St. Elmo, Colorado - The Traveller


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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

St. Elmo, Colorado


St. Elmo – Ghost Town – Colorado, United States

St. Elmo is considered as a ghost town in Chaffee County, Colorado, United States and lies in the heart of the Sawatch Range, 20 miles southwest of Buena Vista, at an elevation of 9,961 feet. Almost 2,000 people had settled here when mining for gold and silver had begun. The town was at its peak in the 1890s and had a telegraph office, general store, town hall, 5 hotels, saloons, a newspaper office, dancing halls and a school house.

The Denver south Park and Pacific Railroad line ran through St. Elmo. There were around 150 patented mine entitlements in the area and most of the people living in St. Elmo worked at the Mary Murphy, Theresa C, - the Molly or the Pioneer Mines.

Mary Murphy Mine was considered to be the largest as well as the most successful mine in the area. It has recovered more than $60,000,000 worth of gold when in operation. The mining industry began to deteriorate in early 1920s and towards 1922, the railroad discontinued operating. While the other mines ultimately shut down, the Mary Murphy Mine continued to function till the railroad was abandoned in 1922.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

When the mining industry eventually shut down, St. Elmo declined in population significantly and miners searched other places for gold and silver with the business district in St. Elmo closing down. Very few people continued living in the town and the postal service also discontinued its activities after the death of St. Elmo’s postmaster in 1922.

The community is said to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the St. Elmo Historic District. It is one of the best preserved ghost towns in Colorado and to get here one can drive south from Leadville on Highway 24 to Buena Vista and take Highway 285 south to Nathrop. On turning west on County Road 162, follow the signs for St. Elmo.

The drive down there is easy for a standard vehicle. Several buildings in St. Elmo and the surrounding area is private property and venturing away from the public roads and landing on private land could be trespassing. The mountains around the place have miles of underground tunnels and shafts and the area could be dangerous where a safe and stable area could suddenly collapse.

Colorado’s Best Preserved Ghost Town

The buildings also tend to be in different state of decay and are considered to be unsafe. St. Elmo originated in 1879 and was once called Forest City. The name seemed to change because it was opposed by the post office department since California already had a Forest City.

The name was the result of either a southern city with the name or named after a popular novel at that time known as St. Elmo and the main character in the novel was St. Elmo Murray. St. Elmo has a population of more than 2000 inhabitants at its peak.St. Elmo is considered to be unique since the buildings are preserved and not restored.

It has been labelled as Colorado’s Best Preserved Ghost Town but is called `God’s Country’. The buildings in St. Elmo are owned privately and are well preserved. There are also some vacation homes too in the surrounding area and a general store which operates from May to October.

 Though St. Elmo is said to be a ghost town, it still seems to be inhabited and tourism tend to bring several people to this destination every year. The old mining roads are said to be used as Jeep and four wheeler trails.

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