the war as “The Undefeated”- The unit that never surrendered. (The 1969 John Wayne-Rock Hudson film “The Undefeated” is based on Shelby’s cavalry.)

Once safe in Mexico, General Shelby’s cavalry offered their services to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, who, politely declined, but as a token of gratitude for their offer presented the men with a land grant near Veracruz where he allowed them to built a colony for Americans.  Two years later the land grant was revoked and many of the men of Shelby’s cavalry quietly returned to the United States, among them John C. Moore.

John C. Moore returned to Colorado. He settled in Pueblo, and returned to the newspaper business as the founder and editor of “The Pueblo Press.” Denver’s first Mayor died with little if any recognition for his accomplishments in life. He was a man born and made of a tumultuous time, like many of his generation. He picked the losing side in a brutal and divisive war that still haunts us today, and the winner wrote the history of that war. John C. Moore’s remarkable life certainly deserves more than the few lines allowed him in most sources, he was, after all, one of us- an American.


Inscription on the Memorial to the Confederate Dead, Canon City, Colorado – Erected in 1899 by Union Veterans


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My first blog titled “25 Abandoned Buildings You Must See in Colorado Before They Are Gone” was such a hit and got so much traffic, I figured I better make a “Part II” featuring 25 more buildings you should put on your bucket list…

So, once again, in no particular order, 25 more of the best abandoned buildings in the State of Colorado! Enjoy!


1. General Store- Weston, Colorado

Weston, Colorado still has a number of residents, but you can find this little gem sitting right along Highway 12 as you enter the east side of town. There is a dirt lot alongside the general store where you park, and there are many interesting buildings and houses in the tiny town. Be sure to see the old Weston Elementary School which lies right across the street as well- It has been turned into a private residence in recent years, but the sandstone block construction overgrown with shrubs makes for a great photo. The handful of people I saw in Weston all seemed friendly, smiling and waving, and a couple of kids on bikes looked at me like I was crazy for taking so many photos of that old abandoned store. To get there take Highway 12 (The Highway of Legends Scenic Byway) west out of Trinidad for 23 miles and you’ll drive right through the center of town. There are many other cool old towns and buildings that line Highway 12 along the way, so make a day trip of it.


2. Abandoned Homestead(s)- Tarryall Creek, Colorado

In South Park between Jefferson and Lake George, along the banks of Tarryall Creek are a large number of abandoned homesteads, ranches, and cabins, some which are truly remarkable. It was hard for me to pick just one, because each of them deserves to be on the list. Above is just a typical example of what you’ll see along Tarryall Creek. I took my trip in the cold, dead, winter months with a backdrop of clouds and yellowed dead grasses- I’d imagine the Tarryall Valley would be even more striking in the summer months with wildflowers and lush greens. Take Highway 285 south out of Denver towards Fairplay, at the tiny town of Jefferson, turn southeast on Tarryall Road/County Road 77, you’ll enjoy 43 miles of abandoned homesteads, rock formations and wildlife by the time you reach Lake George and Highway 24 on the other end.


3. First State Bank of Aguilar- Aguilar, Colorado

The Gianella Building in Aguilar, Colorado, more commonly known referred to as the First State Bank building in Aguilar was built in 1910, and closed only a short time later in 1927 when the coal mining empires of the region began to fade.  Also of interest in Aguilar is the sandstone Lopresto building of similar construction and age a block or tow down that street that currently houses Ringo’s Market.  Both buildings, and a number of other vacant store fronts are worth the short side-trip to the base of the Spanish Peaks where Aguilar sits if you are traveling on I-25 in the Trinidad area. Exit signs clearly mark the route to the town just north of Trinidad about 15 miles. Fair warning though- The locals have a lot of town pride, and do not like their town being called a “ghost town” or an “almost ghost town”, so choose your words wisely- I learned the hard way a couple of years ago!


4. City Hall and Fire Department- Nevadaville, Colorado

Thousands of people flock to Central City and Black Hawk every weekend to try their luck in the casinos, or to explore the old buildings and shops of the historic district, but few go the extra mile (literally) to see Nevadaville while they are visiting. Nevadaville was once part of the “Big Three” mining towns that delivered millions in gold ore during the boom years in Gilpin County. Today, Nevadaville is a ghost town, most of it’s buildings having been torn down long ago, their boards and planks used to build homes in Denver in the early 1900’s. Along Main Street in Nevadaville a handful of old buildings remain- The Odd Fellows Lodge, the Saloon, the Bald Mountain Store, and the combination City Hall/Fire Department building. A few old houses and cabins, along with the ruins of the enormous mining operations dot the gulch in all directions around Nevadaville. A few people still have summer homes in the town, and one local told me the year-round population of Nevadaville is now up to two since he moved in! Next time you visit Central City/Black Hawk, pack a camera and take Central City Parkway from Interstate 70 (Exit 243), as you begin the drop into Central City there will be signs and a fork in the road pointing to Nevadaville, follow the paved road up the steep hill about one- half-mile, the road will turn into a good, graded dirt road, and approximately one-half-mile up the dirt road you will find yourself in Nevadaville.


