Posts Tagged ‘Colorado history’

Day #21 features Dyersville, Colorado

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In 1880 Father John Dyer, an itinterant Methodist preacher and Colorado legend, along with two other prospectors staked claims on a silver vein near the headwaters of Indiana Creek on the west slope of Boreas Pass near above the town of Breckenridge.  The Warrior’s Mark mine was built on the vein and Father Dyer and his partners built cabins at the site.  Over $10,000 worth of silver ore was hauled out of the Warrior’s Mark in the first six months of operations, and soon the small town of Dyersville sprang up to house the miner’s and their families.

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Dyersville had a church, where Father John would preach the gospel, a branch of the Breckenridge-based Adamson’s Blue Front clothing store,  a large mess hall, a saloon called the Angel’s Roost, and a school house. Mail was brought to Dyersville via Breckenrdige, but no Post Office was ever established in the town.  The Warrior’s Mark continued to produce until around 1900 when the vein played out, and Dyersville was abandoned.

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For decades Dyersville was lost to time, buried in the dense timber along Indiana Creek, its whereabouts known only to a few old-timers.  Dyersville was “found” again a few decades later, virtually untocuhed since it was abandoned around the turn of the 20th Century.

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Today, Dyersville still retains about a dozen log cabins in verious stages of repair, the roofs are gone on all, so it won’t be long until they vanish. In the last five years, vandals have damaged some of the esier to locate cabins at Dyersville. The ruins of the Warrior’s Mark can still be found nearby. Ruts from the old wagon road that once serviced thre town can still be seen cutting through the trees.

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You can see where there the mess hall was, broken plates, rusted cans, and bones from meals gone by litter a slope adjacent to the mess hall ruins. Another log building tucked away in the trees has the looks of the saloon based on a slit-trench dug along the back wall of the building running downhill- So saloon patrons could relieve themselves without having to step outside into the elements!

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Day #18- Granite, Colorado

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Granite, Colorado is located at the confluence of Cache Creek and the Arkansas River in  a sandy, boulder filled, canyon.  Placer gold was discovered in 1860 at Cache Creek, and in 1861 in the sandbars of the Arkansas River.  A pair of camps named sprang up a short distance apart from each other- Georgia Bar (named after the Georgia-born prospectors who worked the claim) and Cache Creek camp. By 1862 over 3000 people lived in the camps and the numerous other craggy gulches that radiate in all directions from the spot. The scattered camps soon grew together, and the town of Granite was born.

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In 1867 gold-bearing quartz was discovered, and placer mining gave way to hard rock mining and a number of shafts were dropped and mills were built at the site.  For a few years in the 1860s and 1870s Granite was the county seat. Violence was no stranger to Granite, as returning soldiers from the Civil War often mixed it up based on their wartime allegiances, then in 1875, a vigilante group shot probate Judge Elias Dyer in his own Courtroom. Judge Dyer was the son of the famous intinerant preacher Father John Dyer, a Colorado legend.

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Today Granite is a quiet spot along the Arkansas River popular with fly fisherman. Many of the old log cabins and buildings are still used seasonally, and a few year-rounders are present. There are also a number of abandoned buildings, and mining remnants in all directions. A good 4×4 is required to explore the trails around Granite.

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Day #16 features Goldfield, Colorado and the surrounding historic sites of Bull Hill, Independence, and the Vindicator Mine complex.

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Goldfield was part of the sprawling Cripple Creek Mining District which boomed in the 1890s, and has continued until this day. In 1900, at the peak of Goldfield’s boom, the town had a population of 3,500. Most of the residents worked at the Portland Mine. Goldfield was the thrid largest town in the district behind Cripple Creek and Victor- All three towns were situated around mountain which was a virtual “dome” of gold, having once been a gigantic volcanic bubble filled with the precious metal.

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There were other satellite towns and camps in the immediate vicinity of Cripple Creek-Victor-Goldfield, and those nearest to Goldfield were the town of Independence (called Hull City originally) Bull Hill, and Hollywood. Ruins of all of these towns, camps, and settlements still abound today, and one can spend hours taking it all in through a series of interpretive trails in the area.  Among the most impressive relics in the district are the remains of the Vindicator Mining complex.

