News & Stories

LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

August 2022

Ghost towners,

Its August, and we are in the prime of Ghost Towning season … and boy are we taking advantage of it! Lots of great trips happening, and lots of great partnerships on the horizon.

The trip to the Salida area was fantastic, and superbly lead by two of our newer members, Bonnie Konopka and Gaylene Stevens. They did a fantastic job, and took us on a whirlwind tour of the Salida area … there we even attended school at Salida’s ghostly neighbor, Mayfield. What a blast! It was also nice to meet and spend time with some of our newest members in that part of the state. As a matter of fact, there are quite a number of GTC members in and around Salida now!  Overall great work on the trip and great work on recruiting passionate folks to our fold.  I can’t wait to attend the next trip that gang pulls together, and I know there are lots of ghost towns to explore around Salida and the districts around it.

On my plate this month, I’ve been working quite a bit with trip planning, scouting places and helping members get their trips up and running. Ashley Doty and I are collaborating on an exciting trip to the Pitkin and Tin Cup area, where we will explore some really great known ghosts and a few uncharted ones too! Also currently on the boards is a 4×4 trip to Swandyke. There also is a trip to Kingston, And I’ve heard lots of ideas bubbling up about potential GTC Bonus trips ( I think a cemetery crawl is cooking for in the fall) and of course the trip I’ve hinted at several times over the last several months…. the Unholy hike to Holy Cross City. As these trips and others solidify, dates and itineraries will be announced in meetings and posted on the website. Remember to check the website! If you have a trip you would like to see done, please reach out to your friendly Vice Presidents Jason Messing and Dennis Kristensen. They will get a date on the books, and get you the help you need to make your trip a success!

JGR

As of the writing I’m helping to prepare for our Annual Picnic. I can’t wait. We have such creative and excited members helping to make these kinds of things happen for us. This picnic is sure to be the event of the year! Great work gang.  Along those lines, I’m also excited about our newest effort (that I hope many of you will take advantage of) called “The Packtrain”. This is an effort coordinated by Gary Wallden to make accessing Ghost Town Club trips and events even easier. The idea is really a carpool, where depending on the location of the trip, the Packtrain will meet at different places. Seems like fun and gosh, why not take advantage of this asset with gas prices what they are today?!

Anyways, lots of places to get involved in the Club, if you want to do something here, lets make it happen.

The ghosts of the old west are calling, let’s get moving! Lots of trips, lots of events, lot of things going on … get involved, invite a friend, and spread the word about GTC!!~

Josh Robinson, 2022 President


THE FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF COLORADO’S GHOST TOWNS

April 4, 2022

Several members of the Ghost Town Club of Colorado were recently interviewed by journalist Rylee Dunn of the Colorado Community Media Group, in association with the Arvada Press.  Her informative story can be found here:

The Forgotten History of Colorado’s Ghost Towns


From Colorado Public Radio, Colorado Matters by Shanna Lewis with CPR’s Ryan Warner

October 2018 – There Are 700 Ghost Towns In Colorado, And Ron Ruhoff Has Visited Many Of Them

Listen now


John Quincy Adams Rollins

Recently through the website email, the Ghost Town Club of Colorado received an inquiry asking if anyone could provide information on John Quincy Adams Rollins. The inquiring person turned out to be a distant relative and came across a reference to Colorado. Lee Dahl, who responds to inquiries from the website, immediately forwarded the request to Ed Bathke. Not only was Ed familiar with J.Q.A. Rollins, he provided lots of information and even copied a six page article and sent it to the inquirer.


151st Anniversary of the Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad

In May of 2019 we were celebrating the 150th anniversary of joining of the rails of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads with the laying of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, Utah. In honor of that occasion, please enjoy the following “Railroad Story”.

I was enjoying a tour through Nevada with a group of other tour operators on what they call a FAM Tour. That is an inexpensive tour that states or towns give us so we will become familiar with whatever their location has to offer for tour groups, hoping we will book a tour group there and return.

We had a great time exploring some of the interesting things to see and do in Nevada and eventually we arrived in Ely, the county seat for White Pine County.

One of the activities we participated in was to fill lunch bags for elementary school students who otherwise would not have food to eat over the weekend because the school lunch program is not available on weekends. Teachers were noticing that some students would come to school on Monday morning and have no energy and could not concentrate on school subjects until after lunch. They finally realized the children needed nourishment.

Who knew that some children would go all weekend and not have enough food? Some were from a one parent family who would work on weekends or parents that were so poor they couldn’t afford food. It was a disparaging thought.

The next day however things were much more up-beat and fun. I got to do something most people only dream about as children. I got to “Be the Engineer” on the Nevada Northern Railway. It was the opportunity to be at the throttle and operate a REAL RAILROAD LOCOMOTIVE. Not just a diesel locomotive but a STEAM LOCOMOTIVE too. Oh my God! It is probably the most fun you can have with your pants on…And maybe even with your pants off!

This is not something that you can just wake up and think you want to do. You do need to meet certain requirements like be over 21 years old and have a driver’s license. You also have to be able to climb in and out of the cab and, the hard part, read and understand the safety manual and pass a written exam.

Having passed all of the requirements (it’s not as hard as you might think), I was ready for this great adventure. The diesel locomotive was first. That was a good thing because it is much less complicated than the steam locomotive.

