There are many ghost towns on the Plains of Colorado. Keota is one. Founded in 1880 by sisters Mary and Eva Beardsley, it was purchased eight years later by the Lincoln Land and Cattle Company. It grew to support over 1200 area ranchers. Situated over 100 miles northeast of Denver and almost 60 miles east of Fort Collins, Colorado, it was the only town for many days’ travel in the time of foot or horse and wagon transportation.
For a while, the town thrived. In the late 1880s, the residents built a large schoolhouse on a gently sloping hill at the top of the town. The view from the school is amazing. The arid prairie rolls in shades of brown and pink in every direction, an ocean of empty land. No trees, no streets or buildings beyond the handful that comprise the town. The wind and dust were the town’s only constants.
In the end, the wind won. In 1890, the post office closed shop. The school continued on, though residents moved away when the railroad closed. In the 1930s, the last graduation took place at the school.
Standing in the streets of what was once an active, albeit small, town makes me curious about the brave souls who lived there. They got to see the town grow from the dry dirt of a barren land. The sisters Beardsley picked their hill and built their house without the benefit of trees or water. Or even other residents.
And perhaps they got to see their town die, too. How frightening that would be. It’s a theme I explore in my Men of Defiance series. In my first book, RACHEL AND THE HIRED GUN, my fictional town of Defiance was a thriving village. Situated at the base of the Medicine Bow Mountains, it had a lumber mill, a bank, several saloons and hotels, and a general store. Sager and Rachel’s fathers are two of the area ranchers the town supports.
By the second and third books in the series (tentatively titled McCAID’S WOMAN and LEAH AND THE AVENGER), the town is well on its way to ghost town status. The bank, the hotels and lumber mill have closed. Only one saloon remains. The town’s law-abiding citizens have abandoned it for the more prosperous environments of Denver City and Cheyenne.
Left behind are two young women, friends of Sager’s brother. They live at the mercy of the handful of decent citizens who remain–and the growing population of border ruffians and outlaws drawn to the empty town. Can the Men of Defiance turn the town around? Is love enough of a foundation for a future?
I hope you’ll visit my website (www.elainelevine.com) to get updates on my books. RACHEL AND THE HIRED GUN will be released by Kensington Books in January 2009. I’m writing a serialized prequel to that story which I’ll publish on my website in seven short video clips between now and the end of December. You can also take a peek at RACHEL AND THE HIRED GUN by reading the first chapter on my website.
Elaine is giving away a T-shirt with her bookcover on it to one reader who subscribes to her newsletter this weekend. If the drawing winner sends Elaine of picture of herself wearing the T-shirt, she’ll get an autographed copy of Rachel and the Hired Gun when Elaine gets her author copies in December! Register to win and sign up for more news of Elaine’s new book here: www.elainelevine.com
What ghost towns have you visited recently? If you stood quietly, with your eyes shut, could you hear the echoes of its former residents?