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Poweder bunker at the Independence site, across the road from Goldfield near the Vindicator

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The Vindicator Mill

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Another part of the Vindicator complex

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Day #15 features Bordenville, Colorado

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Bordenville was founded in 1865 by Timothy and Olney Borden, brothers from New York. The brothers chose a wide pasture along Tarryall Creek seven miles southeast of present-day Jefferson, Colorado. Unlike most coming to Colorado Territory at that time who were in search of gold, the Borden brothers went into the lumber and supplies business.

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The main section of Bordenville today along Highway 77 in Park County, Colorado

Travelers heading for the gold camps of South Park to the west of Tarryall Creek could, rest, eat, and get supplies at the Borden brothers ranch. A few more settlers soon arrived and set up permanent quarters in and around the Bordern brothers operation, and the site became known as “Bordenville” and was important stop and staging area along the old Colorado City-to-Fairplay road.

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Ranches along Tarryall Creek radiated out from Bordenville in every direction. A school was built for the growing number of children. A blacksmith shop, general store, and stagecoach station rounded out the businesses at Bordenville in its peak years of the 1870s. A tiny cemetery was established on a knoll east of the settlement.

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In 1895 three members of the school board were murdered in the school house by an overprotective father who erroneously thought the board had convened to discuss the behavior of his children. Realizing his error the man rode his horse 18 miles to Como and turned himself in. He was found guilty on three charges of murder, and was hung at the Colorado Territorial Prison in Canon City a short time later.

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Today Bordernville is just a small cluster of buidings along Highway 77 between Jefferson and Tarryall Reservoir. Numerous abandoned ranches and small cabins in the immediate vicinity make the trek to Bordenville worthwhile.

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One of the pictureque ranches between Jefferson and Bordenville

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Day #14- Turret, Colorado

Turret was an “accidental” gold town that came to life in the 1880 in the sandy crags along the Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado. Originally Turret was a logging camp that went by the name “Camp Austin” which provided logs to charcoal kilns in nearby Nathrop. The charcoal was then sold to the various railroads operating in the Arkansas River Valley.

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Some prospecting had been done in the 1870s around Camp Austin, and the railroad laid tracks to the neighboring iron mine at Hematite. A few small copper mines dotted the arid hills around the camp as well.  Around 1885 prospectors delved deeper into the rock nearby and discovered gold. The rush was on. By 1890 a tent city had sprang up and Camp Austin was renamed “Turret City” after Turret Mountain which overlooks the spot.

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The Gold Bug and the Anaconda were the two biggest mines at Turret, and supported a population of around 100 miners and their families. A miniature one-room, log school house was built on a hillside, as well as a small hotel, and a Post Office. The school held classes until the early 1930s, and the Post Office struggled along until 1939 when it closed its doors.

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The school house at Turret held classes until the 1930s

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Another view of the school

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The hotel at Turret

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Turret sat abandoned for many years until the site was rediscovered and a number of historic cabins were renovated and turned into summer getaways. In recent years developers have snatched up lots in and around Turret and newer homes have been constructed.  In 2014, one of a Turret’s few year-round residents, a 92-year-old man, was killed and his house leveled when a homemade bomb he was building detonated, the event put Turret back in the newspaper headlines for the first time since gold was discovered there.

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The Post Office has preserved by locals, the office closed in 1939

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Today Turret is a mixture of old and new. Many abandoned cabins, as well as the school house, and Post Office can still be seen. All of the site is privately owned thse days and well posted, but when I have visited the locals are friendly and don’t mind visitors as long as you stay on the public road and off of their property.

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This small building houses the town well

 

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Day # 13 features Russell, Colorado

Russell in Costilla County is one of three ghost towns in Colorado named after William G. Russell, the man considered by many to be the founding-father of the state- The other two towns bearing his name were Russellville in Douglas County, and Russell Gulch in Gilpin County. Russell’s gold discovery along Cherry Creek 30 miles southeast of Denver set off the stampede to the Rockies that became the Gold Rush of 1859.

