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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Strolling Ironton, Guston, Yankee Girl, Colorado Boy… A Summer Versus Winter Perspective

With legs and lungs in need of a break from the vertical realities of this part of the Rocky Mountains, Bobbie and I suggested a "strolling exploration" of some old mining ruins and ghost towns up on "Red." 

Ironton was't even on the map back in the early 1880's when the "boom" hit. Silver and lead and gold, oh my. Within three weeks, three hundred buildings went under construction. Boom! In its brief "heyday," Ironton's population peaked at over 1000, and two daily trains made their way up over Red Mountain Pass from Silverton to service the demand. Gold fever, it seemed, was a highly contagious disease, still is to some extent as a few mines around here are beginning to reopen… betting that Govie's massive debt will eventually inflate the "dollar" out of any practical worth.

Ironton's Demand for building and mining supplies was so immediate that shop owners in Silverton and Ouray threw up branch stores, trying to keep pace with the boom and "opportunity." Silly little things like picks and shovels and wheelbarrows will fetch ridiculous prices when demand is lined up out the door. Good old capitalistic economics… "Guns and Butter," baby. Gold fever usually turns into a race, and as with any race, there are few winners and lots of losers.  

Most of Ironton has collapsed under the weight of a century's worth of snow or succumbed to fire. At near 10,000 feet, 8 to 20 feet of the white plague was not uncommon, and fire, well, it loves to consume wooden towns. Understandable, if not understated, it was an obscenely difficult life. Some of the dwellings have layers of old newspapers plastered on interior walls, no doubt to keep drafts to a minimum. It's always fun to read them. Sadly, I've notice they are being peeled away and carted off, probably as souvenirs.

Above, an old Kansas City newspaper. Note the new two seater carriage for only 45 dollars.
Below, a Colorado newspaper.

Milton Larson was the last remaining resident of Ironton, and was elected mayor by the slimmest of margins… a single vote. He died sometime in the '60s and the town reverted to the ghosts of hard rock miners, whose entire paycheck was invariably spent on friday nights. Oh if walls could talk. 

Get Jim and Gayle's perspectives over at Life's Little Adventures… some of which seem to be getting a whole lot bigger lately :)

What a difference a few months makes… 


  1. No doubt the miners and others who came to "town" lived a hard life. I often wonder when I'm in the area how they did it. It's easy to say the lure of precious metal drove them. But somebody had to come into the rugged mountains and get it done, whether digging into the side of a mountain or erecting buildings and mills or hauling equipment. There have been many times I've sat in Ouray and looked up at the mountain behind the town, with its many "Windows". It took a tour of the mine there to realize those were horizontal tunnel openings dug from INSIDE the mountain, never mind the vertical shafts drilled or dug to even allow for the horizontal ones. Thus the term "hard rock miners". They were made of different stuff, that's for sure.

  2. Love those old remnants of former boom towns. Like you said: If the walls could talk..what stories would there be.

  3. Love the summer / winter perspectives! The sheer number of historical relics in your area is amazing, and so much fun to explore. Thanks for taking me back there!

  4. Since it's highly unlikely we will ever visit Ouray in winter, it was nice to see the snow photos. Quite a contrast!

  5. I have been on the lookout for that Yankee Girl structure that I have seen in your snowshoe photos. So cool to see the buildings contrasted in summer vs winter. Gorgeous new header photo. When we goin' there? ;-)

  6. Just read a book titled "Abandon" by Blake Crouch (I think) set in an abandoned mining town near Silverton. Thanks to the pictures you post it was easy for me to "picture" the area as I was reading!


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