5. Jailhouse- Berwind Canyon, Colorado

The old concrete jailhouse in Berwind Canyon is about the only structure left in the area that is still intact- Nearly all of the other company houses and buildings that lined Berwind Canyon during the coal mining days were leveled by bulldozers in the 1950’s, so the mine owners didn’t have to pay property taxes on the vacant buildings. Foundations, pillars, walls of buildings, coke ovens, even staircases that lead to nowhere cover the sides of Berwind Canyon and give the impression that you are standing among ancient Roman ruins. Today, the canyon is silent in stark contrast to the heyday of the area when over 3,000 people called the canyon home. Berwind Canyon is located southwest of the ghost town and memorial at Ludlow. From Interstate 25 take the Ludlow Exit, drive south past the remains of Ludlow, and keep your eye out for the narrow turnoff on the west side of the road that runs through a one-lane tunnel underneath the railroad tracks. Turn here and go under the tracks this is County Road 40.2 and it will lead you into the “Roman Ruins” of Berwind Canyon.


6. Smelter Office or Workshop- Stringtown, Colorado

Stringtown is just south and west of Leadville (hard to determine where Leadville ends and Stringtown begins) along Highway 24. You’ll know you’ve reached Stringtown when you see the massive mounds of black slag, the byproduct of the smelting process where precious metals were separated from the worthless host rock they were found in. Stringtown and it’s smelters were an important industrial suburb of Leadville in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Today Stringtown is a cluster of occupied and vacant trailer houses, an abandoned steakhouse/saloon, and a smattering of old buildings dating to the boom era in various states of decay. This old smelter office or workshop sits just off of Highway 24 in the heart of Stringtown. Many other abandoned buildings and forlorn pieces of mining and smelting equipment can be seen all around the town as well.


7. Brown’s Dance Hall- Ramah, Colorado

Ramah, Colorado is one of the most interesting places in the state in my opinion. Ramah is the picture perfect “ghost town”, but it is not a ghost town. Many people still call Ramah home, and I see why. It is fantastic little town set deep among gigantic trees, with several blocks of houses, an old business district complete with false-fronted shops, and a public park with a WWI era canon sitting in it.  Old cars sit abandoned throughout the town, most from the 1950’s or earlier, the vast majority of the storefronts are vacant, and I’d say about half of the homes are empty. There is something interesting on every street in town, and the town itself is colorful- the houses and businesses, even the abandoned ones are bright are welcoming. You truly feel as though you’ve traveled back in time to the early-1960’s when exploring the town. At any minute you’d expect to see Sherriff Taylor and Deputy Fife roll around the corner in their black and white squad car. Brown’s Dance Hall pictured above is just an example of the neat character and charm that you will experience in Ramah. To get there Take Interstate 25 south to Colorado Springs, then take the Highway 24 Exit east. Ramah is about 45 miles east of Colorado Springs on Highway 24, several other interesting old towns are along the way as well.


8. Methodist Church- Keota, Colorado

This weathered old church with it’s bell tower missing, having fallen off many years ago sits on the north end of the small, great plains ghost town of Keota in northeastern Colorado. Keota is a true ghost town, with no residents, although many of the properties are still privately owned and marked as such. Chances are when visiting Keota you’ll be the only person there, as was the case when I first visited the town a couple of years ago. The houses and buildings at Keota are in varying degrees of deterioration, one old house, when I visited, was leaning so far to one side it was almost flat to the ground. Keota is a long drive from pretty much anywhere, and there are several routes to get you there from Denver- You can take Interstate 76 to Fort Morgan, then Highway 52 north to New Raymer, then, Highway 14 west out of New Raymer to County Road 390. From 390 you travel northwest until you see the abandoned Keota water tower, and then if you manage to get lost from there it’s your fault. The other route would be taking Interstate 25 north to Highway 14 at Ft. Collins, take the Highway 14/Timnath exit east and travel across the prairie until you reach County Road 390 which takes you north to Keota.


9. Barn and Outhouse- Granite, Colorado

Granite dates to the 1860’s and was an early mining and supply town in the Arkansas River Valley between Leadville and Buena Vista. The town still survives today, with a handful of year round residents and some summer cabins. Granite retains much of it’s old time character, and has plenty of weathered cabins, and old schoolhouse high on the hill, and some false-fronted stores that haven’t rang up a sale in decades. In recent years tourism has brought some life to Granite bringing in fisherman and rafters coming to enjoy the Arkansas River that runs through town. This old barn with it’s stone foundation and outhouse sit on the west side of Highway 24, the rest of the town of Granite sits on the east side of the highway. Getting there is easy, just take Highway 24 south out of LEadville towards Buena Vista, you will pass through Granite about 17 miles south of Leadville.


