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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hoyt

 

Down in the river bottom are the remains of a waana be railroad town.  There are some foundations and rubble piles holding the memories of a Mr. Dehoyt. 

The Republican river was a thorough fare across the plains of eastern Colorado.  Here one could find water and wood for the pioneer these were necessary to sustain.  In the 1850’s a freight/stage line was lined across here, going from the Missouri River to the Pikes Peak gold fields.  Stage stations were placed along the route and the freight trains would use these stops also.  Small trading posts would pop up around these stage stops.

The 1880’s the railroad was building across the plains headed for Pikes Peak.  Speculators were crawling all over the land.  Land tents were set up and the were lots to be sold.  Whether they owned the land is another thing.

Young Mr Dehoyt platted out a town of a couple square blocks and called it Hoyt.  He was hoping the railroad would pass through his planned community.  In 1888 the railroad rolled across the land, building north of Hoyt by a few miles.

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Rather then having to climb out of the river bottom, the railroad built on the ridge to the south of Hoyt.  A depot was built and sidings were put in.  The town of Seibert came into existence.  Down in the river bottom the people of Hoyt missed their train. 

So the populace of the wanna be town packed up and moved south to the bustling new burg of Seibert.  Hoyt faded into the dark pages of forgotten villages. 

Seibert became a bustling little town and was was a ghost.  Seibert was a nice country town until the Interstate showed up and isolated the town.  What had been a bustling downtown of shops, stores and businesses is now a collection of vacant buildings and home to a few residents.  The grain elevators still keep the railroad busy otherwise Seibert is becoming a ghost town like Hoyt. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Cheyenne Wells

Near the headwaters of the Smoky Hill River is the wells that the Indians had dug out.  It is also the name  a town to south used, Cheyenne Wells, CO. 

The Indian wells had been hand dug over the years along the banks of the creek.  Looking at the sand creek, one would see no water.  Yet along here there are small springs and if one scoops out some sand, the hole will fill up with water.  Knowing this the Indians would use this for their water source as they roamed over the plains in search of the buffalo. 

Curved back into the bank of the creek the Indians had a nice cool place in the summer to get out of the heat.  Into the side of the stream a small cave had been carved for protection and the water from the springs kept the cave nice and cool.

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Then gold was discovered in the mountains to the west and gold fever was under way.  This watering hole became and important stop on the journey west.  The Smoky Hill Trail marked this as a water stop on the trail map and later it was a stage stop. 

The white man enlarged the cave over the years to the point where a team of horses with wagon could be driven into the cave and be turned.  It had become a cavern.  Even after the railroad went to the south these wells were still used to wagon travelers. 

Some local people said it was to big and could no longer support the span.  There was fear it would collapse.  For years it stood the test of time.  Then in the 1930’s there was a clamor it was unsafe.  A local to it on himself to make it safe. 

He walked into the cave with dynamite.  Walked back out and watched a cloud of dust belch out from the cave the Indians had begun centuries earlier.

Today it is a desolate spot on the prairie.  The springs ooze out of the ground only to disappear into the sand.  Near by is a pump, not for water, rather black gold.  What had been an important oasis, is now forgotten empty spaces.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ghosts of Towner, CO

 

Towner is almost in the state of Kansas.  On a nice day one can look east and see the grain elevators od their neighbors in Kansas.  That is about all that’s left in Towner is a couple of grain elevator operations.  Population is now less then 25.  The businesses are gone, shuttered and overgrown.  The few homes there are nice and one can see some activity there. 

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Towner probably has one of the saddest stories a person could read about.  March of 1931 a nasty spring blizzard swept across the plains with nasty fury.  That morning dawned nice and warm, 60 plus degrees.  School children were picked up by the bus and off to school they went.  By the time they got to school the radio was reporting on the ugly blizzard headed their way. 

Children were put back on the bus to go home at 9 in the morning.  Having gone a short distance down the road the blizzard hit.  It was blinding and the driver could not see the hood of his bus.  There

was no heat and the windshield was frosted over.  Taking a turn to go to a neighbors house a short distance away the drive got lost and drove in circles becoming stuck in the heavy snow. 

