Posts Tagged ‘Life Death Iron’

Took advantage of the first snow of the season to go grab some photos of the historic Knights of Pythias Cemetery above Central City, Colorado. Enjoy!

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Once a year, around the second or third week of September I make a pilgrimage to a very tiny and almost forgotten town in Colorado- Vicksburg. Some call it a ghost town, but to me, it does not fit the bill, Vicksburg is different, it doesn’t feel like a ghost town, although almost always void of human presence when I visit, and having only once in my yearly pilgrimages seen another soul in town, it’s well-cared for, and none of the cabins are ramshackle or in disrepair.

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Vicksburg, founded around 1880 and named for Vick Keller, an early prospector and resident of the town, sits just beyond the eyes’ reach, off of Chaffee County Road 390 which follows the path of Clear Creek, and across the road from the Missouri Gulch trail head. A tiny parking lot and a steel gate are located at Vicksburg itself, or you can park at the Missouri Gulch trail head lot. From either parking lot you will not be able to see Vicksburg, which is less than a hundred yards away hidden amongst the trees. On busy summer weekends, hundreds of campers, fisherman and hikers drive right past Vicksburg without even knowing it exists. To me, this is what makes Vicksburg so special- You literally can not see the town until you are standing in the middle of it!

From the iron gate at the little parking lot along County Road 390, a short, maybe 50 yard walk, takes you into a dense aspen and pine grove, you’ll first notice a tumbledown outhouse, then some old cast iron mining machinery which has been painted with a protective grayish primer to ward off the winds of time. Then, you will start to see the cabins that make up Vicksburg.

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A neat and tidy row of low-roofed log cabins is situated along a lone lane with ruts worn in it decades ago by horse drawn carriages and wagons. On both sides of this lane, towering Balm of Gilead trees, planted in the late-1800s offer a shady canopy for the sleepy town hidden within- In mid-September that canopy turns golden and fiery orange, and fallen leaves drift down the lane on gusts of wind. Other than the wind, all is silent and serene.

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All of the cabins in town have been restored or maintained and are privately owned and used as summertime hideaways. Running the length of the lane is a wooden fence, simple wooden mailboxes nailed to posts line the way. On the edge of town, near the parking lot, are two cabins which have been dedicated as museums and are open to the public during the summer months, the yard around these two cabins is filled with antique mining equipment, old wagons, and other daily items of a long-ago time when Vicksburg, and it’s contemporaries of Beaver City, Rockdale, and Winfield along Clear Creek were more boisterous than they are today.

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Vicksburg, to me, is as magical as it is frustrating- I personally think Vicksburg, at any time of the year, but especially in the early-fall, is the embodiment of paradise, solitude, and peace. But, trying to capture the magic of Vicksburg on film is maddening! This little gem is so shadowy and overgrown, the cabins so low to the ground in relation to the towering Gilead trees, that it is impossible to snap a photo that catches the idyllic and almost “lost in time” or “fairy tale” setting of Vicksburg. What you see with the eye, can not be seen in any photo I have ever taken. Vicksburg is a place you just have to see for yourself!

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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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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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Boston

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The awe inspiring setting of Boston, Colorado

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Boston

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

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If you’ve spent much time hiking in the High Rockies of Colorado, chances are you’ve stumbled across a cluster of tumbledown log cabins situated around some long-abandoned mine workings- These are the remnants of the mining camps that played a vital role in the development of the Colorado we know today, and there are literally hundreds of them scattered across the meadows and slopes of the high country.

Mining camps usually consisted of the mine itself, a large boarding house to house the miners, a combination mess hall/saloon, and usually a two or three log cabins or milled lumber homes which housed the mine owner, or the married miners with families who didn’t want to live in the rowdy boarding houses. In some of the larger camps there were sometimes also found an Assay Office for sampling and evaluating ore specimens, and a general store which often doubled as the camp Post Office as well.

What separated these “mining camps” from the “mining towns” of the day, and made the “camps” unique, was the fact that most were only occupied in the warm months- Their extreme locations, either at dizzying altitudes of 11,000ft. to 13,000ft., or miles and miles from the next nearest settlement where supplies could be obtained, made winter living impossible.

The remote and forgotten locations of these old, deserted, mining camps have allowed many of them to remain relatively intact to this day, free from the vandalism and relic hunters whom have taken a severe toll on easier to access and well-known ghost towns across the state. In the spirit of preserving what’s left, I’ve chosen to not identify the locations in the photos below- Let’s just say they are all in Colorado, and a 4×4 or a long hike will get you to each one!  Enjoy!

