Category: Ghost Town

Janalyn Voigt: Ghost Town in the Rearview Mirror

 

We welcome our guest blogger, Janalyn Voigt!

Virginia City, Nevada is one of the West’s famous ghost towns, but Virginia City in Montana is less known. That’s a shame because this Montana town played an important part in the history of Montana Territory.

The year was 1863 when a group of miners led by William (Bill) Fairweather passed through Alder Gulch. Following a scrape with Crow Indians, the men were on their way home to Bannack City, a boomtown where miners flocked after the discovery of gold in nearby Grasshopper Creek. Fairweather’s group paused in Alder Gulch near the headwaters of the waterway known as the Stinkingwater (now Alder Creek). The men aimed to mine enough gold to pay for tobacco. They found that many times over. The men had chanced upon the richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains.

The men tried to keep their discovery to themselves, but flashing money around Bannack revealed their secret. When they set out again for Alder Gulch, they set off a ‘stampede’ of hopeful miners. Virginia City went up within weeks. Men arrived daily to seek their fortune.

Bannack was winding down as a source of easy gold. With most of the population living in Alder Gulch. Virginia City replaced Bannack as the capital of Montana Territory in 1864. The town served in that capacity until 1875, when the territorial seat was moved to Helena.

I discovered Virginia City while on a summer road trip through Montana with my family. After a long drive through the Beartooth Mountains, we’d passed only one roadhouse. I enjoy wilderness areas, but it was a relief when Virginia City unfolded before us in the late afternoon sun. We stopped at the gas station, where I picked up a brochure that told of outlaws, stagecoaches, and vigilante justice.

Robbers Roost particularly awed me. The brochure informed me that this notorious roadhouse several miles from town was where outlaws rode out to rob gold-laden stagecoaches bound for Virginia City. I felt the weight of history and an unction to tell the story of this place.

Several years later, I returned to Virginia City on a research trip for a western historical romance series that would do just that. It was autumn, so late in the season that snow was falling. The town’s sparse bed and breakfasts were closed until spring, but my husband and I managed to wangle a bed for the night in a renovated cabin. The next day dawned bright and clear. We climbed boot hill to the outlaw gravesite located outside the main cemetery where law-abiding citizens were buried.

A stroll through the cemetery took me past the grave of Thomas J. Dimsdale, the mild-mannered author of The Vigilantes of Montana, an eyewitness account of the vigilante activities in the area. Released in 1866, it was the first book published in Montana.

After reading his account, I felt acquainted with the man. It seemed strange to find him lying in a grave. The brevity of life struck me anew, and I was glad to come down from boot hill.

As Virginia City dwindled in the rear-view mirror, we drove through a landscape marred by tailings, large piles of rocks deposited by the mining operations all along Alder Gulch. There was little left of the settlement dubbed ‘Fourteen-Mile City.’

How about you? Have you been to a ghost town?

To one lucky person who leaves a comment,
Janalyn is giving away a $15.00 Amazon Gift Card.

 

Bio: Janalyn Voigt fell in love with literature at an early age when her father read classics to her as bedtime stories. When Janalyn grew older, she put herself to sleep with her own made-up tales. Her sixth-grade teacher noticed her love of storytelling and encouraged her to become a writer. Today Janalyn is a multi-genre author. Janalyn writes the kind of novels she likes to read – epic adventures brimming with romance, mystery, history, and whimsy. She is praised for her unpredictable plots and the lyrical, descriptive prose that transports readers into breathtaking storyworlds. Janalyn Voigt is represented by Wordserve Literary. Learn more about Janalyn and her books at http://janalynvoigt.com.

Click here to purchase Forever Sky .

 

 

Updated: November 27, 2019 — 12:40 pm

The Ghosts of Old Tascosa

 

I hope you’re doing some fun things this summer. A few weeks ago, I drove thirty miles from where I live to what used to be only one of three towns in the entire Texas Panhandle. Tascosa used to be a thriving, but very dangerous, town that at its peak boasted 350 people. It was settled in 1876 by an ex-soldier and blacksmith named Henry Kimball and it became the assembling point for the Tascosa/Dodge City Cattle Trail. Surrounded by large ranches, the town quickly became known as the Cowboy Capital of the Plains and was an economic rival of Dodge City, Kansas.

