Prairie Ghost Town

 

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Vernon, Colorado

            Located on the north central plains of Eastern Colorado, the little village has more memories on Main Street then pedestrians.  It is a country settler’s village that has hung on.  There are no major highways through town or a railroad.  Yet the town has maintained a small population of around 30 souls.  Main Street is empty, boarded up and the sidewalks are rolled up.  Down at the DSC03076 (800x600)end of the road is the Post Office, there are enough residents in the area to keep it going. 

 

            For one weekend a year, Vernon comes to life, people stroll the town park, tractors pop and sputter and horses have the right of way.  Vernon Days is celebrated just before Labor Day.  It is a day to remember when their forefathers came into the area and homesteaded.  The few town folks roll out the old time carpet to celebrate yesteryears. 

 

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            Otherwise the other 51 weekends are pretty noiseless as the sleepy little goes about life.  Surrounded by farmland, the whirr of farm equipment is more common the laughter of school children, from the now shuttered school house.  The little country church is well kept and hears the word on occasion.  The shops of Main Street remind one of when they could stop in and pick up supplies.  Across the street is the town park square, well groomed and cared for.

 

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            Off in the distance on a ridge can be seen the community cemetery.  Looking at it one could see that the area was populous at one time.  Yet like so many prairie towns, the people left to try and find greener fields in the city. 

 

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            Those that remain have different pace of life, the nearest towns with shops are miles away.  Sometimes the bus ride to school can be over 100 miles.  Yet the people take it in stride and live out a life from the land. 

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Carr Crossing, Colorado

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Carr Crossing

 

Situated in the southern end of Lincoln County, Colorado, Carr Crossing was a community/rural Post Office during the early 1900’s.  For the visitor of today, it is some of the most empty land in the state.  Lincoln County is called a Frontier area, there aren’t enough people to qualify as rural.  Population density is less than one person per two square miles.  In the areas of Carr Crossing the density is probably 1 person per 10 square miles. 

Yet during the early 1900’s scores of people came out to this area to settle and homestead.  Scattered through the area are the sites of numerous empty and abandoned homes.  Moisture is extremely sparse and farming is almost impossible.  Today it is mostly range land with a few cattle grazing on the rolling hills.

The Car Crossing Post Office was located on a wagon road that overlooked the valley of Horse Creek.  Today there are no roads that go past it and way out there in the pasture is where it used to be.

The same is for the school, way out there in another pasture is where the school was located.  As the crow flies, it is about 5 miles from the PO to the school.  First time I visited the area, I had no idea there was a school because it was way off any road. 

When talking to some local people, they mentioned that the merry go round still sat out in the pasture form when the Carr Crossing School was teaching the children of the settlers.  So when I went through the area, I made it point to go looking a little closer to try and see the merry go round.

Driving down the road, I spotted a dead tree off in the distance sitting on a ridge and an outline next to it.   Pointing the camera off that direction and zooming way out, I snapped a couple of pics.  Sure enough there was the merry go round.  I tried finding a road to get closer but no luck.  So I have an ethereal picture of school playground out in the middle of a pasture, I would of never found if not for idle conversation. 

Carr Crossing is one of those places that will probably stay unexplored for decades because of their locations.  Then that is okay, I don’t know many people that like folks walking across their backyard. 

Here is an open area that has not changed much over the eons. 

 

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Heartsong

Heartsong, Colorado

            The name of a said, it would make a good song title.  Yet it is the name of a little village in Eastern Colorado that is no more.  Heartsong shows up on weather maps, so it had to of been a place at one time.  Doing some map searching, it showed up on satellite view as a collection of buildings.  Doing more searching an interesting story for the town came to light.

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            Heartsong had its beginning in 1909 as Happyville.  1908 a settler homesteaded in the area and decided there should be a Post Office for the surrounding settlers.  Awarded the contract for mail service, Happyville was on its way to becoming a growing prairie town.  Stores and shops were built and when the auto showed up a gas station was added to the town. 

            Conflict arose between the founder and other settlers over the stores and various other arguments.  So the founding father got upset and threaded to move his stores to another location.  Sure enough, later that year, the stores and his house were loaded up and teams of 8 horses hauled the building down the road a few miles. 

