Archive for the ‘Colorado History’ Category

Many of you have been following and awaiting the release of my book “The Gray Ghosts of Colorado” which documents the suppressed early history, and the southern roots of the State of Colorado.

My project which began as a history of “The Reynolds Gang” has grown to include the rise of the secessionist faction in Colorado Territory, the Confederate underground network, Colonel Heffiner’s Mace’s Hole rebel army, and attempted Confederate incursions by Captain George Madison and Lt. Colonel Charlie Harrison.

The inclusion of so much new, pertinent material has resulted in numerous delays and rewrites.  As a result,  I have decided to split “The Gray Ghosts of Colorado” into a four book series, which will accomplish two goals- It will allow me to cover the subject matter in greater detail,  and it will allow the subject matter to be introduced to the reader in an easier to read,  chronological format that clearly ties the divergent paths of the topics together.

Splitting “The Gray Ghosts of Colorado” into four smaller books will require a considerable amount of “reworking” of the project,  and as of now,  I can not estimate a date of publication for the first book in the series.

“The Gray Ghosts of Colorado” series will consist of:

Book I- “The Copperheads” The southern roots of Colorado and the secessionist faction 1860-1865

Book II- “Pioneers to Pariahs” A true history of the mass exodus of Colorado’s southern-born pioneers,  a veritable “who’s who” of Colorado’s founding fathers, following the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico,  Confederate units composed of Colorado exiles and their battles,  and Confederate incursions into Colorado Territory in 1862-1863.

Book III- “The Reynolds Gang” A true history of Company A,  Wells’ Battalion,  3rd Texas Cavalry Regiment, CSA, their 1864 raids into New Mexico and Colorado,  how they became known as “The Reynolds Gang”, the sham trial and botched execution of some of Company A’s members,  and the hunt for their buried treasure which continues today.

Book IV- A collection of maps,  rosters,  appendices, and overall bibliography for the entire series.

Stay tuned for updates and thank you for your patience! This story deserves to be told correctly and in it’s entirety, and that will take a bit more time!

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A collection of photos I’ve taken through the years capturing fall colors in various Colorado ghost towns, mining camps, and historic cemeteries. Various Olympus cameras from 7mp to 16mp, at various points in my life over the past decade, even a few taken on my phone.  Featured are scenes from Crystal City, Ashcroft, Central City Catholic Cemetery, Stringtown, Beaver City, Grover, Winfield, Knights of Pythias Cemetery- Central City, Idaho Springs Cemetery, Nevadaville, Ironton, Dayton, Bull Hill and Buckingham.

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Stringtown

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Ashcroft

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Central City Catholic Cemetery

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Near Grover

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Knights of Pythias Cemetery- Central City

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Ironton

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Bull Hill

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Crystal City

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Central City Catholic Cemetery

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Dayton

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Idaho Springs Cemetery

Buckingham School

Buckingham

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Central City Catholic Cemetery

Prize Mine

Nevadaville

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Idaho Springs Cemetery

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Dayton

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Ironton

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Crystal City

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Beaver City

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Central City Catholic Cemetery

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Ashcroft

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Crystal City

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Winfield

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Ashcroft

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Central City Catholic Cemetery

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Nevadville? Russell Gulch?

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Beaver City

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Central City Catholic Cemetery

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Winfield

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Aschcroft

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Crystal City

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Dayton

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Ironton

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Idaho Springs Cemetery

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Central City Catholic Cemetery

Enjoy!

 

 

For over 150 years Coloradans and Wild West history buffs have discussed the case of “The Reynolds Gang” a band of nine men who robbed stagecoaches along the old Fairplay-to-Denver road back in July 1864.  Every written account identifies the men as simple bushwackers- Just rowdy outlaws rasing hell and terrorizing the locals before meeting their grim fate at the end of a firing squad.

 

I have worked tirelessly for the last six years to disprove the accepted version of events and prove conclusively that “The Reynolds Gang” were in fact Confederate soldiers riding from Texas to carry out military orders nearly 500 miles behind enemy lines- A remarkable feat that they DID accomplish in the summer of 1864.