10. General Store (?)- San Acacio, Colorado

I’ve only just begun to explore the San Luis Valley and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the state. (I can have more than one right?)  The stunning contrast of the flat grasslands of the valley itself, and the snow capped spires of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that surround it are truly breathtaking. Numerous small towns line the valley floor, and I’ve never met friendlier people than those in the San Luis Valley- Every passing vehicle on the road greets you with a smile and a wave- Not the horn and obscenities like those of us in or close to the metro area are accustomed to. The locals I’ve met in gas stations and stores in the San Luis are just down to earth, friendly people, proud of their valley and it’s heritage, and always willing to share a story or lend a helping hand. San Acacio is one of the tiny towns in the San Luis Valley, and this wonderful old store (or what I’m assuming was a store) sits just off the side of County Road 142. From Denver take Interstate 25 south to Walsenburg, Highway 160 west from Walsenburg, up over La Veta Pass, to Ft. Garland, from Ft. Garland take Highway 159 south to San Luis (the oldest town in Colorado dating to 1852) and from San Luis head west on County Road 142 to San Acacio.  From Denver is around 250 miles.


11. Hotel- Last Chance, Colorado

There’s not much left to see at Last Chance, Colorado- Most of what was left being lost to a prairie fire a few years back. Luckily, this awesome old Hotel building survived. There are a couple of other buildings at the site as well including an abandoned Dairy King and a home. Last Chance is located on the desolate eastern plains in Washington County. There’s not much to see in the town, and even less on the road out there. Take I-70 east, then Highway 36 east, keep driving east, and when you think there’s no more east left in Colorado it’s another hour east of there on Highway 36…it’s actually only 80 miles from Denver, but it seems like a lot more!



12. The Big Five Mine Office- Camp Frances, Colorado

I stumbled onto the Big Five Mine Office by accident a few years ago. I was searching for, and thought I had found the post office building at the Puzzler town site in Boulder County. I was wrong, consider I had read my map wrong and wasn’t at Puzzler. So this old red building with white trimmed windows buried in an aspen grove I had stumbled upon was a mystery to me for a few weeks. Once I flipped my maps around and determined the origin of my error, I learned that this building was the last structure at the Camp Frances site. Camp Frances was a busy mining camp in the Ward District in the 1890’s.  The old mine office is a really interesting building if you can find it- And, to add to the mystery of Camp Frances, I’m not sure if it is on public or private property. I reached the building by taking Highway 119 (Peak-to-Peak Highway) north out of Nederland. Just south of Ward take Gold Hill Road east, then at the first major fork in the road, turn left (north) on to Sawmill Road. Sawmill Road drops off fairly steeply and when you screech to halt in a cloud of dust at the bottom, turn left, then immediately turn left again onto the road that sits right next to Sawmill Road (confused yet?) Travel west up this gulch back towards Highway 119. You’ll start to see evidence of a massive EPA reclamation project, then you’ll come to a newer home on the left hand side of the road. A large pack of snarling and barking dogs will charge out from under the porch of the house and circle your vehicle for 7 to 10 minutes as you try to figure out how to continue up the hill without running any of them over. Once the dogs get tired of barking at you and you are safely out of their territory, the road will get a bit steeper and as you pull the incline you’ll see the mine office and a tall rock wall (the remains of the blasting powder bunker) on the slope to your left. You can pull right up to the mine office and explore it…But, like I mentioned, it is very unclear whether or not the site is on public, private or EPA controlled land.  If anyone knows the answer, please contact me.


13. Any of the Abandoned Houses- Ironton, Colorado

There is nothing disappointing about Ironton, between Ouray and Silverton in the San Juan Mountains. If you haven’t been there it is a bit difficult to find at first. but it is well worth the effort. There are a number abandoned homes and stores at the site, which sits buried among pine and aspen trees along the road to Red Mountain Pass. Many of the structures are stable enough to enter with a light step. In September of 2013 I determined my best bet for avoiding the floods ravaging the front range would be to go hide out in the San Juans for a few days, it was on this trip that I first found Ironton. I was on my way to Silverton and pulled off the side of the road and hiked a half-mile or so up an old dirt road to the town. While snapping photos inside one of the old houses, a Texan tourist appeared out of nowhere and said “Hello!”, causing me to drop me camera, jump eight feet in the air and scream, giving me a mild heart attack. Ironton can be found by taking “The Million Dollar Highway” (Highway 550) south out of Montrose and through Ouray. As you climb Red Mountain Pass, there will be a large rusty red tailings pile from the mining activity on your left hand side, here there is a parking lot and some trailheads. A rough 4×4 road skirts the edge of Highway 550 south for 3/4 mile or so, and at the end of this 4×4 trail buried deep in the trees is Ironton. You can’t see Ironton from Highway 550 even though it is right off the side of the main road. A lot of people miss it, but if you can find it there are around 10 buildings left at the site.


14. Lake Gulch Schoolhouse- Lake Gulch, Colorado

Lake Gulch, like Nevadaville, is just a mile so beyond Central City, and very few people have ever heard of it. This old red brick schoolhouse, now faded to pink, is the only period structure still somewhat standing at the site. There are some newer concrete mine buildings close by though. A few mining ruins, some old wooden fence, a few rock foundations and a stone wall or two are all that remains other than the school. Lake Gulch was a mining camp to the south of Central City, east of Russell Gulch.  Getting there today is via Spring Street in Central City to Virginia Canyon Road, at the the top of the hill there is a fork, the right fork of Virgina Canyon Road is marked and leads to Idaho Springs, the left fork is Lake Gulch Road which runs past the KOA campground and some apartments. At the turnoff to the apartments, the pavement ends. Continue on down into Lake Gulch on the dirt road, the ruins of the schoolhouse are about a mile down on the right hand side, on private property. If you’re lucky like I was you’ll catch a rainbow leading to the ruins.