It also became a place where outlaws and bad men outnumbered the law-abiding sort.

Here’s an adobe schoolhouse (built 1911). It’s the oldest one of adobe in Texas.

Due to the town being only thirty -five miles from the New Mexico line, Billy the Kid used to rustle cattle and bring them to Tascosa to sell. He made the trip many times. His campground is still marked today in a shady spot near a creek.

Pat Garrett was another regular to frequent Tascosa that in 1879 had a population of 150 with only 8 English speaking women who were not employed in the considerable brothels and saloons.

Inside of two years, there were twenty-eight deaths caused by shootings and Boot Hill saw much activity. Here’s the picture I took and the restored markers. I think it’s the first Boot Hill cemetery I’ve ever been in.

A post office opened in 1878 and in 1880 the county of Oldham (only the second county in the entire Texas Panhandle) was formed and a stone courthouse was built. That courthouse is still there and they’ve turned it into a museum. Here’s the picture I took during my visit.

Despite the lawlessness, romance was alive and well. A mysterious saloon girl and gambler named Frenchy fell deeply in love with Mickey McCormick who owned one of the saloons. They married and from then on, the two became inseparable. This huge, deformed tree and marker is all that remains of the spot where their adobe house sat.

         

Mickey died in 1912 and Frenchy walked to visit his grave every day—even after the town died and everyone moved away, she remained. She lived alone in the ghost town by herself with no running water or electricity for twenty-seven years, grieving for Mickey. Finally, in poor health and her house falling around her, the woman whose real name they never knew or where she was from let them move her to the nearby town of Channing where she stayed a little over a year before dying in 1941. As per her wishes, they brought her back and laid her to rest next to her beloved Mickey.

Other ghosts reside there also—like Ed King, Frank Valley, Fred Chilton, and Jesse Sheets who were killed in a gunfight in the wee hours of March 20, 1886.

The ghost town was bought by Julian Bivins who turned around and donated it to the Cal Farley Boy’s Ranch in 1939. The town sits on this private land and I believe the thousands of boys(and now girls also) who’ve lived there have purged the voices of the ghosts. I didn’t feel any restless spirits. Although it is on private land, they welcome visitors.

If you’ve read any of my Outlaw Mail Order Brides, you’ve seen the town of Tascosa in the stories. Here’s one segment in Tally Shannon’s point of view from Book 1 – The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride:

Life was full of ups and downs, and this wasn’t the worst that they would face. She’d heard the men talk about a bounty hunter Ridge had seen in Tascosa and the reward poster the man had been showing around. Foreboding told her the worst still lay in front of them.

Have you ever been to or read about a ghost town? I’m curious what you thought. I would love to have seen Tascosa at its peak but I wouldn’t have wanted to live there. Too rough for me!

 

Pinterest, My Friend and Inspiration!

I don’t know about you, but I’m a visual person. I need to see it to retain it. I see better than I hear.  When I see a list, I get tasks done. And organizing with colored notecards or Post-Its? 

Be still my heart.

Just the way my brain works.

So it’s no wonder that I need images when I write.  The words form much easier, flow much faster. And like any visual writer who is neck-deep in a manuscript and needing some help, I head straight for my friend, Pinterest.

Writing my contemporary western, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, by Tule Publishing, was no different. If you’ve had a chance to read the book, you might enjoy seeing some of the images that inspired me.

If you haven’t read it yet, but want to . . .

 

 

 

Buy on Amazon

  S  P  O  I  L  E  R    A L E R T!

 

Here’s a few images, straight from my board:

When I saw this image for Beau Paxton, my hero, I thought “This is IT!”  Beau to a T.  Love, love.

 

While writing A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, my husband and I were totally binge-watching the thriller series, Homeland, and I was completely captivated by the lead character, played by Claire Danes.  Hence, Ava Howell was born.

When Ava first arrives to the Blackstone Ranch and enters the little cabin where she’ll be staying while working, one of the first things she sees is a bouquet of Indian blanket that Beau’s mother thoughtfully picked for her in welcome.  The wildflower is common in the Texas Hill Country.  Beautiful, aren’t they?

