Posts Tagged ‘Plains Ghost Towns’

My last photo blog about the ghost town of Aroya, Colorado led to a number of people mentioning, relating memories, and asking about Wild Horse- Another small eastern plains town just a few miles down the road from Aroya.

WildHorse6

Storm clouds and high winds welcomed me to Wild Horse in mid-October 2019. The only sign of life I found in town was a American flag flapping proudly and a car parked in front of the Post Office- the only remaining business in this tiny Cheyenne County town. The majority of the remaining buildings, seen here, at Wild Horse sit on the south side of Highway 287.

I visited Wild Horse on the same trip that I visited Aroya, and found a place, much like Aroya, that has seen its best days vanish in the rear view mirror. Wild Horse stills clings to life, though just barely, straddling Highway 287 in Cheyenne County, a little over two hours southeast of Denver.

NoColo129

These buildings sit on the north side of Highway 287 which runs straight through the center of Wild Horse. A school house built in 1912, and the Post Office are adjacent to these structures.

Wild Horse is a cluster of old storefronts and shops and residential dwellings. With exception of the Post Office, every business and service in Wild Horse are but a memory. A quick drive up and down the streets of Wild Horse reveal that maybe four or five people still live there, but during my visit on a blustery October afternoon, I saw no one stirring.

NoColo127

The Antelope Bar at Wild Horse.

NoColo128

Another Shot of the Antelope Bar.

Wild Horse was originally an outpost for the U.S. Cavalry in the late 1860s, named for a pack of wild horses a cavalry detachment guarding railroad surveyors noticed at a water hole in the area. The Kansas-Pacific Railroad set up a section house at Wild Horse to house workers while tracks were laid from Kit Carson to Denver. 

NoColo126

An old storefront in Wild Horse.

WildHorse5

It is rumored that this  building was the Wild Horse Dance Hall in more prosperous times.

Wild Horse boomed in the early-1900s, having a number of businesses, including a lumber yard, three saloons, a pool hall, a barber shop, hardware store, the two story stone Albany Hotel, and even a newspaper “The Wild Horse Times.” Sheep and cattle ranching, as well farming, and the railroad accounted for the majority of commerce centered at Wild Horse.

WildHorse8

An old postcard shows an image of Wild Horse during its peak years in the early-1900s.

A huge fire in 1917, which started in one of the town’s two creameries when a wood stove toppled off its shoring burned down most of the business district, spelling the beginning of the end for Wild Horse. The depression coupled with the dust bowl epoch of the 1930s further weakened what remained of Wild Horse, then the railroad went under. Today, one hundred years on from the great fire, Wild Horse teeters on the very edge of existence.

WildHorse7

An image taken shortly after the great fire of 1917 which obliterated much of Wild Horse. 

THANKS FOR VISITING MY BLOG!

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BLOG PLEASE SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND CHECK OUT MY OTHER BLOGS!  THANK YOU!

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.

Aroya15

NoColo94

William Smith’s General Merchandise Store

NoColo95

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.

JOD

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.

KP

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.

Aroya12

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

NoColo97

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!

NoColo93

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!

NoColo92

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.

Aroya5

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.

AroyaLH

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

NoColo96

Moreland’s Service Station. October 2019.

Aroya17

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.

Aroya13

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.

Aroya16

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.

Aroya11

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.

THANKS FOR VISITING!

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BLOG PLEASE SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS! EASY TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA SHARE BUTTONS ARE LOCATED BELOW!

 

Just some snapshots I recently took of the old church at Antelope Springs, Colorado, and the ghost towns of Willard and Keota, Colorado. Fantastic ghost towns and abandoned buildings two hours from Denver, Colorado on the great high plains.

If you enjoyed these photos give us a like and a share with your friends!  More are on the way!

 

WP3

WP2

Antelope Springs Church built in 1915, set on fire by arsonists in July 2019.

Willard5

Abandoned grain elevator at Willard

Willard2

Willard, Colorado

Willard4

Willard3

Two shots of the Willard general store

Keota4Keota10

Keota5

Main Street in Keota, Colorado

Keota9Keota8

Keota11

Keota, Colorado

Keota3

Keota1

Methodist Church and water tower, Keota, Colorado

 

I set out in late December of 2013 between Christmas and New Year for a long road trip and some soul searching following some problems in my personal life back in Denver…not the type of problems that land a guy in jail, just woman problems that lead a fella to drink grain alcohol and use harsh words and get down on himself and the world around him.

I chugged down U.S. 350, a 73-mile long stretch of two-lane blacktop that cuts diagonally in SW-NE direction between LaJunta and Trinidad, Colorado. My old Range Rover humming along at a slow, spirit cleansing pace over the low hills and rises that make up this desolate stretch of road.

