The Ghost Town Club of Colorado was founded in 1958 by two Denver teachers, Jack Morison and Bob Brown. Together with several other people who shared an interest in Colorado history and historic preservation, they created a group focused specifically on ghost towns – their history and preservation.
What do we do?
Ghost Town Club of Colorado (GTC) holds monthly meetings featuring guest speakers on a variety of topics related to western history, ghost towns, Colorado history and relevant historic subjects. Past presentation topics include: the adventure, danger and romance of Colorado’s railroads, Denver’s great mansions and the people who inhabited them, and the unusual opportunities and challenges of living in a fire observation tower. There is something for everyone in this group of enthusiastic lovers of Colorado history!
Members also plan, organize, and lead many field trips to ghost towns and/or historic sites. These include day-trips to local sites such as old Fort Lupton to learn about and observe reconstruction of the fort, as well as to the ghost town of Dearfield to explore a hundred-year-old African American agricultural community on the arid high plains. Our excursions may include leisure driving, four-wheel driving, and/or hiking to our destinations.
Our field trips also include weekend excursions such as a motorcoach tour to Nebraska and the Lincoln County Historical Museum depicting a WWII canteen serving more than six million soldiers traveling by train through North Platte.
We also organize longer tours traveling to several states and parts of Canada, visiting significant historical sites and monuments, national parks, and local historians along the way.
And lets not forget about historic preservation. The club collects money throughout the year in a preservation fund to distribute at the end of the year to nonprofit historic sites in need of finacial support. Also, we will often help by doing actual preservation work with hands-on labor.
Who are we?
We are a diverse and active group of people with a shared sense of and reverence for history. We honor the significant contributions of many people through our strong desire to study, learn from, and preserve ghost towns and the memory of the people who built and lived in them. Perhaps most importantly, we are a group of friendly people who enjoy getting out, socializing, learning, and having a lot of fun.
How do we operate?
We are a volunteer-run organization. Our board of directors consists of six members who are elected to two-year terms. The president and other officers are elected for a yearly term. Subcommittees plan and execute special projects such as the yearly banquet, preservation fund awards, volunteer coordination, or outreach activities, to name a few.
Snapshot of GTC History
During the first three meetings of the Club back in 1958 when organizers were trying to decide on a name for the club, one lone stranger kept insisting that “toll roads” be added to the name. Finally Ghost Town Club of Colorado was “railroaded” through. In December 1963, the Club was legally incorporated with the Secretary of State.
First dues for the Club were $1 a year. In 1979, dues were $5 a year. Slowly postage, printing, insurance and rent have caused minimal increases. It’s been many a year since we had to raise the dues, and as Dick Ramsey says, “It’s still the best bargain in town.”
From Colorado Public Radio, Colorado Matters by Shanna Lewis with CPR’s Ryan Warner
October 31, 2018 – There Are 700 Ghost Towns In Colorado, And Ron Ruhoff Has Visited Many Of Them
Note from the President – April 2019
Some of you may be wondering why I have not written a monthly letter since January. In short, I have been extraordinarily busy over the last several months and will remain so through at least May.
In addition to the everyday non-excitement of gathering tax records, shoveling snow, and earning a living, I have been involved in four time-intensive, overlapping projects:
1) Editing and finalizing Ghosts of the West: Tales and Legends from the Bonanza Trail for publication;
2) Launching and managing the Kickstarter project to fund the publication rights of the historical images in that volume;
3) Updating the Ghost Towns of the American West lecture for Chautauqua on April 3 (during a computer meltdown no less); and,
4) Preparing a paper on the entire Ghosts of the West Documentary Project, which I have been invited to present at The Archaeology Channel International Film Festival and Conference this May. (They will also be screening The End of the Bonanza Trail.)
I hope the dust will settle within the next couple of months; for now however, enjoy the recollection from Calvin Campbell.