My upcoming book “The Gray Ghosts of Colorado” which will hopefully be in print this year will cover all aspects of the case of “The Reynolds Gang” from start to finish. But in the mean time here is the “proof of the pudding” which has been overlooked, disregarded, ignored, and denied for over 150 years by “historians”-

The enlistment records of every member of “The Reynolds Gang” who rode into Colorado in July of 1864. These are the twenty-two Texas Cavalrymen that left Fort Belknap, Texas in mid-June 1864 on orders from Brigadier General Douglas Hancock Cooper to raid and disrupt Union supply and mail columns and recruit for the south in New Mexico and Colorado Territories. The twenty-two men identified below represent 50% of the total strength of Company A, Wells’ Battalion, 3rd Texas Cavalry Regiment, or two full platoons per regulation of the Confederate order of battle for units operating within the Indian Territory and Texas frontier commands.

Over half of the men identified below were early Colorado prospectors and pioneers who either left  Colorado willingly to join the Confederate Army or were forced out of Colorado by anti-southern pressure in 1861-1862.

All twenty-two men reached Colorado in July of 1864 breaking into two separate platoons near present-day Branson, Colorado. One platoon under the leadership of Sergeant Abraham C. Brown conducted recruiting missions in and around the Greenhorn River, Arkansas River and Spanish Peaks region. The second group under “Captain” Jim Reynolds carried out robberies along the Fairplay-Denver stagecoach road and became known as “The Reynolds Gang.”

Sergeant Brown’s platoon safely returned to Fort Belknap, Texas in the fall of 1864 and served honorably until the Confederate surrender in May of 1865. Many men of Sergeant Brown’s platoon were present when Wells’ Battalion laid down their arms and surrendered at Hempstead, Texas in late May of 1865.

 

“Captain” Reynolds platoon engaged in a brief skirmish with local Colorado militia in Geneva Gulch above present-day Grant, Colorado on July 31, 1864. Private Owen Singletary was killed in the firefight, Jim Reynolds was severely wounded.  The men of the Reynolds platoon scattered after the fight, six were later captured, John Reynolds and Addison F. Stowe escaped safely to New Mexico. Thomas Holloman aided his Union captors in tracking down the rest of the platoon near Canon City, Colorado and was freed in exchange for his help. The five men captured near Canon City were tried in a false court, then illegally executed near Russellville, Colorado. However, two (John Andrews and Thomas Knight) of the five supposedly executed that day survived the ordeal and escaped.

John Andrews after surviving his own execution recovered from his wounds with the aid of the Confederate underground in Colorado and reunited with John Reynolds and Addison F. Stowe in New Mexico a few weeks later. While attempting to return to their unit at Fort Belknap in the fall of 1864, Addison F. Stowe and John Andrews were killed following a botched attempt to steal horses in northeastern New Mexico. John  Reynolds disappeared from history in 1864 following the failed attempt to return to Fort Belknap with Stowe and Andrews. Reynolds resurfaced under the name “Will Wallace” in Taos in 1871 where he confessed his true identity on his deathbed.

Thomas Knight who survived his own execution appears to have been nursed back to health by the Cheyenne Indians. He died in 1910 in Kiowa County, Oklahoma.  Thomas Holloman who was freed after he led the Union posse to the platoon hiding near Canon City went north, modified his name to “Holman” and died in Linn County, Oregon in 1876.

 

 

 

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John Andrews

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John Bobbitt

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Abraham C. Brown

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John Brown

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Uriah Carlton (Carrolton)

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Thomas Holloman (Holliman/Holman)

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Benjamin Jackson

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William Jackson

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Thomas Knight

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Thomas Masoner

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Chastine “Miles” McCracken

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Washington Nutt

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James “Jim” Reynolds

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John Reynolds

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Jackson Robinson- Colorado Territory

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Jackson Robinson- Texas

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Owen Singleterry (Singletary)

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Addison F. Stowe

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L.C. Tatum

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William Tatum

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John Wallace

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Allen Wiley

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John Wiley

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Anderson Wilson

Tucked away in Gamble Gulch about halfway between the towns of Black Hawk and Nederland, Colorado stand the sparse ruins of Perigo.  Perigo was a busy gold mining town in the latter years of the 19th Century and was home to several prosperous mines including the Golden Sun, Tip Top, Perigo and the Free Gold. A massive 60-stamp mill was erected at the town to crush the ores from the nearby mines.