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

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The Gray Ghosts of Colorado Book $19.99 CLICK HERE

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

 

 

 

A little traveled stretch of two-lane blacktop known as Highway 350, which runs 70 miles diagonally SW-NE, links La Junta, Colorado with Trinidad, Colorado. A trip down Highway 350 brings on an overwhelming feeling of being totally alone in a desloate land. The words lost, forlorn, and forgotten come to mind as you pass through a succession of places that once “were” but are no longer. Places you’ll still find on a map like Timpas, Thatcher, Earl, Tyrone, Model, Bloom and Delhi…But you won’t find much but when you get there but a few scattered remnants of yesterday when times were better, and maybe a pickup truck driven by one of the handful of ranchers who remain in the vicinity. When the sprawl, stress, and current insanity of Colorado’s major population centers make it seem like the state is overpopulated, a jaunt down 350 reminds us of how truly huge Colorado is. Most of the 70 mile length of Highway 350 feels as though you are passing through a post-apocalyptic world, which has always led me to refer to 350 as “Colorado’s Lost Highway.”

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Telephone poles line the length of Highway 350 like crosses marking the graves of the the vanished towns along this desolate 70 mile stretch of road between La Junta and Trinidad.

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The old schoolhouse in Timpas now serves as a private residence.

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Remains of a home in Timpas.

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Timpas, Colorado

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The town of Bloom is now just a field of debris and foundations.

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Bloom, Colorado

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Delhi, Colorado

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The Delhi “One Stop” General Store

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Delhi “One Stop”

 

 

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Thatcher, Colorado from Highway 350

 

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School at Thatcher

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Tyrone, Colorado

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Old Radio Station along Highway 350

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Grocery store at Model, Colorado- It was being renovated the last time I passed by.

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Model, Colorado

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Model, Colorado

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Storefront in Model

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One of the many mattresses that inhabit Model

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The residential district of Model

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As you near the end of Highway 350 heading southwest towards Trinidad the Spanish Peaks come into view

 

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Photo Blog: 2016 and 2017 Central City Hot Rod Hill Climb

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“The Gray Ghosts of Colorado- Book I: The Copperheads” The True, Suppressed History of Colorado’s Secessionist Movement of 1860-1861, and the Coloradans Who Fought for the Confederacy During the Civil War $19.99

 

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Jail at the abandoned coal town of Berwind, Colorado

Colorado mining history is usually thought of in terms of gold and silver, but coal mining in the state also dates back to the earliest days of the state’s existence. Coal was found in large seams along the foothills shortly after John Gregory, the Russell brothers, and George Jackson made their more famous gold strikes in 1859.

Coal isn’t glamorous, or precious- It’s dirty, it smells, and those who toiled underground to extract it were faced with the grim aspect of underground fires and explosions and pockets of poison gas which could extinguish life in the blink of an eye. The future wasn’t much brighter for those who were lucky enough to avoid disasters, as inhaling the powder fine dust of the mines resulted in “black lung” and various cancers which cut many a life short.

But coal was vital to the industrialization of America and the westward expansion- Coal was used to fire the furnaces that smelted the gold, silver, and copper ore mined in the mountains. Coal fueled the giant boilers of the steam railroad engines that connected the United States, transporting people, goods, animals, and armies across the continent. And, for many miners who failed to find riches in the gold mines, there was always plenty of demand for coal miners.

Traveling south along Interstate 25 in Colorado, just as you cross the Arkansas River and leave the city limits of Pueblo you enter the heart of Colorado’s coal country. A quick side trip down nearly any of the many exits along this southern stretch of I-25 will lead you to sandstone and concrete ruins- The final reminders of the many small coal towns which once dotted the foothills in the late-1800s through through the 1950s- Places like Lester, Rugby, Tioga, Tobasco, Ludlow, Pryor, Valdez and Berwind.

Here is a collection of random images of these fading faces of Colorado’s coal industry:

(Click on image to make larger)

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25 Abandoned Buildings In Colorado You Must See Before They Are Gone

25 (More) Abandoned Buildings in Colorado You Must See Before They Are Gone

25 Forgotten Cemeteries and Burial Plots of Colorado

Autumn Colors in Colorado’s Ghost Towns

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

“The Gray Ghosts of Colorado- Book I: The Copperheads” The True, Suppressed History of Colorado’s Secessionist Movement of 1860-1861, and the Coloradans Who Fought for the Confederacy During the Civil War $19.99