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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Road Remains

                                          golden-belt-route

 

Golden Belt Route

The Golden Belt Route was the shortest route to the Rocky Mountain goldfields from St Louis, MO.  After the Kansas Pacific RR completed their rails to Denver in the fall of 1870, they heartily promoted the route.  Beside the railroad tracks, the wagon ruts grew as travelers followed beside the rails and the railroad was hauling freight and passengers west.  For travelers in the 1870’s it was an express route west.

A variety of little towns had been built by the railroad to serve their trains and hopes that people would settle the area becoming customers.   With the arrival of the automobile, the wagon road next to the rails became a highway.  The Golden Belt Route became US Highway 40 as it crossed Kansas into Colorado.  Then the government rerouted US 40 and in some places little towns were left high and dry as the highway was over there someplace.   No longer did the traveler pass through the little villages the railroad had built along their route to the gold fields.

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With the highway realignment, the towns began to fade and soon were ghost towns.  There is a small section of this route that is pretty much like it was in the 1870’s.  When the highway was changed, the ranchers and locals continued to use the old highway as did the railroad, keeping the old route intact.  Civilization has not changed the area much.

There is open range and cattle stroll down the country road that winds its way cross country next to the railroad tracks.  Few of the old concrete bridges from the 1900’s are still used, a few have been removed and replaced by culverts.  For the most part it is where the wagons of the early 1800 have rolled followed by the new fangled horseless carriages.  Bouncing along this bumpy country road is like stepping back in time.   Here one can imagine the wagons rolling along, listen to the whistle of the train as it passes, buffalo on the ridge, the prairie is the same as it was over a century ago.

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This old portion of the Golden Belt Route begins where the town of Clifford once was and ends at Aroya an empty ghost town.  The dirt road passes through three town, two stage stations and lots of Indian folklore.  Here I can wander along, quietly, listening to the song birds of the plains, watch the eagles, falcons or hawks circle overhead.  The deer stand in the gully warily eyeing the interloper and on the ridge is the antelope sentential, watching.

In the spring of 1870, the Indians launched a series of coordinated attacks on the railroad workers and stage stations.  Numerous workers were killed and wounded fleeing back to the army post at Kit Carson seeking safety.  These attacks brought General Custer out to patrol the rail line and prevent further attacks by the Indians.  There were no mare attacks for the Indians had fled north and would meet up with Custer on another day.

So when I bounce along the dirt road I have all this to ponder and my mind goes back to the 1870’s when all this was happening.  I can look at the land and wonder is that where the Indians hid for their attack.  Where were the railroad workers?  What would it of been like working on the western frontier?  The mind is a fertile place to conjure up stories about what was happening 150 years ago.

I drive past where the stage stations had been, now it is barren vacant land sitting in silence.  The little creek flows under the bridge as I cross over headed for the next town.  One family still lives there calling it home, they are third generation ranchers in the area.  Birds sit on the fence line watching the approaching pick-up.  The railroad tracks are silent ribbons of steel awaiting the next train.  It is a quiet adventure as I bounce along the road, cattle ahead lounging on the roadway.  As I approach they get up and move out of the way.

The occasional rancher rolls down the road to check on his cattle, the letter carrier pauses by the country mailbox and a railroad pick up parks on the road making notes of the rails.  Otherwise it is a moment in time that passes back to centuries before.

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First Harvey Houses

Fred Harvey

Harvey Houses

 

Fred Harvey worked for the railroad in the 1860’s, traveling to various places, where work took him.  For Fred the food service in most eateries back then was less than adequate.  When he would return to his office there were complaints of being on the road and having bad food.  So Fred took it upon himself to change that, with a partner.  Two restaurants were opened at main railroad stops out west.  The very first Harvey Restaurants were built in hotels at Wallace Kansas and Hugo Colorado on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, 1872.

A Harvey House and the Harvey Girls tend to be synonymous with the Santa Fe Railroad.   After the early success with other restaurants along various rail lines, The Santa Fe RR offered a contract to Harvey to build restaurants along their rail line.   By this time the partnership had broken up and Fred Harvey was no long employed by a railroad.  He was now opening a chain of restaurants across the country that would bear his name.

The restaurants were situated in Hotels and soon these would be replaced by new hotels and some bore his name.  The Harvey houses dotted the southwest at other places besides the railroad.  Some were at other railroads and a few were in National Parks.  Today a few of the old Harvey Houses still stand and some are museums or refurbished into new uses.

The first two restaurants of Fred Harvey met their demise when railroading policy changed.  Crew change points were shifted and much of the railroad business the first hotels and restaurants relied on was gone.  Wallace had been a town of over 4000 souls, with changes on the Smoky Hill Trail and the railroad, the workers of Wallace moved on to the next railhead and soon it was a shell of what had been.  Today Wallace has a population of less than 100 souls and the Wallace hotel is long gone.  The Kansas Pacific office building still stands; otherwise it is ghosts that wander through the now empty town.

