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The Ghost Town Club of Colorado is an active and energetic group of people with diverse backgrounds who share an interest in the history of the west, especially Colorado. 

The club enjoys visiting historic sites and is committed to the preservation of these sites for future generations.

The club holds monthly meetings with programs on historical subjects. In addition, the club conducts field trips to sites throughout Colorado, and occasionally beyond to locales in the western United States and Canada.

Historic preservation is a focus of our work and preservation work is done in conjunction with field trips. Also once a year the club distributes its preservation funds to nonprofit historical sites in need of financial help.

Exploration, enjoyment and preservation of historical sites.

About GTC

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.”

Join us!

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.

Letter from the President Ethan Knightchilde, July 2018

“It’s A Great Story But…”

Independence Day, secession, foreigners & hyperbole in the Old West

Last month I speculated that perhaps more people might be engaged with history if events were presented in a story format. Even when summarily told, an historical tale is able to spark interest and inspire one to delve deeper in a search for details.

However, details can prove elusive for many reasons. Consider that those living beyond the frontier often experienced a deep feeling of isolation; entertainment options for distraction were severely limited; and, particularly when news was local, many papers of the day considered their duty as town booster to be of greater importance than inconvenient facts. As a consequence events were often embellished; tales grew in the telling; and, details that sprang from the imaginations of storytellers eventually became factoids. Thus the history of the Old West is replete with exaggerated accounts of wild discoveries, lost mines, epic confrontations, and inflated population figures that would have made even the town boosters and editors of the day blush.

If tall tales stemmed from frontier folks’ sense of isolation, so too were the Independence Day celebrations that went on far longer and more intensely than many generations since can imagine, and which helped even fiercely independent souls feel connected to their countrymen back in the States. Parades and firecrackers were common, as well as orations that included readings from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, toasts to almost everything, setting off of gunpowder, foot races, horse races, drilling competitions, climbing greased poles, and contests to capture oiled pigs.

I mention obfuscation and July 4th celebrations to better frame this month’s anecdote.

Founded in 1849 Rough and Ready, California, had been named after recently-elected President of the U.S., General Zachary Taylor, who bore the nickname “Old Rough and Ready” during the Mexican-American War. Tales say that most of the townspeople were Southern-sympathizers who objected to California’s entry into the Union as a free and undivided State, but especially to a government-imposed mining tax on their claims. And so on April 7, 1850, residents voted to secede from the United States and found The Great Republic of Rough and Ready. Then something funny happened on the way to the forum: miners from the new republic were denied the purchase of alcohol at a nearby town on the grounds that they were foreigners.

Rough and Ready voted to rejoin the Union just in time to celebrate Independence Day.

To be sure it’s an interesting tale that invites one to delve further, but one will find that the facts here are very muddied. At first glance the objectionable tax seems to be the Foreign Miners Tax. However that little legislative slice of heaven was aimed at Chinese and Mexicans. Additionally, the bill was only signed into law six days AFTER Rough and Ready’s secession on April 13, 1850, and only became effective on June 1. As to California Territory entering the Union as a free and undivided State—well, that didn’t happen until September 9, 1850, five months and two days after secession.

Some sources state that Rough and Ready remained independent for more than a year as opposed to a few months, and did not rejoin the Union until July 1851 rather than 1850. Others state that hostilities did not officially end until 1948, when the town wanted a post office. But that usually ignores the fact that a post office had been established there in 1851 and has served the town with few breaks since.

As the saying goes, “Fiction is history that did not happen, and history is fiction that did.” Now it’s your turn to share a unique story about one of your ghost town visits, but please… don’t let entertainment get in the way of the facts.

~ Ethan Knightchilde, July 2018

P.S. To clarify: Your tale can be about ANY ghost town visit and does not necessarily need to be GTC related! Don’t feel pressured to write a novel–just set down a few paragraphs on one sheet of paper! (See my letter in the February Gazette for an example of just how short it can be.)

Letter from the President, Ethan Knightchilde, June 2018

A Storied Past
As a child and early teen, I had far less enthusiasm than I do now for the subject of history, primarily due to most teachers’ emphasis on committing to memory the who, where, and when.

Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown in October 1781…

As such I was bored when I should have been enthralled. With the transition to prep classes and university, two additional points came into play that revealed history as a fascinating arc of interconnected events. They are the why and how, and they allow the imaginative to ponder the what if.

The Visigoths sacked the city Rome in 410 CE…
…But why and how did the Roman Empire–the greatest the world had ever seen–fall? And what if it hadn’t? What if General Ewell had carried out his orders at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, and secured the high ground for the Confederacy? What if reparations had not been imposed on Germany after the Great War?

Adding the why and how ensures complete engagement for they fill out the list of elements required for a captivating story. And history is full of events that can be told as stories for “edutainment.” Farce, tragedy, adventure, mystery, and suspense all hold a place in the great arc.