Ruins of places that “once were” dot U.S. 350, tucked in among the sandy buttes and dry washes.  A tumbledown house here, an abandoned school there. A crumbling adobe building with an outdated radio tower in disrepair.  A concrete foundation.  In the days prior to “The Dust Bowl” of the 1930’s, there were numerous small farming and ranching communities along this route, but today, not much but these few traces remain.

As I continued on down the road, my thoughts lost in the open the expanse around me, another small town appeared on the road ahead of me. This was the largest of them I had seen so far on U.S. 350, and as I approached, I assumed it must still be occupied.  As I pulled off the shoulder of the road and hopped out with my camera, it became clear that this place, like the places I had passed before, was entirely empty.

 

The residential district of Model 1913

The residential district of Model 1913

mod4 mod2 mod12 mod10 mod9

After snapping a few shots of the vintage advertisements on the side of the abandoned general store, I climbed back in the Rover and had a look at my map.  I was in the town of “Model 1913” a town founded in 1913 and proclaimed to be a “Model” community, hence it’s unusual name.  Unfortunately, Model 1913 lasted only a few years and was about empty by the time Japanese bombs at Pearl Harbor drew the United States into WWII.

mod8

Model 1913 General Store

Model 1913 General Store

Model 1913 General Store

Storefront in Model 1913, For Sale believe it or not!

Storefront in Model 1913, For Sale believe it or not!

I continued to walk around and take photos and look inside open doors.  It was a standard ghost town, buckets and cans, and bottles, a broken desk, assorted piles of rust and bird poop everywhere. Of course, what ghost town is complete without at least 20 modern era mattresses thrown in every available nook and cranny between and under buildings…

One of the many mattresses that inhabot Model 1913, just inside the door of this old shed

One of the many mattresses that inhabit Model 1913, just inside the door of this old shed

mod16

Then, I noticed a strangely new and clean sign hanging from a post pointing the way to the “Model Post Office”.  I hopped in the Rover and headed for the Post Office, which appeared to be a dilapidated, abandoned looking house on the edge of town. Within seconds, as I began my drive to the so-called “Post Office” a vicious and seemingly rabid dog appeared out of nowhere at full sprint towards my Rover.  Being used to cowardly city dogs that are all bark and no bit, I naively slowed to a stop and started to talk to the dog through my open window.  The dog continued his charge towards me snarling and growling and that is when I knew this wasn’t a typical city dog.  I began to roll the window up as the dog jumped at my door barking and slinging dog slobber 47 feet into the air. I tried to drive forward down the road towards the “Post Office” by the angry canine ran in front of my vehicle and jumped at the bumper. So, I backed up, and the beast followed in hot pursuit snarling and spitting and lunging at my Rover.  I looked around assuming this must be the guard dog of the last lonely resident of Model 1913, and as I searched all the homes along the street, I could see no peering eyes.  The angry dog continued his assault on my Rover biting the front bumper, attempting to jump on the hood several times, and scaling my door barking numerous times.  I had made the decision to run the dog over if necessary to escape the street I was pinned down in, but finally, the dog backed down, growling and following me at a short distance as I backed out of downtown Model 1913.

The Model 1913 "Post Office" apparently still in service??? Looked rather abandoned to me, and was guarded by the meanest dog this side of hell!

The Model 1913 “Post Office” apparently still in service??? Looked rather abandoned to me, and was guarded by the meanest dog this side of hell!

 

My encounter with the savage dog left me feeling thankful, just five minutes earlier, I was out on foot literally 25 feet away from where the dog was hiding- that could have been a very bad situation for me!  Anyhow, I never did make it to the Post Office in Model 1913, but later research showed that it was in fact still open and serviced a few hardscrabble ranchers that still hung on in the hills surrounding the abandoned town.  I never found out anything about the dog, but I urge anyone who stops in Model 1913 to stay in their vehicle with the windows up.

Model 1913 quickly became one of my favorite ghost towns in Colorado, evil demon dag and all.

Adobe shack in Model 1913

Adobe shack in Model 1913

I hopped in my Dodge on a bitter cold morning in early November. Being a night shift worker, I was battling another bout of insomnia, and I decided to hit the road for parts unknown instead of tossing and turning in bed until sunrise.  I rolled east down Interstate-76, and headed for the northeast corner of Colorado. Well before dawn the city lights of Denver vanished in the rear view mirror and I hummed down the highway alone.

The school house is all that remains of Buckingham, long abandoned, the rest of the town was lost to a prairie fire.

The school house is all that remains of Buckingham, long abandoned, the rest of the town was lost to a prairie fire.

Abandoned farm house near Grover
Abandoned farm house near Grover

Grover railroad depot built in 1888

Grover railroad depot built in 1888

Dearfield Negro Colony

Dearfield Negro Colony

Main Street Keota

Main Street Keota

Keota

Keota

http://www.blurb.com/user/Vicha603