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.”
Introductory note from the President – July 2019
In place of a letter from the President, enjoy the following recollection from one of this year’s Vice Presidents as seen through the eyes of a ghost town resident.
GILMORE, IDAHO – JULY 1990
By Sally Alt
In July 1990, John and Dawn Nicholson led Ghost Towners and guests on a week long tour of Idaho ghost towns. One of these towns was Gilmore, which had numerous buildings remaining, and which they believed to be deserted. But as we explored the town, a man with a long white beard and rifle approached us. He looked like the epitome of a mountain man hermit.
This was Dick Moll, the sole resident of Gilmore. A few years later, he and his brother Bob produced a history of Gilmore, entitled A History of Gilmore Past and Present. Here is Dick’s description of that day:
A short time later that summer, on Monday, July 16, 1990 to be exact, Dick returned to Gilmore from his water master duties as usual. However, on that day when he turned onto the road into Gilmore he was confronted by an unbelievable sight. His town of Gilmore was overrun with campers, trailers, and motor homes. They appeared to be parked about three deep from one end of the town to the other.
As he drove up to the Gilmore Mercantile, the scene was even more unbelievable. Gilmore was crawling with people – there were people everywhere! Well, Dick drove on to his home as quickly as he could and took care of his groceries. Then he started walking back towards town to see what was going on. As he was angling over to Porphyry Avenue (Gilmore’s Main Street), he spotted a lady walking up past the powerhouse ruins and heading his way. So he waited for her to catch up with him, and then he asked her who they all were and where were they from. She explained that they were members of the “Colorado Ghost Town Club” and were touring Idaho Ghost Towns.
They had been walking along as she told him all this, so they were in front of the Pierce House when Dick told her that he lived in Gilmore. Well that lady seemed to come unglued! She startled Dick by yelling as loud as she could for a guy named “John.” Dick was grateful for the relative silence that returned when John appeared on the scene followed by a crowd of club members.
Upon learning that Dick was a current resident of Gilmore, this fellow introduced himself as John Nicholson, the coordinator of the tour. He explained that each summer they spend two weeks visiting ghost towns in the different states throughout the West. John and his club members were surprised and fascinated to meet someone who was actually living in Gilmore. All of the information they had indicated that Gilmore had been completely abandoned for a long time.
Of course, Dick answered many questions. As they walked along, he pointed out some of the buildings and explained a little of the history of Gilmore. John called all of the cub members together for an informal conference in front of the Gilmore Mercantile. It seems that Gilmore was to have been nothing more than a lunch stop before continuing on to Salmon. Salmon was to be their final destination for the day. After their arrival in Salmon the members were to be on their own for the rest of the day.
When John finally managed to get all the club members together (there were about 70 of them), he asked Dick if he would be willing to show them around and tell the group some of the history of Gilmore. Of course Dick said he would be happy to and suggested that it might be most interesting to tour Upper Gilmore. That suggestion really aroused their curiosity because they had never heard of Upper Gilmore.
John told the group that those who wished to continue on to Salmon as scheduled should feel free to do so, but those interested in touring Gilmore with Dick were urged to stay. They would depart for Salmon later in the day – after the tour.
Almost half of them chose to stay, and together with Dick they had a wonderful afternoon. They impressed Dick as a great bunch of people and they were very much interested in learning about Gilmore. They were very pleased with Dick’s tour and the information he provided. As a result of their visit Dick received a Christmas card with a nice note from Sally Alt, who was President of their club at the time of their visit in 1990.
Dick and I exchanged Christmas cards for several years. I’ve had many wonderful days with the Ghost Town Club of Colorado, but July 16, 1990 will always stand out. Dick died at his cabin in Gilmore on July 7, 2002.
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
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.