Late in the afternoon on Sunday, June 14, 1903, unusually violent thunderstorms unleashed torrential rain and hail in north central Oregon. The saturated earth could not absorb the deluge, and the overgrazed hillsides had little vegetation to impede runoff and erosion. Floodwaters raced down Willow Creek and its tributary Balm Fork, gathering mud and debris along the way. Downstream, just beyond where the two join, lay the small town of Heppner. The storm surge halted only briefly when a steam laundry built across the river served as a temporary dam. But within moments the structure failed, and a wall of water two to four stories high slammed into and roared through the unsuspecting town. Sources list the death toll at 247—approximately 1/5th of the population.

Though all the elements previously mentioned are present, that one story­ is summarily told and only hints at the dozens or perhaps hundreds of individual tragedies and triumphs one might discover with further research.

By now I’m sure you may be asking yourself where I might be going with this, other than to explain some childhood issues with history class and mark the 115th anniversary of what was both the deadliest natural disaster in Oregon history and the second deadliest flash flood in the US.

In 1958 a gentleman stood before the audience of a history program and asked all those interested in ghost towns to remain after the presentation. They formed a club that became so wildly successful that new would-be members remained on a years-long wait list. The group still meets every month as they have for the last 60 years.

Again just one story (barely) summarily told and suggesting the hundreds of tales club members could tell about their time visiting ghost towns over the better part of a century. But when stories and history aren’t written, they are eventually lost. And who is left to say what actually happened?

In the February Gazette I shared with you a story about one of my most memorable ghost town visits. Now I await yours. Whether it occurred during a GTC field trip or on one of your own adventures as mine did, I again implore you to do your part in making the rich history of our club and the experiences of its members something more permanent than a fading oral tradition.

~ Ethan Knightchilde, June 2018


Upcoming Events

Upcoming Programs & Monthly Meetings


July 12, 2018

“Uranium Mania” – The story of Uravan, Colorado, the town that disappeared. Uranium, radium and vanadium were extensively mined and processed in the west end of Montrose County. What happened when the EPA designated Uravan a Super-Fund site? Join us to find out!

Meeting Schedule

We hold ten regular meetings per year on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 7:30p.m. We meet at the Grace United Methodist Church located at 4905 East Yale Avenue, Denver, Colorado (just west of I-25 and Yale).

Please check the calendar for meeting dates and for the dates of the club banquet and club picnic which occur in lieu of a meeting during the months they are held.

Upcoming Field Trips

For additional details about any of the field trips listed below please email us or call us at 303.659.4858.

Colorado Yellow Cake: The History They Tried to Bury on September 7-11, 2018

We’ll visit Uravan, Bedrock, Paradox, Hanging Flume, Silverton, Old Hundred Mine, Mayflower Mill, Palisade Peaches and much more!

The Ghost Town Club has been instrumental in helping support and preserve many of the sites we’ll see on this tour through donations from the Preservation Fund.

The Ute Indian Museum in Montrose – Be one of the first group’s to see the magnificent new, expanded and celebrate the history and the living culture of the Ute people, Colorado’s longest continuous residents. The Museum is operated by History Colorado and is one of the nation’s most complete collections of the Utes, featuring exhibits and dioramas that let visitors experience the history, culture and daily life of the early inhabitants of the Uncompahgre Valley.

Million Dollar Highway – The Road to the Sky. We’ll travel through some of the most beautiful country of southwest Colorado as we journey to Silverton along Otto Mears’ greatest engineering feat.

Old Hundred Mine – The Old One Hundred was discovered in the late 1890s and operated on and off until 1972. In 1967 a Texas oil company took a lease on it and with adequate money and equipment they drove a tunnel 5,000 feet into the mountain and spent $6,000,000. They did find some good ore, but at the time it just wasn’t profitable to extract it and it closed in 1972. The most dramatic and successful part of the mine was up on the number seven level 2,000 feet above the mine. A boarding house was built high above the mine for the miners and it is still perched on the mountainside. Bring your binoculars as we will see the boarding house from the mine.

Mayflower Mill is a National historic Landmark. It was the last and most advanced of the big mills to be built in the San Juans. All of the equipment is still there and well preserved. It was the longest operating mill in the history of the San Juan mining district. Operating from 1930 to 1991, it was only shut down for a total of 12 years resulting in 49 years of actual milling. 10 million tons of ore producing almost 2 million ounces of gold; 30 million ounces of silver and a million tons of combined base metals.

Naturita, Uravan, Bedrock, Paradox – Spend the day with two delightful Uravan, Colorado, natives as we explore what is known as the “West End” of Montrose County.

What is “yellow cake”? When did the EPA get involved in Uravan? Where is Uravan now”? Get the first hand story about this “ghost site”, the efforts of the Rimrock Historical Society to preserve their history of URAVAN; their threat to have the annual picnic in the middle of Highway 141; the maddening story of buildings that were promised to Rimrockers and paid for by them that were lost. This is a very unique part of Colorado history and one the Ghost Town Club should be aware of.

Bedrock was established in 1883. The store (still in operation) and the post office were built on solid rock – thus the name. A ghost town for sure.