15. The Genoa Wonder Tower- Genoa, Colorado

I do not know if the the Genoa Wonder Tower is “abandoned” but it has been permanently closed to the public in recent years by it’s current owner, and now, sadly,  sits in a forlorn state. This unusual tower is located on the west end of the town of Genoa, about 100 miles east of Denver on Interstate 70. The tower was a tourist trap built in the 1920’s called the “World Wonder Tower” or “The Genoa Wonder Tower.” It is claimed that if you climb to the observation deck of the tower you can see six states, whether that is true or not is speculation, but it was widely touted in advertising for the tower. Inside the lower level of the tower was a museum of oddities and a gift shop. The upper walls of the museum were lined with case upon case of arrowheads and other Native American artifacts found by area farmers. Several old cars and vintage trailers sit sunk in the mud around the tower and add to it’s appeal.  Getting there is by taking Interstate 70 east 102 miles from Denver.


16. Bunk House- Buckskin Gulch, Colorado

I don’t know any of the history behind this old bunk house in Buckskin Gulch a few miles northwest of Alma. I’m even speculating that it was a bunk house, but it fits the mold of several other I’ve seen. There was a great deal of mining done in Buckskin Gulch dating all the way back to the 1700’s when a few Spanish explorers stopped and mined some gold silver in the area with the “help” of Ute Indian slaves who later rebelled and disposed of their Spanish masters. The area has been extensively worked ever since, and this building probably dates to the late 1890’s based on it’s construction. Judging by the debris inside, it’s a popular place to drink canned beer. You can find the bunk house by taking Highway 9 either south out of Breckenridge to Alma, or north out of Fairplay to Alma. Once you’re in Alma look for the tiny sign marked “Buckskin Gulch/Kite Lake” that points west through the houses just north of Al-Mart (or ask any of the locals) follow the dirt road up Buckskin Gulch about 5 miles and the bunk house will be on your right hand side. Be sure to stop in Al-Mart while you’re there- It’s a great little convenience store that has everything you could ever need, and the staff is friendly too.


17. Any of the Miner’s Cabins- Turret, Colorado

Turret was a mining town 12 miles from Salida in the Arkansas River Valley in the late 1800’s. It sat abandoned, forgotten and unmolested for much of the 20th Century. Then, in recent years, people once again “discovered” Turret and it’s beautiful setting, and now the old and forgotten is being rapidly replaced by the new. Modern summer cabins are being built at Turret, and the reminders of “old” Turret are vanishing quickly. A number of the original cabins still remain at the site, including one that has been restored which was the original Post Office, but the majority are falling apart and it won’t be long until they vanish. Turret recently made news headlines when a crazy man who lived there blew himself up making homemade bombs…But that episode shouldn’t deter anyone from visiting the site. Getting to Turret can be a chore, but having an old-fashioned paper and ink Colorado atlas will prove beneficial. From Salida you can get there by taking 3rd Street to County Road 175. Take County Road 175 to County Road to County Road 184 which will take you to Turret. Sounds easy enough, but the road zigs and zags and disappears in the sand, and there are random, unmarked forks, blind hills and corners, and suicidal deer and rabbits hellbent on running you off the road the entire length.



18. Chlorination Mill- Wall Street, Colorado

When most people hear “Wall Street” they think of stockbrokers, buzzers and bells, not a quaint and sleepy Colorado ghost town bypassed by the modern era. Wall Street was named in the late 1800’s for the east coast capitalists who funded and owned the mines in the area. At the time, an elaborate new system of extracting gold from host rock using chlorine was developed. The investors and miners of Wall Street built what was to be the first chlorination mill in the state. How exactly it worked, I have no idea, but the remains of the mill at Wall Street are very impressive to this day. A towering stone foundation that was apparently used to store ore for the mill rises above the tiny town of Wall Street in Boulder County. As massive and imposing as the foundation is, it is also very well camouflaged and blends into the mountainside- It took me two visits to Wall Street before I noticed it even existed, now, it is the first thing that strikes my eye when I visit the town. There are several other old buildings at Wall Street including the Assayer’s Office, which, in summer months is open to the public and serves as a mining museum. To get there take Canyon Avenue west out of downtown Boulder, then up into Boulder Canyon, turn right on to  Four Mile Canyon Road and take this to Salina. At the south edge of Salina, there will be a dirt road heading west, this is the road to Wall Street, follow this dirt road up a couple of miles and first you’ll see the Assayer’s Office, and directly behind it is the foundation of the chlorination mill.


19. Store Front, Nunn, Colorado

There’s just something about old false-fronted stores that I love. They’re simple, common, and really not very awe-inspiring in their standard form, but the style speaks of the past, and a simpler time when businesses were small, “Mom and Pop” operations, not mega-conglomerate super retailers like we know today. This tiny building in Nunn is the simple store front of yesterday. What makes this store front even more appealing (at least to me) is the neat row of power lines in the background that line up perfectly with the roof tops of you get just the right angle with your camera.  Nunn is pretty quiet these days, but still has a few folks hanging around. Judging by the street corners, lots and backyards, every single Studebaker in the United States apparently went to Nunn, Colorado to die! So if you’re looking for parts for your ’57 Golden Hawk I’d suggest checking Nunn. The water tower in town reads “Watch Nunn Grow.”  Nunn is north and east of Ft. Collins on Highway 85 just before you hit Wyoming.