Perigo had around three-hundred residents during it’s peak years. There was a general store, mine offices, the mill, several saloons, a social club and many private dwellings ranging from crude log cabins and tents to lavish two-story homes that would’ve been considered mansions in the day. Perigo’s social club put on plays and banquets, and tried on a number of occasions to entice the leading opera stars and actors from Central City and Denver to hold shows in the town- It is unknown, and doubtful that any ever accepted the offer.

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Perigo- A View Down Main Street Around 1890

When the mining industry collapsed in the 1890s Perigo began a steady decline into oblivion. The mines were all closed and the mill was shut down. Struggling on for a few more years was the general store that served the needs of those who still lived in Gamble Gulch, but soon, it too faded and was abandoned.

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Tourists visit the abandoned stamp mill around 1930

Sometime around the middle of the last Century a man purchased the entire town site, the mill, and all the remaining buildings and homes of Perigo.  The now ghost town of Perigo could still be visited and admired from the narrow and rocky road leading through Gamble Gulch.  Then one day the new owner was hit with a tax bill he could not pay. Gilpin County expected the man to pay property taxes on each of the structures on his property. He informed the county that all of the buildings were long abandoned and in various states of decay, but the tax man didn’t care, the law was the law and the taxes had to paid. Inviting the county tax assessor to Perigo, the owner showed him the rotten and collapsing buildings, but the county stood firm and demanded he pay up. A simple solution presented itself- If there were no standing structures on his property, the tax bill would vanish. So, unfortunately for old Perigo, the man filled the buildings at the town site with dynamite and blew Perigo off the map.

 

Today you’ll only find the twisted and shattered remains of the mill, some wood structures flat on the ground like a stack of popsicle sticks, a stone or concrete foundation tucked in the grass, and a couple of old tumbledown tin sided shacks being reclaimed by the earth.  One small Victorian era house still stands intact way back in the trees, and giant, still occupied, two-story Victorian style which may or may not be original to the site can be found near the mill wreckage.

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Twice in the past month, as part of the research I am doing for a book I’m writing, I have visited a secluded area of Douglas County, Colorado where the Confederate underground was known to have operated in the 1860s- An area where several buried caches of Civil War era arms and ammunition have been found through the years. I set out to search for any signs or evidence of these long-forgotten Confederate agents who smuggled weapons and supplies through Colorado Territory.

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Old Stage barn constructed in 1861 in Douglas County, Colorado. The Confederate underground operated in the hills nearby throughout the Civil War.

Known as the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) the Confederate underground was a secretive, fraternal order loosely based on the Masons. Active throughout the southern states, and western territories in the waning years of the Civil War the KGC possessed a tremendous amount of wealth and influence. Many high ranking officers of the Confederacy were KGC members, and thousands of rank and file soldiers were initiates in the secret order as well. Among the most notable members of the KGC were Frank and Jesse James, William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, John Wilkes Booth, General Douglas H. Cooper, Colorado pioneer Alexander “Zan” Hicklin,  James and John Reynolds (see my previous blogs regarding the Reynolds Gang in Colorado) would-be assassin Lewis Powell (Payne) and the well-known Freemason Albert Pike (who many believe founded the KGC.)

Famous Freemason Albert Pike, Thought to be the Founder of the KGC

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The primary objective of the KGC was to accumulate wealth (aka gold and silver) and weapons by any means, which usually meant robbery, for use in a future “second” Civil War against the Union. Hidden in caches across the south and west, the KGC employed agents or “sentinels” that stood guard over the buried treasure for many decades. Dating back to the days leading up to the Civil War, KGC initiates used a series of “grips” or hand signals to indicate their membership in the order- To the casual bystander, the “grips” wouldn’t seem unusual, but to a fellow KGC member they would be easily recognized.

Four famous members of the KGC demonstrating one of the Orders’ “secret” grips-

The right hand grasping or tucked inside the lapel.