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William G. Russell

William G. Russell and his brothers Levi and Oliver were among the first to build permanent structures along the South Platte River at the spot where Denver stands today, and the names of the Russell brothers can be found on nearly every important historic document dating the 1859-1861 era in what would become Colorado (then known as “Jefferson Territory”.)

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Adobe dwelling at Russell town site

In 1862, the Russell brothers, southern by birth, left Colorado Territory and headed home to their native Georgia. Along the way they were captured by suspicious Union troops and incarcerated for several months. Upon their release, the Russell’s continue their journey home to Georgia where they successfully used the money they earned in their Colorado gold mines to raise a Cavalry Company for the Confederate Army.  Captain Russell’s Georgia Cavalry Company spent the remainder of the Civil War patrolling the backwoods of Lumpkin and surrounding counties looking for deserters from the rebel army.

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Russell town site

Following the Civil War, William Russell was once again bit by the gold bug, and following the Amnesty of 1868 which forgave all former confederate soldiers and restored their contitutional rights, Russell began planning his return to Colorado. This time Russell and his party ventured into the southern hills along the Huerfano River instead of returning to Russell Gulch in Gilpin County. At the western foot of La Veta Pass Russell and his party discovered an alluvial plain rich in gold, and registered their claims. A small town sprang up at the site, and was named Russell.

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Russell town site

Russell worked the gravels, making a respectable profit, but nothing compared to his earlier fortunes amasssed in Gilpin County. Around 1875 the United States government passed a law declaring that all Native Americans must live on a reservation under penalty of imprisonment or death. William Russell was part-Cherokee, and his wife was full-blooded Cherokee. Russell once again left Colorado, choosing to abandon his claims in Costilla County, instead of allowing his wife to go to the reservation alone. Russell and his wife moved this time to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) where William Russell died in 1877.  The town site of Russell today is a small cluster of buildings alongside Highway 160 near a wide dirt turnout and Department of Transportation garage.

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Day #10 features Animas Forks, Colorado

Located at 11,200 feet elevation Animas Forks, Colorado once boasted the title for being the highest incorporated city in the United States, but since it is now abandoned that title belongs to Alma, Colorado at 10,578 feet.

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Lonely Cabin High on the Hillside

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Old suspension bridge over the Las Animas River

Animas Forks was built around rich silver veins first discovered in 1873. The initial camp was built where a number of high mountain streams converged to create the Las Animas River, and the town was first called “Three Forks of the Animas” but was shortened to “Animas Forks” in 1875. In the summers of the 1880s the town had nearly 500 residents, many of whom would retreat to lower elevations in the winter months. However, a few did remain year-round at Animas Forks, and over 30 homes, a jail, several saloons, a newspaper office, drug store, general store, and Post Office were established permanently. One foul winter storm circled above Animas Forks for 23 days in 1884. When the squall finally let up, 25 feet had accumulated and tunnels had to be dug to connect the residents of the town! Animas Forks faded follwoing the silver crash of 1893, and today around a dozen buildings, numerous foundations, and mining debris remain at the site.

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Cabin at Animas Forks

The highlight of Animas Forks is the often-photographed Duncan House (usually mislabled “The Walsh House”) woth its bay window that overlooks the mining operations and the valley below. In recent years the Forest Service has preserved the house by shoring up the foundation and structural beams, adding plexiglass windows to keep the rain and snow out, and applying a thick coat of Forest Service brown paint to the structure. Although it looked better in older photographs in its natural stay of decay, the Forest Service brown will protect the structure for future visitors to enjoy.

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The Duncan House

 

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Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days- Day #8 features Ironton, Colorado.

Ironton was one of the two major towns in the Red Mountain Mining District of the San Juan Mountains and is located between Ouray and Silverton. In its prime Ironton was a major shipping hub for the mines of the San Juans, and mining was done around Ironton as well in all directions. The town’s peak population was over one thousand and there were over one hundred buildings at Ironton in its heyday.