For a day and a half the blizzard raged.  The children and driver were trapped in the bus, no heat, no food, no water.  The ending was not happy.

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Today there is no longer a school, it has consolidated with neighboring Sheridan Lake.  It is now a town of mostly empty streets, old machinery and a few dwindling houses. 

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Located on a state highway, there is not much traffic that flies past on the blacktop.  Being a state road rather then a US highway, not many changes have been made to the right of way.  The highway and the railroad parrallell each other for the most part and the bend and wind across the plains. 

Here one can step back in time and see what it was like to drive on a highway in the early 1900’s.  When the railroad pushed through in the late 1800’s a wagon road followed the iron rails.  Not much has changed.  Today it is a nice paved highway slicing over the grasslands. 

Most of the towns on SH 96 could be considered ghost towns and few there is nothing left but empty shacks.  Even western Kansas has its share of forsaken burgs.

Here there is a look back at another time when dreams of a new life were flocking to get their own piece of land. 

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When something is neglected, Mother Nature steps up to reclaim her land.  Weeds sprout and things collapse.  Even the railroad is seldom used and buried in among the weeds.  Time has stopped along here. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Country Store

 

The little town of Woodrow hangs on with a tenuous thread.  The Post Office is still there, a part of the General Store, a church and a couple of homes.  Years ago Woodrow was a thriving farm community of a couple hundred people.  Like so many things, people went in search of and moved away.  There were enough left to keep the Post Office going, which helped the little store stay open. 

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Being on a busy local state highway has helped some.  There is a coffee shop and lots of travelers will pause for a cup of java.  Here time has paused.  One can see a small pioneer community in operation.  People stop in for a visit, check the mail, coffee and……..  Very few things have changed.  The gas pumps are gone and the rest of town is a memory. 

The building was built at the turn of the last century and appears to be well taken care of.

Woodrow, Co where time stands still.  The cowboy saunters in, the farmer pauses and the shop keeper says hi. 

How much life is left in the little burg?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Old Cemetery

 

To the north of town is an old cemetery, out in the pasture.  There is no roadway or path to it, one has to walk across the pasture to get there.  One day finally arrived and I put on my boots and strolled out to have a look see.  It is not a well organized layout.  More of a collection of plots scattered here and there with some single graves.  There are probably a bunch that had wooden crosses or were unmarked.  There was one wooden cross laying in the grass and there were some markers that had crumbled in the land. 

I found a local that had grown up in the area and asked him some questions about it.  There were some fenced off areas with mixed stones in them and one was some distance from the others.  He said they probably died from anthrax is why they were buried over there. 

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That gave some pause to stop and think.  Anthrax is common in the area but with today’s medicine it is not the life threatening plague like it was a couple of centuries ago. 

He went to say there were some pastures in the area that if cattle were grazed on them they had to be vaccinated for anthrax.  There are also other grave sites around where they buried people that perished from the fungus. 

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It was not unusual years ago to bury people that had a plague type of disease in separate area.  Sometimes the people were cremated, the fear was so great.  Smallpox, measles and influenza were some of the nastiest killers that swept over the pioneers that settled on the prairie. 

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There was a doctor that died from smallpox.  He is buried  way over in another area west of town with a woman.  Such were the fears of people that they would be contaminated. 

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It was fascinating to walk through the grave yard and wonder what happened.  Then hear the story and read other stories, things kind of make sense. 

Most of the head stones were in the 1880’s and the unmarked ones, probably earlier. 

The town has another cemetery to the west about two miles.  It sits on a ridge, make a good boot hill.  Across the road is the Catholic cemetery. 

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It is in the old cemetery where one can find the struggles of the town to survive in the early days.

How many perished from lead poisoning is not mentioned.  Yet I’m sure a few of the forgotten spots were from altercations at the saloon.  There were train robberies, Indian conflicts, range disputes and a mixture of frontier people.  Two different stage routes passed through, the Smoky Hill Trail was nearby and there are Indian camps by the springs in the area. 

