Situated on the eastern plains of Colorado, Kit Carson is one of those semi ghost towns. Named after mountain man, trapper, guide and General Kit Carson, the village today boasts a population of over 300 people. Yet during the 1870’s, Kit Carson was one of the biggest cities in Colorado, boasting of a population over 5000 souls. The newly formed railroad town on the eastern plains had become a transportation hub.
The Santa Fe Trail turned north in the vicinity of Ft Lyon to make connections with the railroad and ship freight east. Wagons were being loaded off the railcars to go west to the gold rush. The Smoky Hill Trail was passing through with freighters and more fortune seekers. The new railroad had moved its headquarters to Kit Carson and with that, came the camp followers and rail workers. Kit Carson was a booming hell town on the prairie. General Palmer had over 500 wagons hauling RR ties to help build the railroad.
The bustling, bawdy town rolled out over the prairie, tents and shacks dotting the land. Saloons and red light district kept the western frontiersmen entertained.
There had been a small Army garrison assigned to Kit Carson. Then when the Indians launched a series of raids on the railroad, General Custer and his troops showed up to protect the railroad workers.
The mixture of all these different people led to some wild times on the plains.
When the railroad was completed to Denver, the Kansas Pacific RR began preparations to continue the route to the Pacific Ocean by following the Arkansas River into the mountains and over the passes. Track was being laid south from Kit Carson towards the Arkansas River and Ft Lyon. This gave impetus for speculators to begin forming new towns in the area of now days Las Animas.
With this new work at Kit Carson, the town became wilder. A gang of outlaws, thieves and rogues had become well organized. They had become efficient enough to make the freight from a train disappear in a few hours. The local gendarmes had little success in dealing with the outlaws. The Colorado State Police were sent to Kit Carson to Investigate. After a few years if investigating and gathering evidence, the State Police began making arrests.
There was an assortment of people rounded up and charged. Among them were; railroad police, sheriff deputies and marshals’ and key railroad figures.
The arrest of key members of the outlaw gang also signaled the beginning of the end to Kit Carson’s heyday. The Kansas Pacific RR was going broke and was in receivership. The branch line to Las Animas was pulled up, making it the first rail line in Colorado to be abandoned. No longer was there booty to be had. The freight was gone, the jobs were gone, the Army was gone and dreams had faded, saloons closed, taking the red light district with them.
A fire swept through the old town area, burning up the shacks and most of the old helltown. Today out in an overgrown pasture can be seen the remains of a few of the buildings. Parts of the railroad grade can be seen places and from the air one can see the racetrack. Nothing has been done with area, it sits there, nature slowly reclaiming.
The Kit Carson that exists today is a slow paced county town. Main Street is a couple of blocks long. Out on the highway are a few businesses that come and go. Truckers fly through town and if one of the restaurants has good food, the parking lot is full of semis. There are some neat classic old buildings still standing, gas stations, motels, lumber yard… etc.
Where the cemetery for the old town is…. Is a question? One of the locals says they have a couple of graves in their front yard but where are the others.