Archive for the ‘Mining Camps’ Category

 

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I had heard rumors of a “lost” ghost town high in the Gunnison Country of Colorado a few times over the years. Being an avid “ghost towner” these rumors always piqued my interest. Nobody seemed to know much about this “lost” ghost town. There was even confusion over the name- “Cameltown” seemed to be the consensus on what this place was called, but why would a remote mining camp in the black timber of Colorado be named “Cameltown” Colorado is a long way from any camels, except for a few in the regional zoos, and I’d never heard of any camels being imported and used to haul supplies to the mines like they had been used elsewhere in the world.

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Hours of research, countless dead ends, and I finally found myself on the right path, and it was obvious once I saw it- I was looking for “Campbell Town” not “Cameltown.” Named for its founder Campbell Town was somewhere in Gunnison County, rumored to be known by only a handful of locals, and even among the locals it was somewhat of an enigma, only a few had seen the place themselves, but it did exist!

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So I began another earnest search for information, this time for “Campbell Town” and, like my previous search for “Cameltown” I was striking out. I couldn’t find any information, no matter where I looked. None of my ghost town guide books made any mention of it, I found one small blurb online mentioning it was near Ohio City and Pitkin, but it was hidden amongst the trees in a maddening maze of off-road trails. I poured over my topographic maps and marked potential or likely spots, I double-checked my paper maps against modern satellite images. Then, as I delved deeper into the internet, a scan of an old topographical map showed up listing a “Cameltown” a couple miles above Ohio City…So after all that I was back to looking for “Cameltown”!

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I had another look at the old topo map and found the spot on a satellite image, and when I zoomed in I could see a mine dump and what looked like a couple of structures. Close enough for me! I hopped in my Jeep and headed for “Cameltown.” A rocky, steep, and overgrown trail led me to a weathered and dilapidated wooden Forest Service sign that read “Campbell Town est. 1880 Population Max. 44” so we were back to “Campbell Town” again! I had a good laugh and decided that whatever the place was named, I had finally found it.

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At first sight, Campbell Town looks like a small meadow with only two tumbledown cabins, but then, buried in the trees on the side of a steep slope is another cabin, rather well preserved considering the remote location and severe winters, and then down a spur road from the main trail the ruins of several other cabins appear as well as three more relatively intact cabins. A large mine dump leads to the ruins of what was once a large mill. High on another hillside, hidden in the trees, is one more cabin, far removed from the others.

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Rusted cans and broken shards of porcelain litter the landscape. Here and there you’ll find the remnants of an old leather boot, or a well-worn rubber boot sole. What appeared at first to be a birdhouse hanging from a tree branch was, in fact, an old solvent can the branch had grown through long ago. Inside the best preserved cabin is a collection of artifacts found by others lucky enough to find Campbell Town- A boot, the iron head of a pickaxe, an old salt shaker, various cans, bottles, nails, etc. License plates dating back to 1933 have been nailed to the walls by visitors. Names of visitors and dates all the way back to the 1920s can be found scrawled on the walls of the cabin.

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Campbell Town instantly earned a spot in my “Top 10 Colorado Ghost Towns”- Not only did I enjoy the search for this little beauty, I loved what I found- A place largely intact and untouched, just like the rumors said it would be. I will share my photos of Campbell Town,  but I’ll keep the whereabouts to myself. Campbell Town needs to be “found” to be truly appreciated, and if you are lucky enough to find it, you are lucky enough!  Good Luck in your search, it is well-worth the effort!

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Abandoned iron- To some it is an eyesore, to others it is a thing of great, almost artistic, beauty in its own strange way. I fall into the latter category, finding the cast-aside implements of yesterday’s industry extremely beautiful.

I imagine if these rusted relics and shops could tell a story, it would parallel my own- Men who did a job because they had to, not because they wanted to, who faced the same frustrations, anger, and stress I’ve faced in my own time inside the factory.

