Posts Tagged ‘Life Death and Iron’

Rexford, Colorado is the first featured spot in “A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days” which will last the month of April.

Rexford was the small settlement that sprang up around the Rexford Mining Corporations claims on the high upper reaches of the Swan River near Breckenridge, Colorado. Rexford dates to 1881, following the discovery of gold veins at the site by Daniel Patrick in 1880.  Rexford faded into oblivion sometime around 1900.

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One of the first cabins you will encounter as you approach Rexford, this cabin sits on a hillside about a few hundred yards from the main part of the Rexford mining camp

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Another view of the same cabin on the outskirts of Rexford

Rexford consisted of the mines, a general store, an assayer’s office, a large log bunkhouse, a number of small personal cabins, and a saloon. Today the remnants of all of the buildings and the giant cast iron bioler from the mine workings remain in a beautiful meadow at the edge of timberline along a rugged 4×4 trail.

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According to an description of the town this tiny log foundation was once the Assayer’s Office

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One of the small personal cabins remaining at Rexford

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Rexford dwelling

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These are the ruins of the giant log bunkhouse at Rexford

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A pine tree now calls this miner’s cabin home

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This is the collapsed facade of the Rexford General Store

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A view from the collapsed General Store looking across the 4×4 trail through town, the logs in the distance mark the spot of the boarding house at Rexford.

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Another cabin nearly lost to time and nature

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Remains of the Assayer’s Office and Saloon at Rexford

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Wildflowers at Rexford

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Mine wrokings and the old cast iron boiler at Rexford

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I first became aware of Hoyt, Colorado around 20 years ago when a friend and I went and bought a Model T Ford roadster and some other old car parts from a farmer who lived there. Hoyt struck me as strange even back then, it was an hour or so east of Denver, and situated near the dry, cottonwood lined bottom of Bijou Creek. About every third house or ranch was occupied, leaving the other two abandoned.

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This old house in Hoyt was torn down some time since my last visit

There was no actual “town” of Hoyt left, just scattered dwellings in every direction. In what seemed like it might have once been Hoyt’s business district were a number of abandoned homes and garage type structures. Old cars in various states of decay ranging the 1920s to the 1960s littered the pastures and lots. One auto wrecking business on a short, dirt spur road seemed to be the only commerce left in town 20 years ago, and we stopped in for a look. I do not remember anything spectacular other than a 1958 Cadillac collecting dust on a far corner of the salvage yard.

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This block beauty can be found north of Hoyt

My friend and I located the farm we were seeking and loaded up the Model T. We were then led to another nearby property and were shown a line of rusted Model T Fords tucked discreetly into a row of trees, and then were allowed to scrounge through an old barn through a mountain of antique Ford parts. With a full trailer we left Hoyt.

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A small building on the road to Hoyt

A couple of months ago I decided to return to Hoyt, with another friend riding shotgun, to snap some photos of the abandoned buildings around the area. Much like last time, Hoyt just seemed “strange” you can’t help but feel like you are always being watched when you drive through.

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It always feels like someone is watching you as you approach Hoyt

 

We were slowly driving up and down the two or three streets that roughly mark the center of Hoyt, taking photos of abandoned buildings. One lot had a number of particularly photogenic buildings, and I wanted to get shots from different angles so, I made a number of passes by. 

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One of the more picturesque buildings at Hoyt

When we reached the far end of Hoyt, and stopped in the Hoyt Community Center parking lot, and I looked over my map for any other place nearby that would be worth a look. We pulled back on to the county road in search of a dot on the map called “Leader.” As I turned onto a southbound dirt road, I stopped again to admire a 1956 Chevy station wagon next to an old storage building. Out of nowehere a Jeep appeared in a cloud of dust and slammed on its brakes next to us. I rolled down my window and the driver of the Jeep angrily asked “Can I ask why you are staking out my property?”  I told him I was merely taking photos of the abandoned buildings around the area. The man in the Jeep did not seem to believe me, and explained that he did not appreciate us “staking out” his land. Again, I reassured him that I was only taking photos of abandoned buildings, showed him my camera, and apologized. He continued to glare at me from his Jeep. I decided it would be best to just drive off at this point, as we did, a ATV began to approach at a high rate of speed from an adjacent dirt road, and the driver stared us down as we drove by. It was clear that visitors are not welcome in Hoyt, or at least not on the day we visited!

