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. 

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. 

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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Buchannan

Buchannan, Colorado

 

           

Situated along a wagon road, is the dot marking Buchanan.  The map did not indicate that there had been a Post Office there.  Other information about this little dot on the map is slim and none.  It was in the area where I was driving, looking for ghost towns on the prairie.  So I bounced over a few ruts and went to see if there was anything at Buchannan. 

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Up and over the hill I saw an old farm house and some out buildings, long abandoned.  The homestead sat on the banks of a small creek and it appeared there may have been some springs there also.  The house was small but functional.  Behind it was poles for a clothesline, a chicken coop.  Further down the bank was the barn and some posts for a corral and on the other side was the windmill and stock tank. 

It looked like any other homestead on the prairie that got blown out during the dirty thirties.  But here it was a dot on the wagon road.  So now I am speculating.  Was this a transfer point, way station for travelers, had there been a store here, what importance was the Buchannan place to the early day settlers.  I’ll probably never know, but I found the place.

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Driving across the creek and looking back, I could see a faint trace of the old wagon road.  It was a change in the vegetation across the way on the banks of the small creek.  Straight as an arrow it headed for the Buchannan place. 

Nearby on the map, there were other places marked as having Post Offices.  Abbott was few miles south on the road and further south was the Abbott church.  Yet, here the road showed up, having its beginnings at Deertrail, CO. 

When I go searching for these prairie ghosts I usually have 4-8 targets marked out on the map.  Places like Buchannan are usually and after thought but being on the wagon road, intrigued me. 

 

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Golden Belt Route …. Part IV

 

golden belt route

Aroya

            Traveling southeast from Boyero, one will end up the last little bit of the Old Golden State Route village, Aroya.  Just south of Boyero is the junction of the old Colorado state highways, SH 63 and SH 94.  From here to the junction with the new SH 94 there will be no other crossroads for the next dozen miles or so.  Being ranch land it is still like it was more then a 100 years ago. 

            Couple of dams have been built on some of the draws that are spring fed, creating a small oasis on the prairie. Here the local wildlife will meander in for a taste of water.  Wylie coyote watches looking for a meal as the other critters stop by.  A herd of pelicans can be seen occasionally at the watering hole.  It is a bustling area for wildlife.

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            There is one ranch house along the road between Boyero and Aroya.  Just to the east is where the Aroya stage station had been.  It was short lived, a few months until the RR showed up putting the stop out of business.  Bounding on down the road, one crosses a ridge.  To the east can be seen the Aroya schoolhouse on a knoll.  The crossing gates of the railroad stand at attention, waiting for the occasional train.  Traffic zips by on the blacktop.

            Cross the highway and one is on the last stretch of the old wagon road.  The few buildings of what remains of Aroya come into view.  Out on the roadway, there is an information board, giving a brief history of the town and the area.  The JOD Ranch is on down the road a bit.  It is one of the oldest continuous used ranch brands in the state, 1870.

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            The remains of the service station still reside next to the highway, beside it a mercantile, then the Aroya store.  There are a few houses that still stand, most are overgrown with weeds, making for snake haven.  The population had been zero for years.  A family hauled a trailer to the town and the population quadrupled overnight.  The following year another trailer was drug out back next to the other one.  They did not last long, the following year they were vacant.  Somebody hauled one of the trailers off but the other one still sits back in the trees, empty. 

            A welder had lived in the town and he would scrounge all types of metal and weld the pieces together is a variety of things, gates, mailbox stands…. Etc.  After he passed on, vandals were scrounging around his property stealing many of his creations.  Some of the locals got a few of his things and gave them to the museum in Kit Carson.  His lighthouse dominates the machinery display.  Today people still go through things picking to see if they can find that treasure.  Otherwise the little prairie burg is quiet. 

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            Aroya was built by the railroad in 1870 as a place to service their engines and maybe find some customers.  A well was drilled in Aroya gulch for water and the town was underway.  On the south side of the road can be seen where some of the railroad structures had been.  There is a bridge that crosses the gulch.  Today the railroad uses the siding as a storage lot for surplus rolling stock or maintenance of way equipment. 