            Leaving Happyville to a new location, called for a new name and Heartsong was chosen. The new town thrived, business was good.   Happyville became a ghost of itself and faded into not much.  The “Dirty Thirties” arrived, farmers were blown out and lost their farms.  With people moving out, Heartsong was in decline.  Then in 1940, fire struck the little village, burning up most of the town.  Heartsong disappeared into the ashes to be no more. 

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            Today, there is a ranch where Heartsong once stood and at Happyville is an abandoned farm and nearby sits an empty church. The memories of the Prairie towns linger on with the people that survived the hardship of the land.  Farms dot the land, fields wave in the breeze and cattle watch the passing truck.

 

Town in the bend of the river

 

River Bend

            Situated on a bend in the river, the RR stop had a logical name of River Bend.  Today River Bend is a vacant spot in a pasture next to the railroad tracks.  The Interstate has an exit sign for the village that sat on the bend in the river.  Old River Bend, Colorado is back west from the Interstate exit a few miles behind the ridge.  Old highway 40 outline can still be seen following along the Interstate.  South of the exit are a few ranch houses, which is considered River Bend.  To the north on the hill is the town cemetery, a Boot Hill. 

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            Outside of the exit sigh and cemetery, River Bend is a paragraph in most history books and sometimes only a sentence.  Yet in the 1870’s it was an important RR town on the plains of eastern Colorado.  Here the buffalo hunters arrived by railcar to safari into the nearby hills to hunt.  Colonel Reno used River Bend for his headquarters when General Custer’s 7th Calvary was assigned to protect the new railroad building across the plains. 

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            As a result, River Bend was a pretty tumultuous town of saloons, brothels, and assorted characters.  With the various early day conflicts, boot hill had a good assortment of customers.  One of the locals at the museum talking about the cemeterary grimaced when describing some the evil folks buried up there on the hill. 

            In the area are remains of the stage stop, a military fort, ruts of the Smoky Hill Trail and assorted artifacts.  Metal Calvary buttons, Indian arrowheads, spent shell casings, wagon parts and rusted tin cans.  During the mid 1860’s, it was a crossroads for various trails/wagon roads going to the gold fields.  It also was great buffalo hunting grounds for the local Indians. 

            Flying down Interstate 70, River Bend exit doesn’t get much more than a glance.  The lone tree on Boot Hill, goes unnoticed.  Cattle dot the land, drifting along munching grass as cars and trucks whiz by.  It is a pretty quiet scene.  No more buffalo to hunt, no more Indians to do battle with and the gun fighters RIP.

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School in the Country

Country School

Edison

 

            Driving across the plains of eastern Colorado, theDSC01798 (640x480)e is lots of empty land and one can see forever.  Building and trees on the horizon, generally mark farm houses or ranches.   This time the long empty road went past a schoolhouse.  For miles any direction, there were no tows, yet here there was a school complex.  Elementary, middle/jr high and high school and nice auditorium/gym, neatly groomed next to the gravel road in the middle of somewhere. 

            Farms and ranches have consolidated as more and more people leave the land and move to the city.  The few towns left behind, dry up and become memories of earlier days.  So the local families get together and consolidate their school districts into one.  There are still long bus rides, as much as 30-40-50 miles to school.  For some, it is better than a 100mile trip to the big town. 

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            Edison school district is way out at the eastern end of El Paso county crossing into Lincoln County.  It is listed as being in Yoder, which is up the road about 15 miles.  Nearby is the town of Truckton and all around is lots of land to farm and ranch. 

            When towns disappear the folks get things worked out to educate their children.  Consolidated districts usually a variety of ghost towns/communities and the school house becomes a reminder of what once used to be.  What’s amazing, is the education in these little schools is just as good as it is in the big city. 

            The students in the country school don’t have the gangs to deal with or the noise of city life.  In the country classes are smaller, giving the students more personal attention.  There are sports programs, music, plays etc.  The school becomes a social center for all types of activities.

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            Some homes are hauled in to provide housing for some of the teachers and small town kind of builds up.  Some of the locals will rent out to new teachers.  Sometimes the local are teachers and doing their farm and ranch work in the morning and evenings, through the summer.  The one room schoolhouse has been replaced by a sleek modern schoolhouse.  It has become a ghost town in reverse. 