I can look at these old machines and see myself cussing them, as some high-pressure bossman leans over my shoulder, clipboard and pencil in hand, asking a series of stupid, irrelevant questions, and second-guessing my every move while I try to make the iron monsters live again.

Perhaps it’s just me, or maybe it’s just another of the many symptoms of blue-collar life, but when I put a hand on these great iron beasts, I can hear them come back to life- The grand cacophonous thunder of industry.

(Due to the rarity and historic value of the following, and the increasing instances of theft and vandalism currently afflciting Colorado’s historic sites, I’ve chosen not to disclose the locations to prevent futher destruction.)

 

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Travel pretty much anywhere in the western half of the United States and you’re sure to come across the iconic “false front” store. False front architecture is almost as synonymous with the Old West as the Colt Pistol and John Wayne- We see examples of the false front in nearly every vintage photo of the Old West, and any classic western film would be incomplete if it didn’t contain at least one false fronted store somewhere in the story.

But what is the reasoning behind this strange architectural style? There are several answers, and they are all based in practicality-

First, the false front was often added to impermanent structures such as large tents for stability. Tent colonies were commonplace in the early years of westward expansion and the gold rush era. People would flock to an area and the quickest, easiest and most affordable dwelling to put up was the tent. As prairie or mountain winds whipped, and the colder weather moved in, settlers would shore up the sides of the tent with logs, making somewhat of a “half-cabin.” Others, in many cases businesses being run out of tents, would add a false front with a formal door. This gave an impression of permanence, as well as providing additional security to the contents inside via the proper locking door on the front.

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As time went on, and the tent colonies grew into permanent log, brick, and milled lumber towns and cities, the false front carried on- This time the false front served both as advertising space, and as a decorative facade. The large flat surface was perfect for painting the name of your hotel, saloon, or general store. The wealthier and more prosperous you were, the fancier and more ornate your false front would be, featuring time consuming scrollwork, cornices, and gingerbread trim. The false front soon became the status symbol of the Old West, and merchants and hoteliers would engage in spirited attempts to one-up each other, much like men do today with their pickup trucks.

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Today, the false front hangs on across the West. Some retain their their glory, and for many others that glory has faded to a forlorn, splintered, black-brown-gray of rotted and neglected wood.

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With the meteoric population explosion in Colorado, more and more of the State’s past is being lost to the bulldozer and replaced with new construction. Here is one last look at 25 old dwellings before they vanish- 

#1- Lake County

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#2 Washington County

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#4 Baca County

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#5 Teller County

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#6  Weld Countyjeo1

#7 Park County

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#8 Costilla County

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#9 Lincoln County

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#10 Hinsdale Countycapc2

#11 Park County

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#12 Morgan County

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#13 Costilla County

Russell#14 Weld County

Farmhouse Near Grover#15 Teller County

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#16 Gilpin County

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#17 Las Animas County

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#18 Gunnison County

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#19 Chaffee County

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#21 Costilla County

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#22 Las Animas County

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#23 Summit County

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#24 Baca County

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#25 Costilla County

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I hadn’t been to Silver Plume, Colorado in a couple of years, and decided to make a visit this morning. It was a perfect day to park the Jeep and aimlessly wander up and down the streets of Silver Plume, and imagine how it must have looked in it’s glory days of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Silver Plume is still one of my favorite places in Colorado to snap photos- There is just so much there to see, and I always find something new-old thing I missed before. I make it a point to always leave a street or path unexplored, and I also visit Silver Plume only once a year, that way there will always be “something new” on my next visit. One day I will have seen it all, but that just means I can start over and do it all, street-by-street again, and take photos from entirely different angles!

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If a competition were held to crown “Colorado’s Most Unique Town” Guffey would certainly be in the running.  Guffey, in the past, has elected cats and dogs Mayor, and until 2011 the town held an annual chicken launch.