The cemetery is rough looking yet the life these people lived was rough and tumble.  To survive in the 1870’s and 80’s was a feat in itself. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Genoa, CO

 

While back I posted a story on the Wonder Tower.  It is also known as the Genoa Tower, for the nearby town. 

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Genoa was a town built by the railroad in the 1880’s.  It grew with the railroad and the homesteaders.  It had numerous stores, shops, dealers, gas stations, banks, etc.  Today, those buildings are empty or been torn down.  The ghosts of yesteryear now reside in the storefronts.

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Because of the ridge it sits on it has been surrounded by wind turbines.  The lone business, is now overshadowed by the towering wind collectors.  The farmers grain elevator is still the land mark and can be seen for miles distance. 

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The Interstate passed by isolating the town, no exits at the few businesses left.  Soon they were abandoned.  Less then a 100 feet from the highway the gas pumps rust away.  The coffee shop tables collect dust, growing cobwebs.  By the pen stroke of bureaucrat, a once thriving community becomes a dusty ghost town. 

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The little burg is now not much more then a bedroom town.  There are some town services, water, trash and streets.  Otherwise is is quiet, well maybe the dog barking at the stranger taking pictures and the curtain being drawn and eyes peering out. 

Stretched along the railroad route are numerous other little towns like this.  Once prosperous, now they tenaciously cling to a thread of hope. 

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On far horizon is a small thunder head and the farmers hope of rain.  A semi-arid, parched land where it is a struggle to survive.  Few people take the challenge and live in what many would call a hostile land.  Yet here they have a tranquility the city will never know. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Arlington

 

Number of years ago, I had been writing for a monthly paper/magazine in Denver.  On occasion I would write about some of the small towns on the plains, most had become ghost towns.  A reader wrote in to me saying I should write about her little town of Arlington.  Sure a I figured, it should be no problem.

I look up where Arlington is.  As the crow flies, a couple hours over that a way.  As the road goes, just over three hours.  I had been through there a few months earlier for a meeting.  On the way home I drove right through the place, at 0 dark thirty.  Only saw the lights of the ranch home there.  Otherwise passed it in a blink.

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It was one of those things I did not do right away because of where it was.  I put it in the mind back and figured some day I would go down through there again.  Well, that day arrived a few weeks ago.  There was talk that a scrapper was down there getting ready to pull the rails up.  I wanted some pictures and a story.  So off I went.

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When I got down there, there wasn’t any work going on the tracks but the once little town of Arlington awaited. 

I had also heard that there were some local people that wanted to but the church and fix it up and maybe restore it. 

There was a small roadside park that greeted me, nice tall shade trees and across the road was the ranch house.  Looked like ther may have been and emporium there at one time for passing travelers.  It is a busy road, about one car every 10 minutes. 

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Over on the NE corner of town stood the old church, barley hanging on.  I could see why the owner didn’t to sell.  It looked like a junkyard and Junkers want big dollars for their junk and have a hard time selling. 

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Things like this get maddening for some, they want to fix it up yet it is the owners storage for his junk.  I have seen it many other little towns. 

There are about 6 square blocks of the town and a couple of other shacks are standing and there is one home still in the village.

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This little house shows why so many left the plains, the Dirty 30’s.  Blow dirt piled up along the fence line.  Crops were destroyed by the dust, livestock died and it was a struggle to survive.  Many a settler packed up back then and left.  The dust Bowl created a terrible time for many and there is not much left from that era. 

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Around the town are various rubble piles, foundations, cellars and steps leading into nothing. 

The drought comes around now but the dust is mild compared to the 30’s.  People go about their business but the little burgs like Arlington are settling in the forgotten history pages.

Pause on a street corner, listen to the song of the prairie moan over the land.  Here there were dreams.  Owning their own land.  Starting a new life.  The lullaby reached to the clouds, many a person followed their dream to watch it disappear.

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Tenaciously a few cling to the land.  Living the dream, now their company is the ghosts of the past.