This is one of Colorado’s best preserved ghost towns and features in the National Register of Historic Places as the St. Elmo Historic District. Founded in 1880, close to 2,000 individuals became settlers here when mining of gold and silver became operational. This town originally went by the name Forest City but because there were numerous towns sharing the same name, it had to be changed.
One of the founding fathers by the name Griffith Evans chose the name St. Elmo as he read a novel that bore the same title at the time and this is how the town acquired its new name. By the 1890s, St. Elmo was doing so well with 5 hotels, a telegraph office, school house, general store, a newspaper office, saloons, dancing halls and a town hall; all in operation.
This was certainly the peak of operations in this town that had the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad line passing through it. There were a total of 150 patented mine claims within St. Elmo and most of the workers were based at the Mary Murphy Mine, which was the largest and most successful of them all at the time.
Other mines in the area included Teresa C. and The Molly or the Pioneer Mines. It is estimated that more than $60,000,000 worth of gold was recovered from the Mary Murphy Mine, which continued its operations long after the other mines in the area closed down. The railroad that passed through this town ceased operating in 1922 and this is the same time that the Mary Murphy Mine closed down.
The shutting down of mines at St. Elmo marked the start of the exit of various individuals from this town in search of a place to settle down and earn a living at the same time. What followed was the closing down of the once vibrant St. Elmo business district and in 1952 the town’s postmaster passed on after which postal services in the area ceased.
Different from other ghost towns, though St. Elmo is considered one of these, there are still people living here today and this place is constantly flocked by tourists annually. Although most of the old buildings are still intact, some buildings including the town hall burnt down in 2002 but the Buena Vista Heritage is doing its best to restore this hall to its original state.
Some of the activities you can engage in when you visit this town include fishing along Chalk Creek that runs through this town and riding on the old mining roads which have since become four-wheel and jeep trails. In summer, you will find the general store open for shopping as well as rental of four-wheelers to explore the area.
You can simply refer St. Elmo as a semi-ghost, semi-inhabited town and it will be a great experience visiting the mines that were once the highlight of the town as you also learn something about the history of this place. You will also be in a position to view various changes that have occurred over time, especially in terms of new establishments.
As people deserted this town when mining operations ceased, there were those who chose to stay and maybe this is the reason why this town has never been deserted completely.