Left to Right- “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Jesse and Frank James, John Wilkes Booth.

KGC initiate Lewis Powell (Also Known as Lewis Payne) attempted to kill Secretary of State William Seward on April 14, 1865. These photos taken after his arrest show him giving what former members of the KGC confirmed were secret “grips” of the order.

Also employed by the KGC in their nefarious activities was a secret alphabet or code, and messages would be carved in trees, rocks, or passed between members on scraps of paper. A first hand account given by a ranch hand of Alexander “Zan” Hicklin of a guerrilla traversing Colorado Territory  bound for Confederate lines in New Mexico in 1862 states:

“Hicklin was suspicious of the man at first. I saw him hand Hicklin a scrap of paper covered in symbols and scribbles. Hicklin then eased and provided the man with food and provisions for his journey.”

It is clear the “…scrap of paper covered in symbols and scribbles…” was a message in the KGC code vouching for the wayward guerrilla.

Key to the KGC Secret Code

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The KGC was a very real, very powerful order which lasted well into the 20th Century. Reports of second and third generation KGC sentinels standing vigil at burial sites persisted until the 1930s! In the late 1800s and early 1900s numerous cases of confrontations and even shootings at the hands of mysterious armed men deep in forests have been attributed to KGC sentinels watching over their loot. Around the outbreak of WWII, suspected KGC activity seemed to disappear.

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KGC cache sites were marked with a series of nondescript signs- Treasure hunters have spent years deciphering the signs of the KGC and documenting anomalies found at known KGC cache sites. A common series of markers used by the KGC, which would go unnoticed by the casual passerby, has been documented-

  1. “Hoot Owls”– Trees which have been deformed, grafted or otherwise “engineered” into unnatural shapes are the most common KGC marker. “Twin” “Triplet” or unusual clusters of trees the exact same height and age also indicate KGC activity, as they were purposely arranged in such a fashion.

Examples of KGC “Hoot Owls” found at cache burial sites in the south/west.

2. Rock Carvings– Some complex, such as those using the KGC code or symbols-pyramids, eyes, numbers, etc. Other carvings were as simple as a cross or a series of holes bored into the rock.

Examples of known/suspected KGC rock carvings (complex)

Examples of suspected KGC rock carvings (simple)

3. Marker Stones– A series of stones, often triangular or “arrowhead” shaped placed along the path to a cache, these stones would appear ordinary to most, but to a KGC agent, they would point the way to buried goods. Also used as marker stones were ordinary looking rocks that might not be of a type native or normally found in the area, for example quartz markers left in an area where there is only sandstone.

Examples of KGC marker stones from confirmed cache sites.

4) Burned out tree trunks and holes bored into tree trunks-The burned out stump was a popular KGC marker meaning “Buried cache in a hole nearby.”

(No photos available of “burned tree trunk/stump markers”- Information based on data and claims compiled/made by Military Historian Dr. Roy William Roush, Ph.D., in his book “Knights of the Golden Circle Treasure Signs”)

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Using the known examples of KGC markers, I set out to find if any of these KGC markers were present at the Douglas County site- I didn’t expect to find much, but I was surprised at what I found, and I believe that a KGC cache once existed at the site, or still exists waiting to be discovered. My findings-

1. “Hoot Owls”– I stood on a small rise over the creek bottom I was investigating and scanned the treeline looking for anomalies- Anything that didn’t look right, any tree that wasn’t growing in a natural way. I found several examples of “Hoot Owls” over a one-mile stretch of creek bed, including a near perfect “arch” made by two trees bent inwards towards each other, and a “triplet” tree of nearly perfect proportions, both pictured below.

“Hoot Owls” found at the Douglas County, Colorado site- Including an “arch” and a nearly perfect “triplet”- Highly unusual for such a large concentration of “naturally” occurring anomalies to be present in an area of less than a mile. Also of note- Each of the trees was large/old enough to date to the Civil War era.

 

2. Rock Carvings– Across the one-mile stretch I investigated I found several rock carvings of the “simple” style- A “key”, a “cross”, two “eyes”, and series of stones with between one and four holes bored into them. There were tons of boulders and rocks in the area- Only about eight had carvings, and the stones bearing “eye” carvings all had a distinct depression or hole in the ground directly below the “eye”…former site of a buried cache???