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Another of the buildings left in what looked like the town center at Hoyt

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Haswell, Colorado was founded in the early 1900s, some accounts say 1905, others say 1908. Haswell sprang up along the line of Missouri Pacific railroad and once had a population of around 200 in its peak days.

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Buildings along the main street in Haswell.

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A vacant home along Highway 96 in the center of Haswell

Today Haswell, like most of the other small towns in Kiowa County struggles to hang on. Today only around 60 residents remain in and around Haswell. The highlights of Haswell are the old Texaco gas station which you can’t miss along Highway 96, and the tiny jail, which the residents boast is the smallest in the United States. Unfortunately when I visited town, the view of the jail was obscured by vehicles so I couldn’t get a photo.

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The Old Texaco gas station- A new tin roof will ensure it is around for a few more years.

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One of the many empty houses in the residential section of Haswell

Haswell is a combination of abandoned or empty storefronts, grain elevators, service stations and residential dwellings. When I passed through around half of the buildings in town were vacant.  Someone was barbequing and the smell drifted through the tiny town. At a small part on the western edge of the community two boys played baseball and stopped to wave as I passed by.

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This old building with its aerial tower out back had the looks of an old radio station.

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A row of forlorn shops on the west end of Haswell.

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Another vacant house in town

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Remote and virtually unknown, Galatea, Colorado is a tiny ghost town, or more accurately, cluster of abandoned buildings left marking the townsite in Kiowa County.

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Very little historic information exists about Galatea. It appears to have been founded in the 1880s, and had a Post Office from 1887 to 1948.  One account says Galatea was a trading center along the route of the Pueblo and State Line railroad. Today the dirt berm of the railroad can still be seen, but the iron rails are long gone.

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When I visited one adobe house, one milled lumber house, some antique farm implements buried in the sand, and a couple of sheds remained at the town site. A short distance away, across the old railroad bed to the south was an old farm house set deep in some trees with a windmill.

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Last weekend I headed headed east onto the great high plains for my first visit to Arlington, and obscure Colorado ghost town which dates to 1887 when it sprang up along the Missouri Pacific Railroad line in sparsely populated Kiowa County roughly 120 miles southeast of Colorado Springs.

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One of the old shacks that remains at Kiowa County’s Arlington

En route to Arlington my mind became lost in the endless flat expanse, covered in a short stubble of the previous year’s blonde prairie grasses. Here and there a patch snow occupied a shadowy depression in the flats. People out here, in this forgotten corner of the Colorado landscape, are few and far between. It had been thirty minutes or so since I saw another motorist, and I was daydreaming when I sped past the Kiowa County Sherriff who quickly flipped a U-turn, lights flashing, and pulled me over. Ten minutes, 4-driver’s license points, and a $188 fine later I was back on my way to find Arlington.

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Another Arlington shack

Taking Highway 96 southwest out of the tiny town of Eads, I rumbled down the blacktop for another 35 miles without seeing another motorist, then I reached Arlington. Arlington is defined by a few occupied farm houses and out buildings that straddle Highway 96, then the old town site just off the pavement on a dirt road to the west.

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A hack and the schoolhouse which mark the west end of the Arlington town plat

Three blocks appear to have been platted and developed at one point in Arlington, but that was long ago. Today only the dirt streets remain, along with a couple of abandoned shacks, and the stunning two-story Arlington schoolhouse which can be seen from a distance as you approach the ghost town. One small home remains occupied on the northeast end of the old town footprint, but nobody was home when I passed through.  I spent a few minutes snapping photos and wondering what Arlington once looked like. It must have been something in its prime since it had a two-story schoolhouse, an oddity out here on the plains.  Not much to see these days in Arlington, but the old schoolhouse is worth the trip!

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Arlington schoolhouse- Worth the trip!

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North end of the schoolhouse

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You can see the schoolhouse at Arlington from several miles away as you approach Arlington

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East side of the schoolhouse

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The old school appears to be the place where all of Kiowa County’s bald tires go to die

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On the eastern plains of Colorado’s Cheyenne County a tiny ghost town is whipped by the relentless prairie winds. A cluster of abandoned buildings ranging from the picturesque schoolhouse, with its double-arched doorways (considered by some to be the most photogenic abandoned building in all of Colorado) to the collapsing William Smith General Merchandise store, to a handful of residential dwellings, trailers, and foundations mark the spot of Aroya.

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William Smith’s General Merchandise Store

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Fantastic wooden doors on the William Smith General Merchandise building.