20. Church- Farisita, Colorado

I don’t know any of the history behind this abandoned stucco church at Farisita. I’ve read that it was a Methodist Church, but that seems strange to me since Farasita was a Spanish/Mexican settlement, and there is a Catholic cemetery directly across the street. Farisita was first known as “Fuerte Talpa” or “Talpa” and the Spanish built an adobe fort there around 1820, to protect the northernmost frontier of the Spanish Empire in the New World from incursions by the expanding United States. The soldiers at the distant outpost of Talpa were incessantly harassed by Ute Indians, and, one particularly vicious attack, coupled with the Mexican revolution of 1821, led to Fuerte Talpa being abandoned. After 1821 and Mexican independence from Spain, Mexican settlers returned to the area and Farisita sprang up at roughly the same location of Talpa on the Huerfano River.  Today Farisita is nothing more than this abandoned church, an empty store front, one occupied house, and the cemetery. Getting there is via Highway 69 west out of Walsenburg.

Hwy 350

21. School House- Tyrone, Colorado

The architecture of this old school house at Tyrone makes it stand apart from the rest, and it’s location, standing alone on the wind swept, sandy prairie east of Trinidad make it one of the most picturesque buildings in the state.  Tyrone is another of the tiny dust bowl towns that line Highway 350 between Trinidad and La Junta. There’s not much left of Tyrone other than this school, the ruins of the general store and a couple of abandoned farm houses nearby.


22. The Odd Fellow’s Hall- Como, Colorado

This unique structure as known as the “Odd Fellow’s Hall” in Como, Colorado. It is a very unusual building in the sense that it has an octagonal, second story cupola with windows on all sides which is something you don’t see very often…actually, I don’t remember ever seeing another building like this. The building is privately owned and was recently for sale.  Como is easy to reach by taking Highway 285 south out of Denver towards Fairplay. Como will be along way at the east foot of Boreas Pass just past the town of Jefferson. Como has an eclectic mix of empty and occupied homes and store fronts, and a fantastic old railroad depot with a sprawling two-story white and green hotel next to it. Just a warning though- Como is always cold and windy no matter what time of year you visit.


23. General Store- San Luis, Colorado

San Luis is Colorado’s oldest continuously occupied town being founded in 1852. It is a beautiful town in a scenic location surrounded mountains, ranch land and creeks. There are a number of interesting buildings in San Luis, most are still occupied, but this old general store sits vacant about one block off of the main street through town. Be sure to look up on the bluffs overlooking town to catch a glimpse of the mission style Catholic church built in 1886- It is one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial style architecture in the state. To get to San Luis take Interstate 25 south to Walsenburg, head west out of Walsenburg on Highway 160, go over La Veta Pass to Fort Garland, head south out of Fort Garland on Highway 159 to San Luis.


24. The Vindicator Mill- Goldfield, Colorado

The Vindicator is a towering mill building near Goldfield and Victor, Colorado. During the peak years of the gold boom in the Cripple Creek region, the Vindicator was just one of many of the giant mining companies that smothered the hillsides. Today the Vindicator sits in ruins, looming over mine workings, dilapidated buildings and rusty mining equipment throughout the valley below. A foot path has been made in recent years that runs down through the maze of mine workings at the Vindicator site and if you are into rusty industrial equipment this is place is right up your alley. Getting to the Vindicator is by taking Highway 24 west out of Colorado Springs and following the signs to Cripple Creek off of  Highway 67. From Cripple Creek take Highway 67 south to Victor (about 5 miles) spend some time enjoying the vintage painted advertising all over the old buildings in Victor, then take County Road 81 north about one mile and the tiny town of Goldfield will be on your right, across from Goldfield you will see numerous old mine buildings, a couple of trail heads and towards the top of the hill the Vindicator looking down over everything.


25. The Rock Creek Stagecoach Depot-  Routt County, Colorado

I came across the Rock Creek Stage Depot while on a fishing trip a few years ago. I’d noticed once before many years ago as a kid while on a fishing trip with my dad, but it just looked like an abandoned homestead off in the distance and I never thought much more of it until I returned to the area recently. I stopped to check it out this time, and was surprised to see it was actually an old stagecoach depot dating to the 1880’s on the route between Kremmling and Yampa. In recent years the Routt County Historical Society has done some preservation work to the building, and mounted a plaque with the depot’s history at the site.  To find the Rock Creek Stage Depot take Highway 9 north out of Silverthorne to Kremmling, from Kremmling take Highway 40 north  past Wolford Mountain Reservoir to the intersection with Highway 134. Travel west on Highway 134 roughly 18 miles, where there will be a turnout and a dirt road heading south marked “Rock Creek”, follow this dirt road south a mile or two and the stage depot will come into view.