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The nearby museum of Ft Wallace has new display in a back warehouse that has recreated the town of Wallace using store fronts.  The Wallace Hotel that housed the first Fred Harvey in Kansas is one of the fronts that has been built.  It is like walking down the streets of the old railroad town with all the different stores and shops from that era.

Hugo does not a display of any kind for where the first Harvey House was.  Roughly where the hotel had been, there is now an old empty gas station and the sign for Hugo.  Short distance east is where the Roundhouse had been, now a swimming pool occupies the land.  The depot is next block over and preserved as a community center.  The street one block north of this is lined with small old homes where the early rail workers and others lived.  Most of the homes on the north side date 1870-74 and that era.  The other side is the newer homes built where the railroad had their buildings.  Hugo has an original roundhouse on the SW side of town that is being restored and maybe there they will do something with the Hugo Harvey House.

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Both little towns were connected by the railroad and then by the first Harvey house.  Both sit astride the Smoky Hill Trail and had stage stops.  Today the railroad still sends the occasional train down the rails.  No longer is it the whistle echoing across the high plains with a cloud of smoke overhead.  The air horns of the diesel have replaced the whistle of the steam engines but the lore still whispers across the land.

 

Kirkuk, Colo

 

 

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      Kirkuk, CO sits just west of the Kansas border in central eastern Colorado.  Not much left of it.  It appears it had been a farm house that held the postal contract for a time.  There are few trees n shrubs there and steel grain bin.

Nearby is the Smoky Hill schoolhouse which still stands.  T was hit by a tornado number of years ago.  The concrete shell is still there and the boarding/ rooming house.  With the changes in transportation, the kids were bused to a nearby town for school after the tornado mutilated their school

A side bar on the area.  The North Fork of the Smoky Hill River runs through the area.  Well its not much of a river any more with all the farming.  In the mid 1600’s lots of travelers on the Smoky Hill trail would divert at the fork and go north.  In the 1850’s the nort fork was carrying more water, so people thought it was an advantage to follow.

Not so, when they got up on the flats in Colorado, the river dried up.  There were no landmarks and most of the travelers had no idea how to find water on the flat prairie.  Many would go wandering looking and end going in circles, back where they started.  A few would back track and rejoin the Trail.  A few would wander finding the wagon trail to the north and the springs on the Republican river and by then many were rather thirsty.

Then there were those in such a hury to get to the goldfields they would travel during the prairie snowstorms.  In circles they would go, sometimes ending up further east then when they started.  Supplies were low and frozen travelers they would be.

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Today the Kirkuk area is home to some of the most prosperous farms in the country.  And when the land dries out, the dust will still flaot in the air but no longer like the dust bowl days.

Boyero, CO

 

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            Boyero was built by the railroad as the Kansas Pacific built across the Colorado prairie.  It became a section point for the road gangs that maintained the rails.  Structures were built, homes and shops popped up.  The train town was on its way to becoming a prosperous little community for the railroad workers and the ranchers in the area. 

            The Smoky Hill Trail had shifted south to follow along the tracks and the Golden Belt Route made Boyero a place to stop for supplies.  A school was built as were churches with numerous homes.  With the advent of the automobile in the early 1900’s, Boyero found itself at the crossroads of a couple of state roads plus the US highway.  Gas stations and repair shops opened and the railroads kept the towns people busy. 

            It became a shipping point for livestock.  Cattlemen were keeping things busy.  There were saloons, a dance hall and fine eating establishments in the little town which had grown to almost 500 people. 

Water in the area was very hard and alkali, not good for the steam engines.  So a cistern was built and the railroad brought water in by tank car for their steam engines.  They also allowed the townspeople to use water from the cistern also, since most worked for the railroad. 

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Then the state highway department wanted to straighten out the highway.  In the process, Boyero became isolated, five miles off the main highway.  One of the state roads was re routed, it was the beginning of the end for the country town.  No longer were travelers passing through, some businesses closed.  Then the railroad began to change their divisions and sections.  Not as many workers for the rails were needed. 

People were moving and there were empty houses dotting the town.  Ranchers in the area helped to keep the town afloat for a time yet it was not enough to keep any of the businesses open. 

There are a couple of families that still live in the town that call Boyero home.  The Post Office is gone and they have to go down the road a bit for mail pick up at a kiosk.  The antique store the rancher’s wife kept in a small house has closed and most of the town is in ruins. 

Some of the streets can still be seen, a few relics dot the empty lots.  Over there where there had been homes is now a corral and cattle hang out in the pen.  

The old highway runs through the middle of town is now a dusty country road.  All signs of the railroad buildings are gone.  The Boyero sign still stands next to the rails.  Sitting on the other side of the tracks on a big sweeping bend in the creek is the old boarding house.  It still stands stately, well worn and showing some signs of roof neglect.  There are couple of other sheds nearby and depressions in the ground where other buildings had been. 

