Bucket List: America’s Ghost Towns Part 4

bucketlistghosttowns4Hey everyone! It’s time to continue on with my bucket list posts on ghost towns in America. With the Easter Holiday and a trip to Chicago now out of the way, the plan is to get the last few posts out over the course of the next few weeks. Since I decided to leave everything in alphabetical order, we’ll be hopping around the states once more, so it’s time to begin with a new one, Idaho!

Silver City, Idaho

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Flickr Photo: © Andy Melton – Silver City, ID…

As one of the United States best preserved ghost towns, Silver City still contains about 75 of the buildings that once made up this bustling mining town. Established in 1864 when silver was found in the nearby mountain range, Silver City would quickly grow into one of Idaho’s major cities, and be the first in the territory to get a telegraph and newspaper, and would even have telephone lines installed at its peak in the 1880’s. With hundreds of mines surrounding it and gold and silver ore being mined to an estimated $60 Million, it’s no wonder the town was home to 75 businesses and roughly 2,500 people before the mines began to be depleted in the 1890’s. Although the town isn’t inhabited today, the end was slow coming with the last mine closing its doors officially in 1977, and people moving on in drips rather than torrents like a lot of towns featured in my posts. Today a few businesses are open for tourists in Silver City, but on the whole the rest have been left the way they are, in order to give visitors a better look at a turn of the century mining town.

Elk Falls, Kansas

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Flickr Photo: © April Moore-Harris – Pershing/Prairie Gem Schoolhouse, Elk Falls, Kansas

Not only does Elk Fall, KS claim to be the “World’s Largest Living Ghost Town,” but it also happens to be the “Outhouse Capital of the World”. Founded in 1870 by R. H. Nichols and six other businessmen, Elk Falls came to be purely because they wanted to build a town. Within the first year, the town would gain a name, school-house, drug store, blacksmith shop, and post office. By 1880 there were about 513 people living in Elk Falls, and the town was growing physically despite still being rather small. So much so in fact, that an iron truss bridge was built over the Elk River to make travel in and out of town easier from the Northeast. Sadly the lifespan of this small town would be short-lived. By the 1920’s the population had begun to dwindle, and with new highway construction in 1957 and a flood in 1976, the bridge would be closed to traffic. Although people still live in Elk Falls today, it is by and large still a ghost town. Luckily the old Pratt Truss Bridge was named a historical site by the state of Kansas in 1992 and preserved as a foot bridge for tourists who happen to pop in for a little uninhabited America.

Volland, Kansas

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Flickr Photo: © Patrick Emerson – Volland

I’ll admit that Volland, Kansas still remains a bit of a mystery to me. Although it’s easy to discover that it was founded in the 1800’s, and deduce that it was quite obviously a farming town, the internet doesn’t have a lot to offer about the history of the town itself. What originally made me add this little piece of the Midwest to my list, was a remarkable old red brick building standing alone with endless fields around it. This, it turns out, was the Volland store, built in 1913 as the Kratzer Brothers Mercantile. It is said to have been the heart of the city until it closed in the 1970’s and fell into disrepair. In 2013 it was purchased and renovated into an art space/guest house. Although it might not be a haunting piece of abandoned Americana anymore, there are still a few abandoned buildings left of what was once a two lane town.

Flagstaff, Maine

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Flickr Photo: © Graham Baker – Sunset on Flagstaff Lake

Named Flagstaff because Benedict Arnold’s troops literally planted a flag in the town, Flagstaff, Maine isn’t your typical ghost town. It’s actually a lake. To be more specific, it’s a lake on top of an old town. When plans for a new hydroelectric dam were approved in 1950, the residents of low-lying Flagstaff, and a few other towns nearby, were told to get out and most of the houses went with them. Today, if you know where to look and the water levels are low enough you can see the remains of chimneys, foundations, and the occasional artifact that were left behind by the residents that once called Flagstaff home. Even if you have no interest in the town under the lake, Flagstaff is a quaint little place to spend some quality time with mother nature and whoever it is you deem worthy enough to join you. If you do happen to want to see the old town, you can either opt to take a tour by pontoon boat, or venture out yourself with a map of the site and a good sense of direction.

Rodney, Mississippi

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Flickr Photo: © Fujoshi Bijou – Rodney Presbyterian Church

This almost capital of Mississippi, was a widely used river crossing for the Native Americans in the area before the French settled here in 1763. After the French and Indian War, the area was controlled by the British, then later by the Spanish  until they sold it in 1798 to a prominent land owner in the area. When Mississippi became a state in 1817, this little town already had quite a history. As river transportation grew along the Mississippi River, the population of Rodney grew along with it, and by 1830 there were 200 people calling Rodney home, and a slew of businesses to go along with them. In 1843 and 1847 the town would be hit with the yellow fever epidemic, but would soon become the busiest port on the river between New Orleans and St. Louis. When the Civil War broke out, Rodney was not immune to the action, and in 1863 following to fall of Vicksburg, Union soldiers found themselves surrounded during a church service at the local Presbyterian church. After apologizing to the reverend for interrupting his sermon, a Confederate Lieutenant demanded the soldiers surrender to his troops, but after a shot was fired chaos ensued, and a battle broke out, resulting in a cannon ball lodged to this day in the wall of the church. Although Rodney would suffer more during the war than this small incident, the real tragedy would be the formation of a sand bar in 1870 that rerouted the river, and caused the local port to close. This would prove to be the beginning of the end of Rodney, and by 1930, the town was officially wiped off the map despite still having citizens to call it home.

Bannack, Montana

Flickr Photo: © Scott Akerman – Bannack Church

When gold was found near what would soon become Bannack in 1892, it sparked the largest gold rush Montana would ever see. Almost overnight, people began to flood the small mining camp in the hopes that they too would hit it big, and by 1893 there were 3,000 people living in Bannack. Unfortunately, along with gold, Bannack also got more than it’s fair share of crime. The roads leading in and out of town were plagued with robberies, murders and holdups, so the God-fearing folk of Bannack elected a man named Henry Plummer to be the new sheriff. The problem however, is that Henry Plummer was the head of a gang of outlaws who would murder at least 100 hundred people and wreak havoc all over the area before the townsfolk realized he was the problem. In a rush to sentence him to death, a gallows was promptly built behind the town saloon, and Plummer was hung along with members of his gang. Despite this exciting bit of history, the town itself would continue to thrive until gold began to dwindle in the 1950’s, and the citizens began to move away. Luckily, the state of Montana declared Bannack a state park around the same time, and today there are about 60 buildings still standing, along with the infamous gallows that can be toured at your leisure.

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