            On the knoll stands the country school, a little bigger then a one room schoolhouse.  It is very visible from highway 94 and is the subject of numerous pixels.  It looks down on the town it once served.  No longer are sounds of children present.  The houses down below sit silent, a memory of another time. 

            The cemetery is a boot hill, sitting on the hilltop on the other side of highway 94.  It is in a pasture for the JOD Ranch.  Most of the graves are the 1900 and later.  No headstones for earlier are there.  So my guess is, the burials before 1900 used wooden crosses or markers.  It is now fenced off to keep the cattle from knocking over the few markers still there.  Like many little railroad towns back then, there would be the saloons and the conflict that comes from the over consumption. 

            When Interstate 70 was built across the nation, the Golden Belt Route was diverted at Oakley Kansas for political reasons to follow I-70.  Across eastern Colorado this little section of history remains with its little ghost town and memories. 

Conclusion

—–30—-

Golden Belt Route …. Part III

Boyero

            Continuing along the Golden Belt Route, one travels over one of the old concrete bridges from the early 1900’s, crossing Coon Creek.  Bouncing over the country road, is bouncing along with the wagons that traveled next to the railroad tracks more than 100 years ago.  Very few vehicles roll along the road and fewer trains sing on the iron rails.  On the road to Boyero, the land is mostly unchanged, it is open range, cattle stand on the road looking at the interlopers, deer lounge in the shade of the few trees and birds serenade the traveler. 

            It is traveling back to another era, listen to the land as it sings.  Here one can gaze across the emptiness and hear the creak of the wagons, see the puffs of dust from the wheels.  It is now cattle that graze on the grasses, sharing with the wildlife.  The eagles feast on the prairie dogs, the prairie falcon has a dove for a meal, the song birds sit on the fence line and the antelope watches from far ridge.  A land as it was centuries ago. 

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            Rolling SE from Clifford, the Golden Belt Route passes through Boyero.  Situated on a bend of the creek and the tracks, the livery stable dominates.  Built by the railroad in 1870, Boyero’s purpose was to serve the railroad and keep it running.  The water in the area is ample but very alkali, not suitable for steam engines.  So a cistern was built and the RR brought in tank cars of water to fill the cistern.  Since most of the people that lived there worked for the railroad, they were allowed to get water from the cistern. 

            Over time the RR village grew into a prosperous ranching community and rail town.  Schools were built, there were churches, stores, shops and the saloons.  It was at the junction of a state highway and US road making it a good place for early day travelers to stop.  Then the government realigned the US highway and later the state highway was rerouted.  The decline of Boyero began.  Today there is one family that still lives in the remains.  Years ago they had an antique store there and a sign directing customers down the road to their shop. 

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            Many of the town lots are still owned by former residents or their families.  Most of the streets have faded and are overgrown with grass.  North of the livery stable there is a stack of RR ties, it is this pasture where the schoolhouse used to be and there were some homes there also.  Along the old highway is the remains of a gas station/post office, the general store collapsed a few years ago and was cleared to a vacant lot.    A couple of streets can be seen going east and there are a few more buildings down them.  Mixed in with them are a few cattle, always watching the people that pass by. 

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            Across the tracks sit a few more buildings, there is a street along the frontage with small side streets into the other places.  The large building had many lives, store, boarding house and home.  The drummer boys used the trains a lot for pedaling their wares and rooming houses were as popular as hotels were back then.  Let the mind wander, warm summer eve, on the porch.  The dim glow of a cigarette as the travelers wait for the cool of the evening to settle in.  Conversation floats off the veranda, it is a scene for the imagination to conjure up. 

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            Before the auto, ranchers would ride their horses into town.  Put their horse up at the livery and walk down to the train.  They would ride the train to the county seat, take care of business.  Catch the train back to Boyero, walk over to the livery and pick up their horse for the return trip home.  Life had a different pace back then.

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            There are ranches in the area that can trace their beginnings back to the late 1800’s.  Walking the cemetery, there are a few pioneers there born in the mid 1800’s.  Alongside are the railroad workers that built the little town.  Here the Spirit of the West lingers.