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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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A few years ago while hiking into some back country beaver ponds high above Grant, Colorado in search of undocumented populations of Greenback Cutthroat trout I paused to rest along a small creek. I stopped to rest in a particularly steep and miserable section, and, as I hacked and wheezed in an effort to catch my breath, I began to question why I was on this hike. Staring around at the terrain, I noticed some bleached white bones poking up through the moss alongside some large boulders on the edge of the creek. I went over to investigate, assuming them to be those of an elk or deer.

As I dug them out of the moss and mud, it became apparent that these bones were very old, and they belonged to an animal much larger than an elk or deer. I found the mandible bone and it was halfway dissolved by time and the elements, a handful of large teeth, and several leg bones.  I had no idea what kind of animal this was, but it was large, and it was definitely out of place at 12,000 feet elevation where the mountains meet the sky, and the trees stop growing.

I contemplated what I was looking at. How did this huge animal make it up here to this remote gulch at the top of the world? Why did this animal come up here? How did this animal die? After I had rested up, looked over all the bones, and pondered this mystery, I decided to continue my trek up the steep slope to the ponds above. Before leaving the bones though, I decided to photograph them and take the mandible bone I had found back down the hill with me.  As I left the site, a few feet away, higher up on the hillside, I stumbled upon the old rusty head of a shovel. I inspected it, and found a “U.S.” stamp on the shaft.This area was picked over by prospectors for many years, and I figured the shovel must have fallen out of a pack long ago.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time, I was there to fish, so I put it back on the ground and went about my journey to the ponds.

After I returned home I posted the photos on a website/forum that dealt with identifying and dating unknown bones. I received several responses, and the mutual consensus was that I had discovered some very old horse bones. One of those who responded was a Professor at an English University (I honestly can’t remember which one, or his official title) and he requested some detailed photos. I sent him more photos, and, in his opinion, judging by the advanced decay of the bones, that they were around 150 to 160 years old. This opinion would date the horse bones to around 1860-1870. Paired with the old shovel I had found near the bones, I decided it must have been a prospector’s horse that fell and met it’s fate on the steep slope many years ago. I put the old horse jaw on a shelf and forgot about it. Little did I know these bones would set me on the path of a mystery that has never been solved.

The 150-160 year-old horse bones I found high in Geneva Gulch.

The 150-160 year-old horse bones I found high in Geneva Gulch.

A few more years went by, and, as my interest in the area grew and I delved deeper into researching the history of the area around Grant, Colorado, I first learned of the old “Reynolds Gang” legend. A legend about a group of bandits that terrorized the South Park region of Colorado in the summer of 1864. Much has been written about the Reynolds Gang over the years, and I won’t go into depth regarding the legend, I’ll just give the short version and how it relates to my find-

The Reynolds Gang robbed several stage coaches in the summer of 1864 between Fairplay and Kenosha, Colorado. A posse was summoned to hunt the gang down. One night, high in Geneva Gulch near present day Grant, Colorado, the gang was ambushed by the posse. A gunfight broke out, and one member of the gang was killed. He has been identified through the years by numerous sources as “Owen Singleterry” or “Singleterry”. His head was removed from his body by a member of the posse and taken back to Fairplay, Colorado where it was displayed in a jar for many years as a macabre trophy.

The remaining members of the Reynolds Gang scattered into the wilderness. Somewhere along the way, either shortly before the ambush, or immediately after, brothers Jim and John Reynolds, the leaders of the gang, buried an estimated $20,000 in stolen gold and currency somewhere in the mountains above Grant, Colorado. Of the remaining gang members five were captured, stood trial, convicted of robbery, and were executed by Colorado State Militia near Franktown, Colorado in late 1864. Three men escaped the posse- John Reynolds, Addison Stowe and another unnamed bandit, and supposedly disappeared to New Mexico.

A man was shot seven years later in 1871 while attempting to steal cattle from a ranch near Taos, New Mexico. On his death bed he confessed to being “John Reynolds” of the Reynolds Gang, and he drew a map showing where he and his brother Jim had buried the gold and currency in 1864. He also stated on his death bed “You go up Geneva Gulch a ways, and follow the mountain around to the right. You’ll find a horse carcass where he mired in the mud and we had to leave him. Then up around 12,000 feet at a swamp you will find the gold. If you can find the horse, you will find the gold.”

When I read this story, I remembered the bones I had found, and began to wonder if I had stumbled onto the clue John Reynolds mentioned on his death bed “If you can find the horse, you will find the gold.” I had moved a few times since my find, and the old jaw bone was now buried in a box somewhere among my things. I finally found it, and stared at it, wondering what stories it could tell.

The old horse mandible

The old horse mandible

I have spent countless hours ever since studying the terrain, looking at satellite images, graphing, mapping, reading every single tidbit and varying account of The Reynolds Gang I can find. I have stacks of old maps, documents, newspaper clippings regarding the legend. I’ve found other evidence in my quest that has led me deep into other quests- And the seemingly simple, cut-and-dry case of a few outlaws robbing stagecoaches has developed into a complex case study in the sociopolitical climate of Colorado and it’s little known, but potentially at the time, vital role in determining the outcome of the Civil War. In a previous blog I have written, which can be found here: Exonerating The Reynolds Gang I go into the facts regarding “The Reynolds Gang”  and their actual status as Confederate soldiers of the Third Texas Cavalry Regiment acting on military orders from Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper to disrupt Union supply trains in Colorado Territory.

