St. Elmo Colorado – A True Old West Ghost Town – Abandoned America

Updated : Sep 03, 2019 in Articles

St. Elmo Colorado – A True Old West Ghost Town – Abandoned America

(Intro Music) (Thunder Clap) Derelict Doug
“We’re not about to hit by lighting.” Narrator – “Doctor
and California 49er Abner Ellis Wright was the first prospector to set his sights on
what later became St. Elmo. Has legend has it Wright was attacked by a
bear during his journies out west. The doctor brought the animal to the ground
with his knife, only to have his ear shot off by his companions; who here clearly not
skilled with a hunting rifle. In 1871, with knowledge of California’s gold
fates; Dr. Wright stumbled upon this stunning location nestled 1,000 feet below Timberline
in Colorado’s south south-central mountains. St. Elmo is located in the upper Arkansas
River valley in Chaffee county today. On the slopes of Mt. Princeton. When the town was originally established in
1880, it was named Forest City because there was so many trees around here; but, unfortunately,
California also had a town by the name of Forest City. The postal system requested that the name
be changed & local lore is that someone was reading the book by Augusta Evans, called
St. Elmo and town was renamed. Almost all the buildings you see in St. Elmo
are actually just two layers of 1” boards nailed together. If they’re really ambitious they put newspaper
between the boards, that was the insolation. And that actually held up the entire building;
which given the fact there be 6-7 feet of snow in the winter is quite amazing. They had wood stoves, so when you cranked
up your fire, it was either hot or cold and it didn’t really matter the insolation at
the end of the day. Primary ways to get up here before rail service
came through was by foot or by horseback or on the stage. It was a bumpy long ride from Buena Vista. When you got off the stage you could come
and have a wonderful meal somewhere and find lodging and stay inside. At one time Chaffee County St. Elmo was a
bustling and thriving railroad town and mining settlement. With a population of over 1,500; the town
served as a supply stop and a hub for shipping ore from one of the area’s mines to the closest
smelter. But, life was not easy at nearly 10,000 feet. the community of St. Elmo faced miserable
winters.With never-ending snow storms and unreliable discoveries from the many surrounding
mines. Mining boom towns are so fascinating; because
they are these little islands of urban life in the middle of a wilderness. To even provide the infrastructure to allow
communities like St. Elmo to persist, it takes extraordinary effort. There was interest in haul truck mining her
in the 1870s. One of the most prolific mines here was the
Mary Murphy; which was actually found in 1873, but it wasn’t until 1880 that the town was
actually plotted has a town site. During the 1880s through early 1890s there
were a significant amount of people here, searching for gold to supply goods to the
minors, but the key element in St. Elmo was the decision by the Denver South Park & Pacific
to run their railroad line through this canyon and through the Alpine Tunnel. Before the railroad arrived; you brought in
all of your supplies on the backs of mules. they couldn’t grow things in St. Elmo, so
all of their food was imported, all of their oars had to be exported to smelters–the arrival
of the railroad provided some stability. A lot of railroad workers lived in St. Elmo,
that provided a core of stability. St. Elmo quickly usurped Alpine in population,
in business, and many of the people in Alpine moved their business here. Railroading was a tremendous boom for the
community; because you could get all sorts of goods via the railroad. It also offered an easy way for some mines
to send their processed ore to smelters. Life was a constant struggle; particularly
because, despite any of the amenities that they had, the gold miners still had to struggle
with very remote locations of the mines, the remote locations of their towns, harsh winters,
dry summers, & forest fires. Fortunately, it was short-lived; the Alpine
tunnel was abandoned in the 19-teens, so it has a very short life span. with the demise
of railroad service to the western slope; it was just not as profitable for the railroads
to continue this line. When the railroad wanted to close down; the
citizens put up a good fight to keep it, and they lost. In the mid-1920s the railroad was abandoned,
which sealed the fate for St. Elmo. So, it’s really unique among ghost towns and
mining towns in Colorado, in that all the buildings that we see date within a 10 year
period and that whats [St. Elmo] unique amongst ghost towns in the western United States. (Resident interview) “We knew Les and Norma
Jones, my dad did. The caretakers of the store & so we got to
go in and the shelves were still stocked with the unsold goods that they had in there for
years. There were high button overshoes in the display
case, there was money in the cash register: it was a step back in time. Also, my dad had a brand new metal detector
& at some point, there was a rumor that had heard or something that Tony Stark who
was Annabel’s brother had buried coins, cans of coins behind the store. So, we spent a lot of time with the metal
detector behind the store, we dung up tin cans and bottle caps; but, the dump was as
it from the turn of the century. So, t had the old whiskey bottles, it had
old cans, it had just the remnants of the hotel’s guests, all that stuff pitched out
in the back, mostly what we found. You may not know that Colorado was a gold
or a silver state; that California was the gold state. For a long, long time; there was a discussion
in Washington D.C. about how the United States currency should be based, whither it should
be based on gold or silver; so, finally gold won out. The price of silver was artificially supported
during the time of that discussion; then when gold won out–by won out, there was a vote
in the Congress and they said, gold. Overnight, the price of silver collapsed,
people, started leaving the Rocky Mountains. They couldn’t get out of here fast enough;
because it was not worth it to haul the silver out of the ground. Fortunately, for St. Elmo there was a bread
and butter line here, it was called the Marry Murphy mine & the Marry Murphy had a significant
gold content. So St. Elmo limped along for another, well
I guess it was for a little over 30 years. And then finally the railroad that served
the Marry Murphy Mine decided that wasn’t worth doing anymore. They pulled up their tracks and after 1927,
I think it was; St. Elmo just dried up. Except for a couple of inhabitants. They hung on for dear life. I am kind of an amateur historian & what really
does intrigue me is the network trials and wagon roads all over this area. if you spent any time out in the woods at
all; you inevitably you’re going to run across one of these trails. There is one trail up there that connected
the top of Marry Murphy Mountain to St. Elmo because for 5 years before the railroad ended
up coming through town, they still needed to get oar off the mountain. They did that in ore wagons. One by one, they trundled down the mountain. Let’s see the top of Marry Murphy is probably
12,300 or 12,400 and St. Elmo is 10,000; so they just wound down the mountain with wagonsful
of ore. They came through town, I suppose and headed
to market where ever that was.” The town of St. Elmo has wonderful lost in
time feel. Many people have worked very hard to restore
the town to its original quality as much as possible. Most ghost towns that you come across are
either just locations on a map, with very little remaining of the original town, or
town is so badly deteriorated that you can’t really get a sense of what it was like & St.
Elmo, well not technically a ghost town, with a population of 3 now; paints a good picture
of what life would have been for the silver miners, during the Colorado Silver boom 130
years ago. It’s an amazing place to visit; a little research
goes a long way towards making the visit much more satisfying, if you know a little bit
of the background, about the people and the mining that went on here. (Interviewee) “I was 12 years old and I still
have vivid very fond memories of St. Elmo. We stayed in a cabin on the other side of
the river from the store & out in back of the cabin was a dump which all the old miners
discards still in it. I still have vivid memories of what it was
like here as a 12-year-old because I was so impressed with it. Mainstreet had a couple of devastating fires
that ruined, that took down a few of the buildings, the Stark family home was burned. We’ve tripled our population in the last 30
years, we’ve gone from one to three.” (Thunder Clap) Doug – “Alright guys, that
thunder is my cue; I’m out of here. Here comes my ride. Not about he get hit by lightning. Thanks for joining us in St. Elmo’s today.”


