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.

 

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. 

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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Elba, Colorado

Elba

            The Elba Post Office was located at three different locations, according to the map.  There also was a cemetery that was named Elba, have seen no mention of a church.  Dotting the southern end of Washington County in Colorado, the Post Office slowly moved East until 1932 it was located on Hwy 63.

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            The PO on Hwy 63 appears it may have been a small town of sorts.  There are a some buildings in the area and by its location may have been a general store with gad station.  The other locations were farm houses, back over that a way.

     Like many things on the prairie, Post Offices were consolidated into larger towns as the farms and ranches were consolidated into larger operations. 

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     Today there is lots of open spaces between homes and mixed in the area are a few abandoned homes that are reminders of days gone past.  It is mostly farm land with some ranching in the rolling hills.  The occasional car streams by on the highway, a truck boils up dust on the country road.  There is a peace on the land as the wind is still that day. 

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            The journey, following the roads on the old historic map, looking at the many building that sit vacant.  Empty homes, that hear voices no more, the birds that scatter with approaching stranger.  It is a land that still yields a harvest, provides for the people that still call it home. 

            On windswept plain is the cemetery.  Markers of when pioneers settled here.  A memory of when dreams of owning their own place brought them across the ocean, over the land.  Setting stakes and building their dream. 

 

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Lindon, CO

Lindon Colorado

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            Located in Eastern Colorado along US Route 36, Lindon is not as well known as its neighbor, Last Chance.  Lindon is a small country town that has almost disappeared.  All the businesses are gone.  There are enough people in the area to keep the post office open and it appears an old gas station is now operated as a garage. 

            The railroad never reached this far west, an omen of impending failure for the little community.  The droughts and unstable commodity prices for Ag products did not bode well for the settlers in the area.  Then the drought of the 30’s hit and the little towns began to blow away, including Lindon.  The school was closed and consolidated with a neighboring town. 

            There are a few who still call Lindon home, they are either ranchers, farmers or the hired hand.  There is the junk collector so common in small towns across the plains.  Along the highway, can be seen a few remains of where the various stores and shops had been.  The memorial to one of the local leaders is now boarded up, possibly due to vandalism.  There is the occasional car that whizzes by and the trucks that want to avoid the stops’ on the main byways.  Silence is the dominant feature of the little village. 

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            On the map, the early Lindon post office is shown in five other locations and a variation of the spelling, Linden.  Two of the first post offices were located north of the neighboring town of Anton.  How the post office selected the contractors and why they changed is a good curiosity.  Two of the early mail stops were north of town and another was just south of the present town. 

            There are oil pumps in various spots in the area.  Lindon is on the southern end of the Julesburg basin and some good sized oil pockets have been found in the area.  This has helped to keep some life in the area, yet it has also contributed to the consolidation of farms and ranches in the area. 

            The nearest town for supplies is Anton, which is probably smaller then Lindon, both have a population of less then 50 souls, but Anton has the gas station/bulk plant, grocery store and elevator and a few other businesses.  With no rail service, everything is trucked out to the little towns along Hwy 36. 

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