General Douglas Hancock Cooper

General Douglas Hancock Cooper

At this point we will return to Owen Singletary, the bandit killed in Geneva Gulch in July of 1864 who had his head cut off and put on display. The facts I uncovered and presented in my previous blog on The Reynolds Gang was that Owen Singletary (or Singleterry in some accounts) was, undeniably, enlisted in the Wells Battalion, Third Texas Cavalry Regiment, Confederate States Army, where he held the rank of Private. Singletary rode out of Ft. Belknap in then Indian Territory with around 50 other men of the Wells Battalion on orders to disrupt Union supply columns in New Mexico and Colorado Territory. Singletary was among the 25 men who crossed the old Granada Military Road in far northern New Mexico Territory with Jim and John Reynolds, and, crossed into Colorado Territory where the buttes meet the prairie near present day Branson, Colorado. Singletary was among the “…unknown group of heavily armed men in blue uniforms…” that were seen lurking in the forests near the little settlement of Canon City, Colorado in early July of 1864. He was among those who stayed the night a Giuraud’s Ranch near Fairplay in mid-July 1864. He was in Geneva Gulch on the night of July 29, 1864 when the gunfight broke out. It is claimed in nearly every written account of the skirmish, that Owen Singletary was killed in the gunfight, his head taken as a trophy. But was Singletary really killed on that July night over 150 years ago?

Where the buttes meet the prairie near Branson, Colorado- Approximate location where the Third Texas Cavalry crossed the frontier into Colorado Territory in 1864.

Where the buttes meet the prairie near Branson, Colorado- Approximate location where the Third Texas Cavalry crossed the frontier into Colorado Territory in 1864.

Guiraud's Ranch near Fairplay, Colorado where Owen Singletary spent a night in July 1864.

Guiraud’s Ranch near Fairplay, Colorado where Owen Singletary spent a night in July 1864.

As I’ve studied the legend and read the numerous accounts of the events in Geneva Gulch on the night of July 29, 1864, I have discovered a number of conflicting stories, and recently while researching the family tree of the Singletary’s I came upon some strange discoveries. I’ll start with the conflicting or unusual aspects of the accounts of The Reynolds Gang, and then return to the Singletary family tree-

The most glaring detail of the case is what happened to Owen Singletary’s corpse after he was supposedly killed in the gunfight in Geneva Gulch?

The accepted story line is the rest of The Reynolds Gang dispersed in separate directions fleeing the posse who was hot on their tails. The posse took possession of Singletary’s corpse, cut off his head and left his body to rot somewhere near the site of the skirmish.  Although the most simple of the accounts regarding Singletary’s fate, it makes the most sense and leaves no questions other than what happened to Singletary’s corpse after it was left to rot? The logical answer to that is the corpse simply decomposed and was swallowed by time, earth and the elements leaving no trace.

But then we find other accounts that state Jim and John Reynolds buried Singletary’s body, and marked his grave by breaking off a knife blade in a tree trunk. The knife blade marked Singletary’s resting place, and pointed in the direction of the buried treasure nearby. The question here becomes if the rest of the gang had fled the skirmish in haste disappearing into the woods, how does Singletary’s corpse reappear in the narrative as being buried by the Reynolds brothers in a crudely marked grave? Did the Reynolds brothers remain in the area and return to give Singletary a proper burial? I highly doubt the accounts stating Singletary was buried by the Reynolds brothers because hard evidence points to the fact that the Reynolds brothers were being tracked southward across Colorado Territory and were seen by Colorado State Militia, on a rise crossing into New Mexico Territory where their trail went cold. There was no time for them to bury Singletary.

Another version of the tale states that many years later a treasure hunter ventured into Geneva Gulch in search of the gold and found “…a headless skeleton, and white felt hat nearby…” This treasure hunter claimed it to be Singletary’s bones and hat. This story would corroborate the accounts stating that the posse took his head and left his body to rot in the elements. But, I question this account because the treasure hunter did not bother to collect any of the bones or the hat he supposedly found, and was not able to confirm exactly where he found them. But, given the benefit of the doubt, treasure hunters are not in the business of collecting bones and hats- they are after the treasure itself. Furthermore, if the treasure hunter had in fact found these concrete clues, why would he give an exact location of his find?  Another interesting aspect of the old treasure hunter’s account is the “white felt hat” he claims to have found- If the harsh elements of Geneva Gulch could reduce a clothed corpse to a pile of bleached bones over the years, how could a felt hat remain?  Would the elements not reduce the hat as well? Would rodents and birds not haul it away bit-by-bit to make nests? It seems highly unlikely a felt hat could survive for years in these conditions, but one part of the hat story could confirm it as true- The old treasure hunter said the felt hat was “white”, members of the Confederate Cavalry wore “butternut” felt cowboy hats. Butternut was a very light gray/yellow color, that after fading in the sun for years would certainly appear white. Furthermore, the first officially accepted account of The Reynolds Gang describes them as an unknown military unit, heavily armed, wearing blue. Confederate Cavalry often wore a motley assortment of uniforms, including pre-war light blue Federal uniforms. It is not unrealistic to think The Reynolds Gang, who were as evidence has proved, enlisted Confederate soldiers, might be wearing bits and pieces of their military uniforms.


