Mystery Photos & Memories

Mystery Photos

Recognize the location of the photo below?

Take a close look and email us your guess. HINT: This homestead was visited on a recent GTC field trip.

We’ll also ask for your ideas at the upcoming meeting. Who knows – you may even earn a prize for guessing correctly!

Mystery Photo Dinosaur NM that Lee just sent - put a hint, “GTC recently visited here on a field trip

Got a photo you’d like to share? Email it to us!


Did you know?

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.”


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.

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

Spring Break by John Dillavou

In 1972 I was assistant director of Parks Planning in Denver, the head landscape architect; and it was often part of my job to discuss our system with department visitors. That February, two recent college graduates stopped in from Arizona. While meeting with them, I mentioned that my family would be taking a spring vacation to Tucson and Phoenix. I happened to have an Arizona state road map and asked whether a picture was Ruby or Bee Hive. One of them said it was not Ruby because his Dad owned Ruby! After picking myself up from the shock, I asked if it would be possible to see the town site. He gave me his Dad’s address and phone number in Tucson and said to call him when we got there.

A month later at spring break we got our motel room and I called Phelps Dodge, the owner of the Bisbee copper mine. Whenever we had been down in the area most facilities were closed, so this time I set a visit for the next day. Then I called the Dad. The day after the Bisbee trip we would go to Ruby.

At Bisbee, Phelps Dodge gave my sons copper ore specimens and gave us a three-hour tour of the complex–one of the best. I called the Dad back that night and he would pick me up in the morning (wife Barb and my two sons wanted to stay at the motel pool). We drove south on the back road as we went through an Indian reservation and to see many things along the way. He had made lunches for the two of us, and even picked fresh oranges off a tree in his yard to have later on.

On the way down he commented that his son had said whatever this man wants to see, show him; and that of all the places they visited on their trip to Colorado, I was the only one that had showed them respect and had spent time with them. I told him that was my job and you do not treat visitors unkindly–it comes back to bite you eventually!

When we arrived at the town site, he unlocked the gate and we went in. I spent three hours with him going through buildings and shooting about six rolls of Kodachrome 64 slide film. The schoolhouse had desks with books, writing on the blackboards and erasers, chalk and other school items in place. The same went for the houses and mine buildings. This was the kind of ghost town experience one only dreams of.

Back then I noticed that his car was equipped with ham radio equipment (before CCB’s) and he asked if I would like to call my office.  He patched me through and the secretary said “Where are you?”.  I said on I-19 between Nogales and Tucson, Arizona.  I don’t think she believed me.

This Article was written by Rich Dais (esteemed club member and sorely missed) in 1998 for our “40th Anniversary Memories” Booklet

One of the drawbacks to ghost towning is the sad fact that due to weather, vandalism and general decay, ghost towns throughout the West are slowly disappearing. In the 1960’s and 70’s the Forest Service tore down or burned many historic structures under the guise of returning the land to its wilderness state. In addition, in recent years more people are moving into even the most remote corners of the high country, building homes or “fixing up” structures in long abandoned towns. In Capitol City, someone has built a rather substantial home on the site of the Lee Mansion. Baldwin, although still holding on, is now lost in a subdivision of 35 acre luxury “ranchettes”. Rosita is hardly recognizable; Nevadaville and Irwin are rapidly filling up with homes, and the entire townsite of Carson is for sale for a mere two million bucks.

As early as 1971, the Ghost Town Club began formulating ideas for preserving our vanishing resource. In July of that year, a preservation seminar was held and a workshop was held in March, 1974. In 1975 John Dillavou became our first Preservation Chairperson and he continues to champion the cause today. A Preservation Fund was started in the late 1970’s and a monthly book drawing was established as a fund raiser. In 1982 the first of several auctions was held to benefit Preservation. Each year contributions are made from the Fund to various nonprofit organizations, usually for specific projects such as stabilization of historic structures, painting or roofing.

In August 1983 the Club began its own grass-roots preservation effort with the first of many workdays at historic sites throughout Colorado. Our first project, in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society, was the restoration of a cabin at Independence for the use of a “ghost” or summer caretaker. The historic log cabin was shored up and a new roof and floor were installed by Club volunteers. By the end of the day, the “ghost” could be found resting inside his new digs after a hard day of watching the rest of us work!

The following October a group of volunteers got an “up close and personal” look at Black Hawk’s famed Lace House while painting its ornate gingerbread exterior. And in August of 1987, Club members spent a three day weekend putting a new roof on the Duncan House at Animas Forks. The next year, on a Labor Day weekend field trip to Marble, the Club took a day off from sightseeing to paint the old schoolhouse, now a museum, as well to clear the brush and debris from the site of the Marble finishing plant. In May 1990, we gathered at the Moore House in Central City, a former brothel, to scrape off layers of wallpaper inside, paint portions of the exterior and plant flowers.

