Notes From The Frontier
Ghost Towns: Echoes of the Past
America—especially the West—was known as the Land of Opportunity to millions of immigrants and settlers from the East. “Huddled masses yearning to breathe free” kept going West to find their Shangrila, their Promised Land. For some it meant gold. For others, land. For still others, escaping poverty or prejudice. Some went for mining jobs or timbering or agricultural work or railroad jobs. Some were saloon owners or soiled doves, bankers or brewers, merchants or morticians.
Some towns died as fast as they were born. Some were ravaged by drought or hurricanes or tornadoes or floods. Some were casualties of new routes of railroads. Some were wiped out by epidemics--small pox or cholera. Sometimes the townspeople left so suddenly, dishes were still on the table, beer bottles remained on saloon bars, shelves in the general store still stocked with goods. Some ghost towns have been so well preserved that tourists can step back into the past and feel as if the streets and buildings and rooms are still filled with the sounds and smells and spirits of the past.
There are 3,800 ghost towns in the United States. These skeletons of the past tell haunting stories about America’s past, of booms and busts, of found then lost dreams, of good fortune and disaster.
The states with the most ghost towns are: Texas with 511, followed by California with 346, Kansas with 308, Florida with 257, Oklahoma with 236. California has many ghost towns because many mining towns enjoyed sudden growth with the discovery of gold or silver, and then were abandoned when the claims ran out. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have many ghost towns as a result of the Dust Bowl, the Depression and oil towns gone bust.
Florida has a great number of ghost towns for various reasons: some towns were destroyed by hurricanes and abandoned; some were towns built around the citrus industry when freezes destroyed crops and wiped out the towns. Some towns date back to the 1800s when Native Americans attacked and killed or drove out settlers. And some towns were lumber towns that were either wiped out by fire or exhausted foresting.
The second tier of states with the greatest number of ghost towns are the states of Washington, Wisconsin and Michigan. Most of these towns were logging towns or camps decimated by forest fires or abandoned after the forests were exhausted.
The states with the least ghost towns, probably not surprisingly, are mostly in the Northeast: Rhode Island with one, Connecticut with four, and Maine and Vermont, each with five.
Ghost towns have become popular tourist attractions, especially in the West where many towns and mining camps have been preserved. There's another way you can enjoy a ghost town: buy one! Believe it or not, there are many ghost towns for sale. For a cool $1.8 million, you can get an old cinnabar mining ghost town from the late 1800s in Villa de la Mina, Texas. It includes a jail, horse stables, some cabins, a bandstand and a two-story hotel—all made of stone and handmade bricks.
Or, for $925,000 you can buy a silver mining ghost town in California’s majestic Inyo Mountains. There are 22 structures, including a historic hotel, bunkhouse, saloon, chapel—all preserved in a state of “protected arrested decay.” The town was abandoned in the 1880s after several fires and falling silver prices. In the 1860s and 1870s the bustling, raucous town saw a murder per week and the mortician was constantly busy. But today, the abandoned town is quiet in its desolation and demure dustiness. Only the ghosts stir as the wind blows through broken windows and bullet holes in the buildings. It would be a real steal if you’re not afraid of ghosts...
Here’s a great video about the largest ghost town in America:
You may enjoy these related posts:
-Terrifying Ten: Most Haunted Places in America
-Outhouses, Gems of American Architecture
-The Dark Secrets of Jamestown
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