 

Aroya got its start in 1866 when a Bohemian immigrant, and Civil War veteran, named Joseph O. Dostal came to Colorado to sell meat to hungry miners. Dostal picked a remote chunk of the plains 130 miles from Denver to establish his ranch. Though it has changed hands many times in the past 150 years, the ranch is still active, and still carries Dostal’s initials- The J.O.D. Ranch.

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The J.O. Dostal Ranch Crew circa 1870s or 1880s

 

Around 1870 the Kansas-Pacific Railroad reached the area near Dostal’s ranch.  A railroad construction camp grew and was named “Arroyo” being the Spanish term for “gulch.”  As the tracks were being laid, the Kansas-Pacific sent trains to the end of the line at Arroyo, and stagecoaches would bring passengers 130 miles from Denver, a three day journey at the time, to what was now christened “Arroyo City” although it was not much more than a tent camp on the line.

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A triple-engine Kansas-Pacific snow plowing team. The flat, treeless, and featureless expanses of the great high plains, coupled with high winds, and winter storms that butt up against the Rocky Mountains and double back over the plains make for enormous snowdrifts on the open prairie, some can reach 20 feet or more in depth! For a short time in the 1870s, Arroyo City was the terminus of the Kansas-Pacific.

As the tracks were laid further north and west, the terminus of the line also moved, and “Arroyo City” city faded into obscurity. Ranching and farming became the main profit making enterprises once the railroad construction boom had ended, and around the turn of the 20th Century, a small town with a general store, service station, lumber yard, hotel, and school sprang up about three miles from the old “Arroyo City” site. In honor of the old camp, this new town was named “Arroyo”, but the United States Post Office decided it should be called “Aroya” since there were already enough towns named “Arroyo” in the southwest.

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No one calls this Aroya dwelling home but rattlesnakes these days.

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This home marked the far northern end of Main Street in Aroya. A small cemetery which I was unaware of until later is apparently on a small rise just behind this house. If walls could talk…

 

The old schoolhouse, in which someone has situated an old deer mount in the window, was said to have held its last class sometime in the 1950s…or was it the 1960s?  There is no one around who remembers. Aroya became nationally famous in 1970 when a reporter from the New York Times just happened to pass through, and wrote a full-page story with photos lamenting Aroya’s demise, and how the population had just been cut in half- From two residents to only one!

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At first approach I thought I had a one-in-a-million shot of a big buck deer peering out of the schoolhouse window, then I realized it was a mount placed by someone with a sense of humor!

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A fall storm rolls into Aroya. The hand-painted metal “No Trespassing” sign was a welcome change in a world full of bright neon orange/white/black plastic signs we so often encounter.

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The double-arched doorways on each end of the Aroya schoolhouse are an architectural marvel.

Around 1980 the last permanent resident of Aroya, an eccentric artist named  Red Moreland finally moved along to the great unknown. Some of his creations, made out of the many iron relics he found scattered around the town, can still be found among the sun-scorched, blonde prairie grass, shrubs, and debris scattered about the town. His most famous creation- The Aroya Lighthouse, which was a welcome beacon to weary travelers on the “…endless waves of grain…” in the old days was moved to the Cheyenne County Museum in Kit Carson, Colorado.

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Moreland’s Service Station and the Aroya Lighthouse decades ago.

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Moreland’s Service Station. October 2019.

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Red Moreland’s home. It was built on the foundation of the old Aroya Hotel, and Red lived here until he passed away around 40 years ago. Moreland was Aroya’s last permanent resident.

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An Aroya house, consumed by trees and grasses. What appears to be a 1970s vintage Chevy Luv truck in red/white/blue paint looks like it was abandoned in the town after a joyride.

 

Aroya is a fun place to visit, if, for some reason you find yourself in this far-off seam of fabric in the quilt we call America, but beware-  Aroya is a rattlesnake paradise, and ample evidence in the form of shed skins can be found everywhere in the town. A few squatters and shady drifters who “don’t want to be found” call Aroya home from time-to-time, and they should be treated with the same caution and distance as the rattlesnakes. Luckily when I visited on a cold October day, neither were present.

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In this view you can see the impressive lineup of radio and TV antennas necessary for Red Moreland to keep in touch with the outside world from his remote hermitage on the plains.

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The sandstone remnants of a long-forgotten Aroya business. An abandoned trailer house of more modern vintage was just behind this structure and had clearly been used by a squatter recently.

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