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Ironton, early 1900s

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Ironton, early 1900s

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Ironton today

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Ironton dwindled in the early decades of the 20th Century, and is totally abandoned today.  Around a dozen structures, homes, shops, and out buildings remain at the Ironton site today tucked deep in a grove of dense aspen trees, hiding the old town from plain view. To find Ironton keep an eye open for the large rust-colored field of mine tailings on the left hand side of Highway 550 as you travel from Ouray to Silverton. There is a parking lot and trailhead for outdoor recreation at the tailings pile. If you keep a close eye out, you will find a rough road here that leads into the trees, a few hundred yards fown the road the buildings of Ironton will appear.

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Day # 6 of A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days features Bluebird, a picturesque mining camp in Boulder County Colorado. Bluebrid requires a round-trip hike of 3 1/2 miles to reach, but the trek is well worth it.

Bluebird dates to the early 1870s when a rich silver vein rumored to assay at $6,000 per ton was discovered. Bluebird was an up-and-down mining camp until as recently as the 1950s when the veins finally played out. Parts of the 1966 film “Stagecoach”  starring Ann Margaret and Bing Crosby was filmed at Bluebird.

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The centerpiece of Bluebrid is the 2-story bunkhouse

Today there is plenty to be seen at Bluebird- The mine workings, the stunning bunkhouse with its wooden porch, the toppled log remains of the earlier 1870s era bunkhouse, the stone and brick mine manager’s home, and most unusual for a 10,000 foot elevation setting- A stone-lined swimming pool with centrally located firepit used to heat the waters!  The rushing waters of Boulder Creek and stunning views in every direction are the icing on the cake at Bluebird.

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Backside of the bunkhouse

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The small, arched window was used by the camp bookkeeper distribute pay to the miners

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Front door to the bunkhouse

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Front porch/boardwalk of the bunkhouse

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The collapsed remnants of the earlier-1870s era bunkhouse

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A view south looking over the Bluebird camp

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The mine manager’s house

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Staircase leading into the seemingly out-of-place swimming pool

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Swimming pool right outside the front door of the mine manager’s home

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Central firepit inside the swimming pool used to heat the waters

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Animal pens used for livestock kept at the Bluebird camp

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Building near the entrance to the mine

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Shed at the mine

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A chipmunk waves “hello” from the boardwalk at Bluebird

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Day #2 of A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days is Wall Street which is located in Boulder County and easily accessible in the warmer months by following the signs in Four Mile Canyon.

Wall Street began its life around 1895 as a mining camp called “Delphi.” From 1895 to 1898 Delphi grew in size and numerous gold claims were staked in Schoolhouse, Melvina, and Emerson Gulches which surrounded the camp. For a little over two years a Post Office operated under the Delphi name.

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One of the older shacks at Wall Street

In 1898 Charles Caryl, a wealthy industrialist from New York arrived and bought up nearly all of the claims in Delphi. Caryl renamed the camp “Wall Street” in homage of his home in New York City.

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The boom days at Wall Street

Charles Caryl funded the construction of a gold mill, built atop a towering stone foundation, that used a cutting-edge (at the time) chlorination process to extract gold from the host rock being processed. Today the mill buildings are long gone, but the enormous stone foundation still dominates the old Wall Street site.

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The Wall Street chlorination mill in its prime.

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The towering foundation of the mill today.

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Some more of the stone foundation works that can be found around the mill site today.

Wall Street had a Post Office from 1898 to 1921 when the mining operations subsided and the population moved on.  Wall Street today has a small year-round population, as well as a number of summer residents. The town site today is a mixture of old and new, occupied, and vacant- The old schoolhouse has been converted into a residence, and the Assayer’s Office is now a museum open to the public in summer months.

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Wall Street school house, converted into a residence in recent years.

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The James F. Bailey Assayer’s Office- Now a museum in the summer months

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A view down main street shows the chlorination mill and the Assayer’s Office sometime in the glory days of Wall Street, the town boomed between 1989 and 1921.

 

Wall Street suffered some damage in the floods of 2013, and a large two-story house at the mouth of the canyon was damaged so severely it has since been torn down.

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Sadly, this old Victorian house was damaged in the flood of 2013 and has been torn down since this photo was taken. Note: Front lower wall is bulging outwards due to flood damage.

 

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