  • WOW!!! What an amazing step back in time!! I LOVE this!!! What a fun and interesting trip this mustโ€™ve been for you guys! Your videos are reminding me just how much I like learning about history! Superb video….superb editing! Onward and upward! ๐Ÿ˜Š Oh, and I just love your familyโ€™s dog also!! Beautiful. โœŒ๏ธ

  • MANNNN, your so good now!!!! And you wanted to race me to like 1000 subs and we were at like 800 subs it! Ummmm, you blitzed that!!! About to email you brother! Loved your editing and all mate! Well done!!

  • I canโ€™t be the only person that saw the boy in the 2nd floor window
    White trim on his hat & his collar, going down his right shoulder………

  • This place is right up my alley. Like how you have all the history narration over it. Such cool stuff

  • You certainly caught a strange image their buddy at 12.40. Somethings just have no explanation. Great upload. All the best from Ackworth, West Yorks, England, Gr.Britain

  • Thank you for the amazing video of St Elmos. I cannot wait to visit this place. What a beautiful place to take pictures of.

  • New to channel. Sweet old ghost town. I think i found me a good place to live. Great video. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜Š

  • In the dark of night, that would be a scarey place. Did see the person in the upper window so there is someone there overseeing?? Hold that camera steady….easy for me to say…….loved the vlog….thanks so much. Another place only YOU have taken me to….

  • There is another upload of this place with strange figures in the 2nd story window, I'll try find link, however the "figure" first appears to be a female, in old clothing, reading a book, but as the camera pans it looks like a strange white "thing" moving quickly to the right, (as you watch it, hence "your" right) …

  • What a lovely, calming video to watch !!!!!
    A small derelict town in a world with some many folks with derelict lives !!!,,,,,,,, ME INCLUDED !!

  • I started going to Colorado with my parents when I was 12 years old in 1965. We had relatives in Englewood who would take us to the mountains to visit ghost towns and towns that were destined to become ghost towns. In the mid-60s there were mines still being worked and the ghost towns mostly still had a lot of buildings standing. I started going up in the mountains alone when I turned 18 with every book I could find on the mining camps and ghost towns but somehow I never visited St. Elmo though I was familiar with it from the books. Over the years I returned I watched the buildings in the towns slowly start to lean and finally fall to the ground, a depressing sight. I abused a 2 wheel drive Ford Ranger pickup taking it on roads marked 'Four-wheel drive only' and never once got stuck. When I finally bought a four-wheel-drive I became a real hazard and there was nowhere I couldn't go, or at least try. Some of the books I have were written in the late '40s to mid-'50s and while the maps of how to reach a certain town were accurate their description of the towns was not at all what they were in reality. When those books were authored many, many towns had only been abandoned since just before the war so they were very much intact. The U.S. government made the precious metals mines close in 1941 since they said they didn't benefit the war effort. This caused mines that were not paying that well to close permanently instantly creating those ghost towns. One of the best books I have is Colorado Ghost Towns by Brown, 1971. It lead me to more ghost towns than I can remember. It's where I read about St. Elmo but again, I don't know why I never visited there and after seeing your video I really regret it. I don't know if I'll get back up there but your video has caused me to put it on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing that.

  • Well, I have heard of St. Elmoโ€™s fire, a static charge on planes and ships that shows up as a blue glow. Obviously not related. ๐ŸŒŒโšก๏ธโšก๏ธ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘. Wow, to leave money in the cash register they had to have got out of there fast. Were they being chased??? ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

  • I visited St Elmo in the early 2000s. There were people there, and the store was open. They charged 9.00 for a roll of film because, hey . . . Where else are you going to go?

    I remember, my old Grand Wagoneer stalled 3 or 4 times as I made a u-turn and left town. After the last time, I just put her in neutral, and coasted down out of town. She started back up somewhere about 8000 feet.

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