Resolis

Resolis Colorado

Resolis was a small town in Eastern Colorado, located on the banks of the Big Sandy Creek.  Today there is a road that winds through the area where the village once stood.  Its exact location is under debate and where the people say it was located is not a sure thing.  So Resolis may have been located there or maybe over there, one sure thing though, is, it did exist.

Resolis had its beginnings during the Colorado gold rush of the 1850’s.  A freight company in Leavenworth, Kansas was sending wagon trains of freight across the prairie to the gold fields.  In 1859 they formed the Leavenworth & Pike Peak Stage Line.  The stages used the route the freighters had been using to go to Denver.   In 1859 the LLP Stage line established a relay station at the crossing the Big Sandy.

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The stage line did not last long, in 1860 they were awarded the mail contract on the Overland route.  The route to Denver was abandoned but Resolis did not wither away.  The freight wagons were still rolling west and The Smoky Hill Trail passed through, keeping the trading post open.  During this time the population of Resolis had boomed to maybe 30 hardy souls. 

In 1870 there was another change to the area, the Kansas Pacific RR was pushing across Eastern Colorado.  The RR established a small RR town to the north of River Bend.  Many of the people of Resolis packed up and moved to the new railroad town. 

Resolis did not stay vacant for long because another railroad showed up in the area.  The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific was pushing westward to Colorado Springs and at the site of Resolis a small depot was established for the new railroad.  People returned to the little village along the river banks.  There were jobs working on the railroad and it was good ranch land.  The population boomed again to over 60 souls.

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Resolis now rivaled River Bend, its neighbor in size.  There were saloons, stores, blacksmith and all the amenities of a country town.  The land was not good for farming and when the Homestead Act changed very few people moved in to the area to settle it.  The ranchers pretty much controlled the surrounding area.

With the changes in railroading, jobs in the little section towns began to disappear.  The drought of the 30’s arrived and many people flew with the wind to other places and Resolis became a forgotten place full of vacancies. 

When the railroad ceased operations in the 1970’s, a local RR began operations of a diner train through the area.  The big cottonwoods provided nice shade and cool breezes for the evening train to pass through.  Resolis was no more but it was a mile marker and listed in the RR time tables.  The diner train did not last long and when it ceased operations, the railroad also became a ghost. 

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The rails were removed and the ROW went to various land holders in the area.  There are a few bridges still standing, the RR Grade can still be seen and a few ranch houses have some sizable fences of RR ties.  Yet where the town had exactly existed is a question.  One spot is out in a pasture, the other is where Resolis road cross the old ROW.  Oh well, bouncing down the road looking at what may have been, for on far horizon is River Bend’s Boot Hill. 

Kuhn’s Crossing

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            One of those places where I was a few days late and a whole bunch short.  Situated off Hwy 94 and down a dead end road a short distance, was Kuhn’s Post Office.  This where one could cross Bijou Creek and continue their journey westward.  Off and on for years I drove past this location, not knowing what was located just over the rise. 

            Back in the trees lining the creek I could a barn with its silo and the other ranch buildings.  It was a very pastoral scene as I whizzed by on the highway.  Back down the road had been Kuhn’s Crossing Schoolhouse and there were some log cabins. 

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            Over the years these structures had weathered and collapsed into piles of lumber scrap heaps.  The markers of the little pioneer community were gone.  Down the road a ways were some ranch houses and outbuildings after crossing the creek.  A rubble heap sat on the ridge where the school had once been.  I took too long to go looking and found not much. 

            It is a fascinating area to drive through.  To the south a ways was a stage stop and a branch of the Smoky Hill Trail.  To the north on another road is another branch of the Smoky Hill Trail.  There are some other communities nearby and some wide open range land.  Cottonwoods line the creek bottoms and stately pines dot the ridges.  It is a varied land of rolling grasslands, towering ridges, 7000-8000 feet in elevation.  The Indians would roam here in the summer

            Today, many of the pine trees have grown back, ranches dot the land and cattle graze the grasses.

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