Cross the tracks is where the main part of Boyero had been.  Couple of shops still stand, in the beginnings of collapse.  The weeds hold a variety of relics and out buildings.   At the north end is the stately livery stable and house.  Both show signs of severe weathering but enduring.  They are built of rock with wooden roofs.  The street that goes past, leads back to the ranchers house that still lives there. 

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It is a classic prairie ghost town and because it sits off the highway, down a dirt road, few people will make the effort to go look at.  Yet in the spring, when the green up begins, it is a wondrous area.  The groves of trees along the sand creek are home to countless birds and critters.  The eagles float overhead, along with the hawks and falcons.  The kestrels and merlins flit among the grasses and the Meadowlark will serenade the visitor with a tune of the grass lands.  In the trees the deer can be seen, on far hill the antelope watch the traveler.  Coyotes and foxes scurry along looking for their next meal.

Each passing year a bit of the town disappears.  The store had stood for years.  The roof collapsed and a few years ago the store front collapsed onto itself making a big pile of kindling wood.  One of the local ranchers sold out a while back, so there is now another empty home in the area. 

Tuttle, CO

It was a pain to find because of my preconceived notions.  I was expecting it to be there but it was over there.  Then when I only read one part and ignore the other books that is what happens. 

The Tuttle Post Office Is advertised by a local group and part of a variety pack of interesting places they advertise for their part of the plains. 

Out in the pasture sit the remains of the Post Office and general store.  There are some foundations from other buildings next to it.  In the weeds they are are well buried.  There is no public access, just a long distance view from the road. 

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The sign they made for it had a good case of sunburn and will soon be replaced by another. 

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Being made of stone with a tin roof, it should withstand the elements for a few more years.  It appears it was a prosperous place at one time from its size.  Yet the neighborhood around it is pretty vacant today.  The nearest house are back that way a few miles and the same the other direction.  Even the horizon is a rolling void of homes, just waving grasses. 

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As the crow flies, the Tuttle Ranch is about 5 miles south.  By the modern country road of today it is about 9 miles around the bend and over the river.  The Tuttle Ranch had the mail contract during the late 1800’s and was the Post Office until the contract was awarded to another.  The Post Office moved to the General Store to the north but the name Tuttle was retained. 

There were a variety of Tuttle’s in the area and they were involved in some type of range war.  Information I have found has been very limited.  Hopefully one of these days I’ll turn over the right rock and find what I want. 

The two Tuttle ranches that show up on the map were with a couple of miles of each other and were on the freight road and Stage route following the Republican River. 

During the 180’s this area was hotly contested by the white invaders and the Indians.  There were more then a few Indian attacks on the ranch houses and the stage.  Some the locals I talked with, talk about finding all kinds of arrowheads in the area and other reminders of the when the Indians lived in the area.  Small caves in the area with smoke covered openings.

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The Tuttle Ranch is no more, it was washed away by the flood of 1935.  The Republican River was visited by Noah.  Flood waters a mile wide and 20-40 feet deep.  This massive flood changed lots of things and today the dry stream bed looks so innocent. 

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Back down this pasture trail a few hundred yards is where the Tuttle ranch had been.  Today very serene and peaceful and one can see why it would make a nice setting for a ranch.  Very contrasting where the stone Tuttle Post Office sits. 

Turning around a looking the other way a short distance is where station 21 for the Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Stage Station would have been. 

Like so many things in eastern Colorado, on private property and posted. 

Yet it is fascinating to drive the country roads and ponder what it would have been like to be riding over the country and see Indians ride up over the horizon. 

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Instead now days I find some neat old abandoned homesteads.  Yet this was the heart of the Plains Indian Wars during the 1860’s while the Civil War was going on. 

Old Saw Mills at Thresher’s Day

After the Harvest, lots of communities will have their heritage festival of some type.  These run through October in some parts of the country.  Here one can see many of the old machines that were used during the 1800’s in to the early 1900’s.  Lots of this could be found in the mining camps as well as the prairie land. 

The pictures are from scanned slides I took a number of years ago, well decades ago.  Since then things have changed some yet here is a glimpse into another era that is slipping into fading memory banks. 

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The steam engine was developed during the early 1800’s and one of the reasons for the Industrial revolution.  The vertical steam donkey supplied power to factories and was put on the wheels to operate early trains.  Here the steam engine is a tractor that is being used to operate a saw mill. 

Lumber was critical to any early pioneer endeavor.  Building houses, shops, sheds, buildings… etc. 

The mill could be set up in the woods, town, camp or wherever a supply of wood could be found.  Down into the mine shafts the timbers went for bracing.  Out on the land there was a home raising and on the corner was a half frame for a saloon tent. 

It was fascinating to watch the old timers operate these old pieces of machinery that their parents or grandparents had used to help build their home. 

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The lumber would take shape and one could feel the anticipation of new structures being built,a dream coming to life.  It was a shared experience, neighbor helping neighbor.  Working together to accomplish their dream. 

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The crowd was just as enjoyable as was watching the different machines operate. 

because of the plethora of government regulations many of these old machines now sit back in the corner of the barn collecting dust.