Cross, key, and eye rock carvings found in Douglas County, Colorado.

“Eye” and simple hole pattern carvings at the site-

3. Marker Stones– Rocks that shouldn’t be there, or arrow shaped stones in unusual places. I found only one “arrow” shaped stone that was 110% out of place, sitting on top of a rounded, water worn boulder in the creek. An angular, pointy stone is very out of place in a creek bed. It was definitely put there by human hands- When?  Who knows, maybe three days ago, maybe 150 years ago by a KGC agent.  What was intriguing was the huge open hole in the rocks just beyond the “arrow”  looked like a perfect spot to hide something.

“Arrow” marker stone and hole in the rocks behind it.

I also noticed red stones, all of a uniform size, placed at regular intervals along the creek. The stones were roughly fist sized, and unlike the native stones in the area. When I reached the near perfect triplet “Hoot Owl” tree, the trail of red stones stopped. I found no more for the next half-mile before I turned around and headed back.

Red marker stones found at regular intervals along the creek.

4. Burned Out Tree Trunk– I was not expecting to find a burned out tree trunk, but on a steep side slope of the tiny valley cut by the creek this old stump, clearly cut off by the hand of man many, many years ago caught my eye. It was so old that it was dry rotting and would crumble in your fingers, and the base had been hollowed out long ago by a fire.  It was the only tree cut down by human hands on the whole hillside, and was located at a steep point next to a promontory rock that caught your eye. Directly across the creek from the burned out stump was the “Hoot Owl” arch mentioned previously.

Three views of the burnt out stump, and the “Hoot Owl” arch directly across the creek.

 

5. Strange circular clearing surrounded by very old felled timber- From the burnt out stump, I crossed the creek and walked through the “Hoot Owl” arch. On the other side of the “arch” was a large patch of felled timber, very old and gray with age, obviously having been down for many years. In the center of the felled timber was a nearly perfect circular patch, void of timber with the exception of one very young pine tree and short grass. I’ve seen similar circular patches in the Rockies where meteors fell, or at the site of dormant freshwater springs. This spot was similar, but the felled timber surrounding it seemed to be situated in a uniform depth of 6-8 logs which seemed unusual to me. Is this clearing the site of a forgotten KGC cache???

Circular clearing beyond the “Hoot Owl” arch.

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Buried Confederate arms and ammunition have been found in this same vicinity of Douglas County in the past. Based on the evidence I found, I think that more waits to be discovered.

Colorado has plenty of ghost towns but what about “lost” towns- Towns that have disappeared entirely, or almost entirely from the face of the earth?  It is hard to imagine but there are “lost cities” here in Colorado. Cities and towns and settlements that have vanished almost completely over the years. Most appeared and disappeared with the boom and bust days of the gold and silver rush. Others were ranching and farming towns hit hard by the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s. Still others came and went with the fortunes of the railroads.  These make up Colorado’s “lost cities” and below is a collection of then and now photos of six of them. (Click on the circles for larger images.)

1. Querida, Colorado

Querida in Custer County was once a booming mining town laid out at the base of the Bassick Mine.  Today nothing remains but one old house, some debris from other buildings, and the massive tailings pile from the Bassick Mine.

2. Independence, Colorado

There was more than one “Independence” in Colorado- This is the Independence in Teller County near Cripple Creek and Victor. Independence was one of many towns that sprawled out around the mining operations in the Cripple Creek/Victor area in the late 1890s. Today some mining structures and equipment mark the spot, and a one or two homes can still be found scattered among the workings. Most of the town however was buried under the tailings from the mine, or torn down.

3. Caribou, Colorado

Caribou was one of Colorado’s top producing silver mining towns in the 1870s and 1880s boasting a business district, hotels, saloons and schools. The silver crash of 1893 spelled doom for the thriving community located on a windswept mountainside eight miles above Nederland at nearly 10,000 ft. elevation. Most of the population left around 1895, but a few struggled on in the mines until around 1920. Today a couple of stone buildings and one tumbledown log cabin are all that mark the spot of Caribou- The rest of town having been lost to forest fires, dismantling, and the elements over the years. A few foundations can be found in the deep grass at the site but its hard to imagine thousands once lived here.