A surviving example of an actual Confederate “butternut” cavalry felt hat. Easy to see how it could be called “white”.

One other account states it was not Owen Singletary who was killed in the skirmish, but another of the gang named “Jack Stowe”, but we find no records of a “Jack Stowe” being part of the Third Texas Cavalry Regiment. An “Addison Stowe” was, however, a well-documented character in the narrative and is described in detail in my previous blog regarding the true history of The Reynolds Gang. Addison Stowe had long connections to Colorado and was one of the “Mace’s Hole Confederates” captured along with the Reynolds brothers in 1861 who subsequently was jailed in Denver, escaped, and joined the Third Texas Cavalry a couple years later. This singular account stating it was a man named “Stowe” and not Singletary who was killed in the gulch is the most peculiar and vague of the accounts. Why would this one account stray from the others regarding who was killed in the fight? What happened to Addison Stowe following the gunfight? Who was the “Jack Stowe” killed in this version of the legend?  Were “Addison” and “Jack” one in the same? Were they brothers or relatives? Had “Jack” come along and joined the gang after they crossed into Colorado Territory? John  Reynolds claimed Addison Stowe was one of two men who escaped with his group and fled to New Mexico Territory and freedom in 1864. I’ve often discredited this account of “Stowe” being killed and not Singletary, but as in every great mystery there is always a twist. This is where we return to the Singletary family tree.

While researching the Singletary bloodline I came across some interesting entries- I learned that Owen Singletary came from a large family. His father was named Evan Savera Singletary and was born in 1813 in North Carolina. Evan Singletary moved to Texas where he was a farmer. He was married twice and fathered eleven children.  Evan Singletary joined the Confederate Army (Corporal, Quinn’s Company, 1st Frontier District, Texas State Militia) in February 1864, proceeded in service by two of his sons- Owen Singletary (Private, Wells Battalion, Third Texas Cavalry Regiment) and Joseph Singletary (Teamster, Wells Battalion, Third Texas Cavalry Regiment). Clearly, the Singletary family was sympathetic to the Confederacy and served throughout the latter stages of the war.

Of note regarding the service of the Singletary family is that brothers Owen and Joseph both served in the Wells Battalion, along with the three Reynolds brothers- Jim, John and George, but it does not appear that Joseph Singletary accompanied the rest of the Battalion as they crossed into New Mexcio and Colorado Territory in 1864. Records show that Joseph was listed as “in the Choctaw Nation” in 1865 when the conflict ended. One footnote in the family genealogy states Joseph did in fact venture into Colorado with the rest of the Regiment, but there is no explanation of how, when or why he returned to Indian Territory and finished up the war among the Choctaw. This has me asking the question was Joseph Singletary the mysterious third man who escaped south into New Mexico with John  Reynolds and Addison Stowe? Was “Joseph Singletary” actually the man killed in Geneva Gulch in July of 1864, and did his brother Owen Singletary escape the ambush and return to the Choctaw Nation assuming his brother’s identity?

Why would I speculate that Owen Singletary survived, escaped and returned to Indian Territory under his brothers identity? One account of the story brings  Owen Singletary’s fate into question and gives no account to what became of him- This is the claim that it was a man named “Jack Stowe”  and not Singletary that was killed. If this “Jack Stowe” was killed, that means Owen Singletary survived. But if an “Addison Stowe” escaped to New Mexico with John Reynolds, who was killed on July 29, 1864? If Owen Singletary and Addison Stowe both escaped the man who died in Geneva Gulch is a mystery. Could  a Confederate Pension application issued in 1899 solve the case?

Among the Singletary family records a note appears that on June 2, 1899 Owen Singletary applied for a Confederate Pension under application #1228976, and was approved the pension under certification #119620. Apparently, Owen Singletary who had been listed as “dead” since July 29, 1864 was once again alive and collecting his Confederate Pension 35 years after his death! What is more interesting is that his mysterious brother Joseph Singletary, who may or may not have been in Colorado in 1864, was never mentioned again after April of 1865 when he was listed as a Teamster detailed to the Choctaw Nation by Brigadier General Cooper- He never applied for a pension, and no record of his death exists

. It strikes me as highly unusual that the surviving son disappears from the record in 1865, and the “dead” son who was supposedly killed in 1864 is granted a pension 35 years later in 1899.

What are the circumstances regarding Owen Singletary’s miraculous resurrection and return in 1899? I’m waiting for copies of the pension records, and hopefully some light can be shed on this strange case. Did Owen assume Joseph’s identity and fade off into the sunset in 1865, taking with him the secret of the Reynolds Gang treasure? Did Joseph survive and claim Owen’s pension in 1899? Does the fate of the buried gold lay in the hands of the Singletary family to this day?  Is there a headless skeleton in Geneva Gulch waiting to tell it’s story? It is a confusing, convoluted mystery that may never give up it’s secrets.