We had a training session inside the cab of the locomotive to learn all of the controls, switches, bells and whistles before we even left the railyard. On the way out to the main line I got to watch as the “real” engineer took the locomotive out of the yard and through several switches before getting on to the main line.

Then the real fun began. It was my turn at the throttle. I sat down in the Engineer Seat and the real engineer went over all of the controls once again to make sure I understood what I needed to do.

How exciting! My turn had finally come! Even with all of the training and explanations of the controls, I was still nervous. And the thoughts went through my head, “What do I do first”. “I hope I do this right”. “If I screw up will he kick me out of the locomotive”?

Well, after a rather jerky start, things started to smooth out and soon I felt like I was Casey Jones at the throttle! TOOT TOOT!!!!

Just when you think you know it all and you are invincible, something will knock you down and put you back in your place. It was time to get in the cab of the Steam Locomotive!

What in the heck are all of those valves and gauges? I have no idea what they do or what they mean? Even after an extensive explanation, I still had no idea. The Engineer said not to worry. He would take care of all of those. I didn’t even have to worry about shoveling coal. He had a guy to do that. So again I sat down in the Engineer Seat and panic struck again, and once again. after a jerky start, things started to smooth out. This time though, I had no thoughts of feeling like Casey Jones. I still don’t know what most of those valves and gauges are. But I do know that the experience is something I will never forget.

And, the most fun of the whole experience is blowing the whistle and making traffic stop when you go through a railroad crossing. What a feeling of POWER!

~ Lee “Casey Jones” Dahl, 2022 Website


A Ghost Town Club is Born

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.

~ Ron Ruhoff, 2017 Vice President


Why did that bottle turn purple?

(First published in the Ghost Town Club Gazette in September, 1963)

Jerry Coon (GTC’s first President) and I were camped at Monument Valley in Arizona this spring and had gotten up before sunrise to try for a neat picture of the Mitten Buttes and rising sun. Another man and his wife had the same idea, so we struck up a conversation near our readied tripods. They had just hiked the Grand Canyon a few days earlier, as did we. His name was Dr. John Sheldon, a scientist with the Corning Glass Works of New York. He explained that he was doing research on making an optical glass that automatically turns dark when exposed to sunlight in order to design eyeglasses that would also serve as sunglasses as needed. Today we know this as “photo-grey”, “transition”, etc.

I asked him if he could explain why old bottles, which Ghost Town Club people loved to collect, turned purple. “Of Course,” he said, “It’s called solarization. Back in the 1800’s, glass makers came on a popular formula of manganese and iron additives to make a sparkly clear glass. Manganese dioxide, or pyrolucite, has a faint purple color and was added to glass to offset the yellow-greenish cast of the iron compounds. Little did they know, until time passed by, that the ultra-violet rays from the sun would solarize the glass due to electron transfer in the manganese and iron, which have multiple valences. The energy of the absorbed radiation removes an ion from the divalent manganese which is then trapped by a ferric ion. The reaction is written:
Mn(2) + Fe(3) +hv=Mn(3) +Fe(2) and the glass turns purple.”

Dr. Sheldon mailed me this information after he returned to New York. In the 20th century glass makers learned new formulas to make clear glass that would not solarize. Bottles and other glass items that turned purple led to a grand collector sport and included all kinds of historic bottle searching to look for in old town dumps, under outhouses, etc. around ghost towns. Most of us have been familiar with photo-grey glasses for a long time, but back in 1963, it was still a new idea in the laboratory.

~ Ron Ruhoff, 2017 Vice President


Need Something To Do? Write Your Own History

Ghost Towners love history—right? So how about writing your own personal story! In fear of being laughed at or that no one cares, we tend to remain silent. Put your fears aside and just have fun with this.

1. Tap Into Your Emotions. Your story won’t resonate with others if it is void of emotion. Write some key feelings you associate with your life. Then write something of what was behind the emotion.

2. List Turning Points. People often make the mistake of starting with their early childhood and proceeding chronologically. It’s more helpful to list your life’s key turning points~~when you were at a crossroads and the direction you chose that changed your life.

3. Write Everything Down. It might not seem like much at the time but it’s amazing how one memory leads to another and allows you to go deeper into your story. Jot down the random thoughts that come to you even when you are not at your desk writing. You may or may not use them, but they may still have a purpose.

4. Use The Senses. One thing that will help you explore forgotten memories (is that an oxymoron?) is to recall smells, tastes and sounds. It may help recall details, and will enrich your writing.

5. Find The Theme. Once you have compiled a number of significant scenes, you may see a theme emerging. The ability to continue the theme through the sequence of events you’ve compiled is what will make your individual scenes into one story. You might discover more than one theme and that’s okay. You might think of your themes as chapters in a book or scenes in a play.

6. Tell A Story. You have your theme and a multitude of scenes. You may have gone through a box of tissues laughing or crying as you explore your emotions and memories, but have you told a story? As you pull it together, focus on the reader. How will the story connect with the reader? The best stories are those that connect most with the reader.

7. Explain some things. Remember younger or future audiences may not understand some things you write about such as “dial phones”, clocks with hands, standard transmissions in cars, cursive writing, games such as marbles, jacks, jumping rope, etc.

8. Photos. Don’t forget to put in a few photos of people or places you write about. Visuals help your reader.

9. Rewarding. Telling your story is one of the most rewarding and clarifying things you can do for yourself and for others.

~ Joanie Fields, 2022 Gazette Editor

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