This is a diagram of a Shotgun House, which I mention in the renovation of the Paxton family’s ghost town resort on the Blackstone Ranch.  They say that a shotgun blast from the front door will go straight through the house and out the back door.  I guess it’s true, eh?

Beau buys Ava her first cowboy hat, something she resists, but this is the one she picked out.  On clearance, of course!

Another gift from Beau that Ava absolutely loves.  Can you blame her?

Something really scary happens to Beau on the ranch, and that’s all I’ll say! But this hole was my inspiration!

 

And now I’m going to stop!  I can’t give everything away, can I?

But you can see how much I depend on Pinterest.  I took a Pinterest class recently, and my teacher said Pinterest is another Google.  She’s right.  It truly is!

Did you know Petticoats & Pistols has its own Pinterest account?  Our sister filly, Julie Benson, keeps it up and running for us, and it’s hugely popular with almost 64,000 views per month!  Come follow us and check out our boards.   http://www.pinterest.com/thefillies/

How about you?  Do you use the site to find recipes?  Get help with ideas on re-decorating?  Find gifts?  Learn how to plant a garden?  The list is endless, and I’d love to hear if you enjoy it as much as I do!

Updated: February 7, 2019 — 7:47 pm

A Luxury Resort–Was it Really a Ghost Town?

 

My first contemporary western romance, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, will be released on January 24th by Tule Publishing.  Yee-Haw!

I just loved writing this book!  From the moment I envisioned Beau Paxton and Ava Howell in my mind, I fell in love with them.  I used the classic ‘fish out of water’ storyline, and the words just flowed.

Ava has a degree in construction management and drives all the way from New York City to take on a ghost town renovation project to honor a promise she made to her friend, who had made a promise to Beau’s mother. 

And of course, Beau doesn’t WANT his beloved ghost town renovated.  He doesn’t want strangers on his family’s land, he doesn’t want to spend the money, he doesn’t want his grandfather’s legacy (the ghost town) touched or changed from the way he’s always known it, and how it’s been for decades.

Sparks fly, for sure. 

I enjoyed the research, too.  But even before I dug in with Google, I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as renovating a ghost town into a guest resort.

Indeed, there was.

Dunton Hot Springs is located near Telluride, Colorado.  Dunton was first established in 1895 as a mining camp, and as was normal for mining communities springing up in less-than-ideal locations, once the mining peaked, the town died a slow death, eventually becoming deserted in 1918. 

A pair of long-time residents bought the entire town and a few mining claims, operating the land as a cattle ranch, then a dude ranch for a number of years.  Finally, in 1994, the current owners purchased the entire town and devoted seven years to renovating it into the luxury resort it is today.

Visitors can enjoy winter sport activities or bask in the captivating summer landscapes.  They can go glamping in a camp of eight luxury tents, enjoy hot springs that steam in the winter and entice in the summer, or head to Telluride for a stay in the historic Dunton Town House.  For the adventurous, or for those who just want to put their cell phones away and relax in the wilderness, Dunton promises a get-away not to be forgotten.

Rooms at the Town House rent from $350 – $500 per night. Cabin rates range from $1,200 to $2,020 per night. 

Um, yeah.

From its website:

“Apart from the beautiful landscape, Dunton Hot Springs is also the number one all inclusive resort in the US according to TripAdvisor, and number 8 in the entire world. Each cabin is different, but shares some things in common. They are all immaculately decorated with elements that find that spectacular combination of rustic and luxury. Oh, and did we mention one cabin has a private hot spring all to itself?”

Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?  Of course, luxury comes with a cost, and this resort taps into a clientele that is willing to pay the price.

What about you?  Have you ever stayed at a luxury resort or hotel?  Are you willing to splurge on lavish accommodations as part of your vacation?  Can you justify the cost of an expensive room?  Do you love a spa treatment?  Massage?  Is atmosphere an important part of your get-away?  Do you prefer an outdoors vacation?  Or an urban one with all the comforts of home?

Let’s chat!

 

 

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