The Story of St. Elmo, Colorado

The shuttered facades of St. Elmo, Colorado.
The shuttered facades of St. Elmo, Colorado.

St. Elmo is a ghost city located in Chaffee County, Colorado. The town lies in the middle of Sawatch Range, about 32 kilometers south-west of Buena Visita. St. Elmo was previously known as Forest City but it was renamed because many other towns were also called Forest City. The name St. Elmo was chosen by one of the founders, Evans Griffith, who named it after a romance novel he was reading. When the mining of gold and silver took off in St. Elmo, approximately two thousand people settled there. However, the mining industry started to gradually decline in the 1920s leading to the discontinuation of the railway services and the ultimate demise of the town.

The Rise of St. Elmo

Founded in the 1880s, approximately 2,000 people settled in St. Elmo during the discovery of gold and silver mines. The mining activities took place in the town for around 40 years. The town’s growth reached its climax in the 1890s when mining became the major activity in the town. There were a number of social amenities like hotels, salons, telegraph office, a railway service station, and a post office. The mines in St. Elmo numbered approximately 150, with the main mine being the Mary Murphy mine where most of the residents worked. It was the largest and the most successful mine, generating over $60 million worth of gold. Other major minefields included Teresa C, the Molly or the Pioneer Mines. While other minefields started to shut down due to the exhaustion of gold and silver.

Decline and Ghost Town Status

The Mary Murphy mine continued operating until the railway serving St. Elmo was abandoned in 1922 by its then management, Pacific Railroad Service. After the mine fields were shut down, most people moved out of the town to look for other opportunities and mine fields elsewhere. It did not take long before the business district in the town was closed. However, a few people continued residing in the town. The postal service came to an end in the town after the postmaster died in 1952. Most of the ancient structures erected in St. Elmo still stand in the town, save from a few buildings that were burnt down on April 15, 2002. The old town hall was among the six buildings that were torched down. Most of the private owners of the property in St. Elmo decided to give the property to Buena Vista Heritage so that it can preserve the ancient buildings.

St. Elmo Today

Despite being considered a ghost town, St. Elmo is inhabited by a number of people today. The major activity going on in St Elmo is tourism. The old gold and silver mines attract many tourists to the ghost town annually. There are several four wheel drive trails that pass throughout the town along the mine roads. Tourists are allowed to rent the four-wheel drives and move around the city. The general supply stores are usually opened during the summer holidays where tourists can buy souvenirs and supplies. Besides, there are a number of good fishing grounds in Chalk Creek that passes through St Elmo. Residents and tourists practice fishing activities.


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