The Club’s most ambitious effort so far has been the restoration of the firehouse at Eureka, northeast of Silverton. Volunteers spent a full week in the area in 1993 and again in 1995, putting on a new roof and replacing the siding which had been removed years before by vandals. This past summer a group assembled at the Denver Public Schools Outdoor Education Center near Jamestown to work on the assay office at one of the historic mines on the property.

A Ghost Town Club is Born by Ron Ruhoff

My interests in Colorado mining and ghost towns probably began with my wanderings around Central City in the 1950’s. My father was a musician in the Denver Symphony and also had joined the Central City Opera orchestra at that time. During my junior high years at Byers School in Denver, I used to go up there with him before I was old enough to drive. I was fascinated as I walked around Central City and Black Hawk and saw so many abandoned buildings, mine structures, and the “glory hole” atop Quartz Hill.

In 1957, the year I graduated from South High, I got my first car: A 1942 military jeep. My friends and I had a grand time that year exploring the back roads around Central City and Idaho Springs. The ghost town of Lamartine was one of my first discoveries. Back then, there were several cabins and a stamp mill still standing. I was also having fun shooting all these things with slide film and a 35mm camera. Those good old Kodachromes have never faded.

Later in 1957, a friend joined me for a Jeep trip to the San Juan Mountains near Ouray, Lake City, and Silverton. We traveled over Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass, and visited such places as Yankee Boy Basin, Capitol City, Carson, and Mineral Point. I was off and running on a quest for Colorado ghost towns.

At this same time, I often attended lectures given by the Colorado State Historical Society in the basement of Denver’s First Baptist Church on 14th and Grant in Denver. At one such lecture in January 1958, a man named John Farr got up to make an announcement before the main speaker began: “All of you who might be interested in forming a ghost town club, please stay after the meeting.” There were some one hundred people there for the program that night and, when the lecture concluded, every single one stayed.

All thought a ghost town club was a great idea, and much discussion proceeded regarding what such a club would do. Some thought railroads, toll roads, or old passes should be included, but it finally was agreed that those other subjects would naturally follow the ghost town theme. Some also thought the club would run out of places to visit in a short time; certainly no one dreamed it would last 60 years and still be going strong.
Agnes Wright Spring, the Colorado State Historian at the time, had suggested to John that he bring up the idea of a ghost town club that evening. Upon seeing the interest it generated she wrote an article for the Rocky Mountain News and gave a date for the first meeting: March 3, 1958. The location would be the same church basement room used by the Historical Society.

The program for the first meeting of the Ghost Town Club of Colorado was presented by Robert L. Brown and featured two of his 8mm movies with music and narration: “San Juan Holiday” and “Jeep Trail to Timberline.” The remainder of the time was spent electing officers and planning future meetings. Dr. Gerald Coon was the first president; Jack Morison, a Denver schoolteacher, would be vice president and program chairman; and Gary Balliet was the first treasurer. We all paid our dues of $1.00 that night and the GTC was off and running.

John Farr never joined the club he had proposed, nor was he present at any of the meetings. Soon after he got the ball rolling with his announcement at the Historical Society meeting, the insurance company for which he worked moved him off to jobs in Montana and the Dakotas, and he never had the chance to participate in the club. He later relocated to Encampment, Wyoming, where he resides today and remains very involved with their historical old-town museum.

Over the many years of Ghost Town Club fellowship, lectures, and field trips, I have found that this organization has probably had the greatest influence on my life of anything I have done. Many other members have expressed similar feelings. The Ghost Town Club has proven to be a grand adventure over these many years and a heartfelt thanks goes out to John Farr for getting it all started.

A Ghost Town Club Picnic by Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith took the time to share the following memory. As its subject is very appropriate to this month’s picnic outing, to the importance of the club in our lives, and to the point of my (Ethan’s) letter this month, I present it here with her permission.

It was June 27th, 1981, our 22nd wedding anniversary. We decided to celebrate it on the GTC trip to Dyersville.

We took along a bottle of champagne to toast with the club, carefully guarding it in the car all the way up. I went up the road with my sketchbook to get some drawing done.

The club assembled in front of one of the cabins and Bob was telling them we were going to celebrate our anniversary. But I was not there. So they yelled at me (Bob yelled, too) to come down.

But Nancy had her nose in her art book, and loving the falling-down town of Dyersville.

More yelling… Nancy.

Pretty soon Bob came up and “escorted” me back to the rest of the group. Well, they finally got the bottle of champagne opened and the cork flew clear across the road to the other hill. And…at that altitude it bubbled over, but we got enough to toast each other.

Afterwards someone said they got THE PHOTO of the exact moment of Bob holding the bottle and us kissing. That framed picture still hangs happily in our den room thirty-seven years later.