Arapahoe, CO, situated in far eastern part of the state, next to the Kansas border, is one of those little prairie villages that clings to life. The surrounding farm and ranch land, provide some support to keep a couple of businesses going. The Post Office is still open, there is a garage, grain elevator and on the highway is a gas station.
Otherwise, the other business buildings that had been along Main Street are no more. There is a whole variety of vacant lots scattered around town. Usually the little towns have a variety of old storefronts but not in Arapahoe. A rock wall still stands where there had been a shop or maybe nice home. Even the schoolhouse has been torn down. For a declining town with maybe 25 residents, Arapahoe is unique. No empty building hanging around. Just a large collection of empty lots that are groomed of weeds.
Arapahoe had its beginnings in 1870 as a stop on the new railroad pushing west. The Kansas Pacific Railway, named the whistle stop after the Indians that lived in the area. There had also been a stop on the smoky Hill Trail nearby referred to as Arapahoe. So the railroad was probably influenced by a little bit of both.
Unlike its neighbor to the east, Chimung, Arapahoe survived when the rails were pushed further west. During the late 1890’s, when the Homestead Act was changed, more settlers began to show up and Arapahoe grew some. Yet like so many towns on the plains, the dust bowl chased many settlers off the land. It is still farming and ranching in the area, there are some oil and gas wells also. Yet where there had been a hundred people living on the land, there are now maybe 8-10 people. The Post Office zip code census of 2010 shows a population of 238 people served.
The sign for the Bay gas station is no more.
To the north of town flows the Smoky Hill River. A well was built for the early day gold seekers headed for the Rocky Mtns. In this area, numerous relics have been found from the early day travelers. The well has collapsed and the markers of it being there are almost gone. The rancher that owns the land knows about it and goes poking around on occasion, hunting for remains.
Sitting back off the highway, the traveler of today whizzes past, blinking twice and missing the little settlement, unless their vehicle is thirsty then they stop for a drink out on the highway.