Today the town could be classified as a “living ghost town” with a healthy population of around 100. The dirt streets that run through town are home to old cars, cast iron claw-foot bathtubs, coffins, wagons, mining equipment, and just about anything else old and rusty you can think of. A couple of saloons are open to greet thirsty visitors and weekend road-trippers, and there are a large number of picturesque, historic buildings to admire.

Guffey got it’s start in the late-1890s as a typical Colorado mining town, gold, silver, lead, copper, and zinc being found in the area. By 1905 Guffey was already a “has been” among the mining centers and most of the town’s 500 people had moved on. But Guffey never totally “died” and is a very intersting and fun place to visit today.

Guffey is located 46 miles southeast of Fairplay, just off of Highway 9 on Park County Road 102.

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CHECK OUT MY OTHER PHOTO BLOGS!

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BOOK: The Gray Ghosts of Colorado $19.99 CLICK HERE TO ORDER!

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We’ve all heard of Wall Street, Boston, Hollywood, London, and Manhattan, but did you know Colorado has a Wall Street, Boston, and Manhattan too? Wall Street in Boulder County and Manhattan in Larimer County were small mining towns in the late-19th and early-20th Century, Boston, in Summit County, was a seasonal mining camp in that same era. London (there were actually two “North” and “South” London) were a pair of camps located a mile apart on Mosquito Pass in Park County, and were inhabited until the 1930s. Hollywood began it’s short life as a suburb of Victor, Colorado in Teller County, and was swallowed up by Goldfield as that town expanded. The names of these tiny communities represented the high hopes of the miners and their families who once called them home- High hopes that faded and vanished when the veins of gold and silver played out.

Wall Street still has a small population and is home to a quaint mining museum housed in the old Assay office. All that remains of Manhattan is a tiny cemetery, high on a hillside, with the graves of a handful of miners killed in an underground explosion in 1892 which spelled the town’s doom. What remained of Manhattan’s structures were burned to the ground by the Forest Service in the 1930s, and only a few photos remain. Boston, high above timberline, surrounded by snow-capped spires of rock at the head of Mayflower Gulch between Copper Mountain and Leadville still has a scattering of cabins, the fragile remnants of the log boarding house, and rusted relics of mining machinery.

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Wall Street, Colorado- Boulder County

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Wall Street

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Wall Street in the boom days

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The monstrous chlorniation mill used for seperating gold from host rock at Wall Street- The first of it’s kind in the United States, and cutting edge technology in it’s day

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Remains of the chlorination mill today

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The “fancy house” at Wall Street, heavily damaged in the floods of 2013 and since torn down

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A glimpse of Boston, Colorado in Summit County, located high above timberline

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Boston

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Relics of yesterday in a miner’s cabin on the trail to Boston

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The awe inspiring setting of Boston, Colorado

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The boarding house at Boston

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Boston

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Hollywood, Colorado- A far cry it’s more famous namesake!

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London, Colorado

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Boarding house at London

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Mosquito Pass from the inside of the mill at London

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Miner’s cabin at London

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This tiny, hillside cemetery is all that remains of Manhattan, Colorado

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Grave of George Grill, one of the miners killed in the 1892 Manhattan explosion

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Another Manhattan burial

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A tiny fleck of gold from Manhattan Creek

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Manhattan at it’s peak around 1890

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Manhattan, Colorado in better days

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Manhattan circa 1930

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Manhattan around 1930- It had been abandoned for 30 years by the time these photos were taken, the Forest Service burned the buildings shortly after, nothing remains today

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Manhattan, Colorado

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Checkout My Other Photo Blogs!

Photo Blog: Colorado’s High Alpine Mining Camps- What Remains Today

Colorado’s Lost Highway- A Photo Voyage Down Highway 350 From La Junta to Trinidad

Photo Blog: Coal Towns of Colorado- Ghosts of the Southern Foothills

Abandoned Faces of Colorado’s San Luis Valley and Northern New Mexico.

The Gray Ghosts of Colorado Book- $19.99 CLICK HERE!

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