– Ethan Knightchilde
Memory Letter Contribution – April 2019
A TRIP TO CARIBOU
By Calvin Campbell
I am a square dance caller and Judy used to cue round dances. During the 1970’s, Judy and I were on the staff of the Peaceful Valley Guest Ranch (PV) in Colorado as featured entertainers one or two weeks each summer. I also drove International Scouts on 4WD trips for the guests of the ranch. This included one very interesting trip to the ghost town of Caribou.
The Scouts were flat head four-bangers with very low gear ratios. They would not go very fast, but they climbed like goats. None of the Scouts had tops; if it rained or hailed, a piece of plastic was available to protect us from some of the water. Everyone with any sense took a waterproof jacket. The seating consisted of a bench for the driver and two passengers up front, and two more bench seats facing in the back. There were nine to ten people for each Scout, no roll bars, no safety belts, and no CB radios.
Caribou was the site of a silver mine and a community of several hundred people in the late 1800s. The elevation was 9,800 feet and the winds and snowstorms in the winter were legendary.* The site was reached by a road off the Peak to Peak Highway just north of Nederland. I only got to drive this road one time, but it was an exciting trip.
About ten Scouts were on the trip. As usual, I was in the tail end Scout, and the ranch’s owner was in the lead. We had just started up a shelf road that was about a mile in length. The road was extremely narrow where winter erosion had washed down dirt from the uphill side and the inside wheels had to rub against the mountain in places to keep the outside wheels on the road. It was white knuckle driving for that short stretch.
About half way up the shelf road, a woman in the Scout just ahead of me started screaming and yelling. Of course, every vehicle stopped. The lady jumped out of the back of the Scout and stated she was not riding one more foot of that road and that she was going to walk back. She did not want to walk up–she wanted to walk down.
That presented several problems. We were about 2 miles from Nederland. There was no way she could be allowed to walk back down without assistance; there was no way I wanted to back down a half mile of that road; and there was no way to turn my vehicle around until everyone reached the top.
After much persuasion, she finally agreed to sit on the front bench seat between Judy and me. She covered her head so she could not see and we drove to the flat above with no further outbursts.
At the top I had some problems making the turn. The steering just did not feel right. We popped the hood and could not find anything broken so we continued the trip to Caribou.
Half of Caribou burned in 1899 and was not rebuilt; and by 1905 only 44 people lived at the town site. By the 1970s little more than some stone ruins remained.
We cooked lunch at one of the two stone foundations that had a door opening. We poked around a few collapsed log cabins and tried to picture what it looked like in its heyday. There were also many mountain flowers in bloom. It was a good place to take pictures.
Back at the ranch the following morning, the ranch owner motioned me over at breakfast. He told me that the Scout I had driven had sheared two of the three bolts that connected the steering wheel to the gearbox that controlled the front wheels.
The real danger was never in driving up the shelf road. If the third bolt had sheared on that road we could have just towed it up the rest of the hill and sent a trailer from the ranch to get it. But if it had sheared on the highway coming back, we could have rolled at 35 miles an hour and flung people all over the highway.
Note: William Henry Jackson visited Caribou in 1873. To see his photo of the town and other post-abandonment images, and to read some accounts of the winters there, refer to Ghost Towns, Colorado Style: Volume 1–Northern Region by Kenneth Jessen, pages 140-145. For the related town of Cardinal, refer to pages 137-139. – Ethan Knightchilde
Letter from the GTC President – February/March 2019
CONTEST TIME – WIN A PRIZE
CALLING ALL RAILROAD ENTHUSIASTS
Share your unique western railroad story, preferably one that is linked to a ghost town, and email it to me no later than March 15. The best among the submissions will appear in the May Gazette AND the writer will receive a prize.
THE RULES – Your story: 1) must be unique; 2) must involve a western railroad (e.g., PATH and New Jersey Transit commuter trains don’t count); 3) should have an historical aspect; 4) will receive bonus points if it involves a ghost town; and 5) must be submitted no later than March 15.
If a railroad non-fanatic has to explain the reasons behind a railroad story in this May’s Gazette, then whoever is asking has to surrender his or her railroad fan club card.
We invite you to attend a monthly meeting to learn more about us. Our membership dues are $25 per year. Join GTC today! Costs for field trips vary based on distance and length.