Paradox, a townsite takes its name from the Paradox Valley. Only a few buildings remain in this picturesque, still inhabited community.

Hanging Flume, an engineering marvel above the Dolores River. You’ll look UP at the Hanging Flume from the confluence of the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers, and you’ll look DOWN to see remnants of this engineering marvel from Highway 141.

Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway – This is one of Colorado’s most little traveled and diverse Scenic Byways whether you talk about the geology, scenery, inhabitants or living conditions.

Gateway Auto Museum – Whether you have a passive interest or love in American automobiles the Gateway Auto Museum is not to be missed. Owned by the founder of the Discovery Channel, this should be called a car gallery and not Museum. It houses millions of dollars’ worth of vintage autos, all rare – some one of a kind!

Enstroms Candy Factory + Wine Pairing Dinner – The Grand Valley is known for its award winning Wines. Check in at the beautiful Wine Country Inn – relax and enjoy a wine tasting before a special dinner featuring locally produced food and paired with local wines that will be introduced by an expert sommelier.

Cost for double occupancy is $995 per person.  Single occupancy is $1,275.  Price includes deluxe motorcoach transportation, hotel accommodations for four nights, baggage handling, entrance fees to all attractions, local interpreters and guides and 12 meals as indicated.  Does not include transportation from home city to and from Denver; items of a personal nature, meals not listed, alcoholic beverages or medical/cancellation travel protection plan.  For more information or to make your reservation, email us.

Past Field Trips with Reports

Colorado Model Railroad Museum and Centennial Village Museum, Greeley, Colorado on May 26, 2018 at 10:00a.m.

Meet at the Colorado Model Rail-road Museum, 680 10th Street, at 10:00 AM. After a brief orientation participants can tour the HO gauge model dis-play at will. Plan to leave for lunch, on your own, to allow enough time to meet at the Centennial Village Museum, 1475 “A” Street, at 1:30 PM. There will be a few docents on the grounds, but not at each building because there are 35 buildings. The Centennial Village is open until 4:00 PM. We will have a sign up sheet, lists of restaurants and maps available at the April banquet meeting and the May meeting.

Colorado Model Railroad Museum admission: Adults: $10.00; Seniors: $8.00; Children (ages 4-12) $5.00. For a group of more than 10, they will give a $1 off each category.
The Centennial Village admission: Adults: $8.00; Seniors: $6.00; Youth: $5.00. For a group of more than 10, they will give a $1 off each category. The group rate (more than 10) is $1 off each category. Centennial Village accepts cash, credit cards (except American Express), and checks made payable to “City of Greeley Museums.”


Ten GTC members and seven guests (including three kiddos) spent Saturday May 26th in Greeley, Colorado.

We met at the Colorado Model Railroad Museum at 10AM where we were given the red carpet treatment by the Executive Director, Michelle Kempema. After a brief orientation Michelle gave us an extensive and informative tour of the Museum which included the historic beginnings of the Museum and a behind-the-scenes peek at the volunteers’ workshop. GTC participants who had not been here before were amazed at the realistic scenery, detail and scope of the 5,500 square foot layout. There are games and an interactive children’s layout. For those of us that had been here before, there were many new displays to see. This Museum is a must see.

After enjoying lunch at some new restaurants with great food (The Mad Cow, Stuff Burger and Fat Albert’s) we reconvened at Centennial Village at 1:30PM. 35 historic buildings were available for us to tour. These were moved to the Village from either downtown Greeley or surrounding towns and plains to make up the collection from log cabins to manor houses, farmhouses, schools and churches. Some docents were available to give us detailed stories and each structure also had an informative plaque explaining its history. A very big plus that we had not previously known about was the Buffalo Soldiers demonstration that just happened to be on tour at the Village this weekend only. So we really lucked out with this extra exhibition of history of the Buffalo Soldiers, horsemanship and sharpshooting.

It was a full day with educational experiences and unexpected surprises.

Respectfully submitted,
Shirley Miller

Field Trip Planning Session

The Steering Committee conducted a productive and exciting field trip planning session at the January meeting. Several ideas were presented by those in attendance and were written on large sheets of paper which were then hung around the room so that everyone could look at the ideas and indicate interest by placing blue sticky dots on trips they’d like to do. Pegi Emmett has taken that information and consolidated it to one sheet for future planning and for volunteering to put together field trips based on the ideas presented. If you would like to work on a field trip, contact someone on the Steering Committee for further help or direction. When you are ready to schedule the trip, give Lee or Joanie a call and the field trip will be put on the calendar. Let’s make this the best field trip year ever!

Do you enjoy our field trips? Have you ever thought about leading one?

It’s easy! Find a friend, team up, and plan a trip for the club. Field trips can be for a few hours, a morning or afternoon, a full day, a weekend, or a week long excursion.

Want more information? Check out our printed guide on planning field trips for a step-by-step how to guide. Remember it’s always easier and more fun to work together. Some of our greatest field trips were been led by people who had never planned a trip before. Let’s go exploring together!