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4. Manhattan, Colorado

Deep in Larimer County northwest of Ft. Collins a couple of gold discoveries were made high on Elkhorn and Manhattan Creeks. Manhattan once had around 500 residents, but the ore was low-grade and there wasn’t much to be found.  An accident in a shaft took the lives of several miners in 1892, and shortly after Manhattan was abandoned.  Sometime in the 1950s or so, the Forest Service had the log buildings of Manhattan torn down.  All that marks the town site today is a tiny graveyard on a hillside where the miners from the 1892 accident are buried.

5.Berwind, Colorado

In the sandy foothills northwest of Trinidad numerous “company towns” existed. These towns were built by mine owners for their employees and their families. One of the larger company towns was Berwind. Berwind once had over 3000 residents, hundreds of homes, a two-story schoolhouse, railroad station, businesses, and a jail.  When the coal mines closed, the mine owners evicted the families and bulldozed the housing so they wouldn’t be taxed on the structures. Berwind Canyon today is lined with concrete foundations, staircases to nowhere, and modern day “Roman Ruins” overgrown with shrubs and trees. The tiny jail house remains and is guarded by a fat squirrel.

6. Carrizo Springs, Colorado

Carrizo Springs in the far southeastern corner of Colorado in remote Baca County was a very unusual place- It was a mining town on the great plains.  Around 1885 a group of prospectors from Missouri were looking for the Rocky Mountains and became lost as they traveled through Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and Kansas. When they had just about given up they saw hills and bluffs that they assumed were the Rocky Mountains. They began prospecting along Carrizo Creek and found some streaks of copper ore and a few streaks of silver as well. The Mexican ranchers in the area told the miners they were still a couple hundred miles from the Rocky Mountains. The miners decided to stay at Carrizo Creek and soon word spread of their strike. Around 1887 the town of Carrizo Springs was born, and one account says 2000-3000 people flocked to the settlement. Carrizo Springs lived a short, violent life. Cattle rustlers and horse thieves wandered through town from Kansas and Texas, gamblers and prostitutes set up shop in the saloons, marauding bandidos all the way from Mexico terrorized the town on occasion. Soon though it was realized the copper and silver ore along Carrizo Creek was poor and the town vanished. By 1889 Carrizo Springs was empty having lived only two years.  Today it takes a very sharp eye to spot anything marking the site- A few crumbling stone foundations, a weathered hitching post here and there, and shards of broken glass and porcelain on the prairie are all that is left.  No period photos of Carrizo Springs exist.

I just returned from a short but satisfying trip through the San Luis Valley of Colorado and a small chunk of northern New Mexico between Taos and Chama. I was out to snap a few photos of the past- The faces of the forgotten and forlorn buildings of the region- A region still very much alive, but where the past coexists side-by-side with the present.

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Garcia, Colorado

There is a unique energy in this part of the world. I can not describe it, but things just look and feel “different” in some way as you travel down the lonely stretches of blacktop that run the length of the San Luis Valley and North-Central New Mexico. There is something about this area and it’s vast openness and sweeping views, the surreal aspect of the Great Sand Dunes butting up against the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the Taos plateau and the great defile of the Rio Grande Gorge that rips through the middle of it- This is an area of intense natural beauty and quiet, peaceful, solitude. Some even say this is an area of supernatural or otherworldly energy- Cattle mutilations, UFO sightings, and the “Taos Hum” which reportedly only about 10% of people can hear, are evidence of this theory.

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Hooper, Colorado

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Along a back road in northern New Mexico

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Mosca, Colorado

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Moffatt, Colorado

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Penitente Morada, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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Tres Piedras, New Mexico

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Garcia, Colorado

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Moffatt, Colorado

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18th Century Spanish Colonial Church, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Moffatt, Colorado

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Garcia, Colorado

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico

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Hooper, Colorado

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Costilla, New Mexico

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Moffatt, Colorado

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Abandoned Church, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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New Mexico

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Costilla, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico