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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.”


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

Listen now


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.


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.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Programs & Monthly Meetings

May 9, 2019 at 7:30p.m.

Lee Whitely will present a great program titled, “Entering Colorado.”

Monthly 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). Additional parking is available in the church parking lot on the north side of the building.


Upcoming Field Trips

Western Slope Field Trip: Grand Junction, Then And Now

Sept. 30 – Oct. 3, 2019 (optional hike on Oct. 4th)

  • Potluck dinner – Berries and model trains: HO scale indoors and 2,100 feet large scale outdoors.
  • Tour of Orchard Mesa Irrigation District pump and power houses led by head of OMID. See early 20th century irrigation equipment and learn about the history of turning the Grand Valley into a farming area.
  • Visit an alpaca farm and see how the fleece is made into yarn and apparel
  • Cross Orchards Museum: Visit restored Uintah Railroad rolling stock, ancient farm equipment, guided tour of living history museum; learn of future plans for the museum.
  • Museum of the West” After hours tour by Curator and Director who will explain the complex investigation of Alferd Packer including his pistol and other items found near Lake City
  • Real ghost town – Raber Cow Camp and Cabins. Tour Grand Mesa and visit the only remaining cow camp and cabins; lunch at Alexander Lake Lodge
  • Quick stop at Red Mountain Ranch for apples and other seasonal delights.
  • Pioneer Town in Cedaredge consisting of 23 buildings that were brought from their original locations
  • Fort Uncompahgre on the Gunnison River and the Old Spanish Trail. This was Anton Rubidoux’ fur trading post from 1820’s to 1844. Re-enactors will give tour. Dutch oven meatloaf dinner.
  • OPTIONAL HIKE on last day. 7 mile round trip hike in Dominguez Canyon to see Indian Rock Art. Route is along the original Rio Grande Narrow Gauge and Gunnison River.
  • Eagle Rock Shelter – Oldest ghost town in Colorado.Watch for further details.

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


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!