The Ghost Town of Baldwin | TheFencePost.com

The Ghost Town of Baldwin

Judy Buffington Sammons
Gunnison, Colo.

Walt BarronA ramshackle Baldwin structure sits under the Anthracite Mountain Range.

The Ohio Creek Valley, located north of Gunnison, Colo. is a wide handsome valley, nearly 20 miles long, with acres of luxurious meadowland on either side of a stream that bears the name of the home state of some long ago pioneer. For centuries this valley lie quiet ” unnamed and undisturbed by human occupation except for the Tabeguache Ute Indians. In the summer months the tribe set their tepees here and enjoyed a veritable bounty of wild game ” beaver, bear, elk, deer, and streams teeming with trout. When the Utes were removed from the valley by treaty in 1880, they left behind little but fire pits and arrowheads, and most significantly, a trail running the length of the valley and over the mountains to the north ” a trail that would eventually become the valley’s main road.

From the late 1870s to the early 1880s, drastic changes were to come to this country. At the base of cone shaped Mt. Carbon, located in the north end of the valley, great coal fields were discovered. At about the same time, further north on the far side of the Anthracite Mountain Range, tremendous silver deposits were found. An inevitable “boom” resulted and thousands of miners came pouring into the country. Ramshackle towns were constructed and rough roads carved out. The miners were put to work picking at huge veins of coal in the timbered tunnels that lie deep underneath the ground.

The town of Baldwin, located some eighteen miles north of Gunnison, sprang up at this time. It was incorporated in the late 1800s, an adjunct to the Alpine coal mine The town was built by the Citizens Coal and Coke Company. Forty houses were constructed for the miners as well as a company store. The houses were built in rows and fronted by dirt streets.

Baldwin soon became a lively place with baseball and football games, prize fights, schools, boarding houses, dance halls, barber shops, and church services. It was also a rip-roaring, wide-open town ” known for murderous labor problems at the Alpine mine ” problems that often resulted in violence, death, and blown-up railroad bridges. The mines were dangerous places to work and over the years ten men were killed in the mine cave-ins or explosions and many more were injured. Numerous strikes occurred over the years as the miners tried to improve their working conditions and pay.

The severe winters in the area produced incredibly deep snows, and in some months transportation was limited to sleighs and the wide long skis called “snow shoes.” In the spring roads could turn into mud so deep that a miner could easily sink his wagon up to the axles. Children had such difficulty getting to school during the winter months that classes were often cancelled until spring. Most of these students were the children of the Austrian, German, and Italian immigrant families who had homesteaded nearby ranches or were employed by the mines.

The Denver and South Park railroad served Baldwin. This little narrow gauage train huffed and puffed into the valley almost daily providing reliable transportation and a means to ship out cattle and coal. Thousands of tons of coal were transported out of Baldwin in the early 1900s by the Denver and South Park.

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Little remains of the town of Baldwin now ” it has long been a ghost town, its remaining buildings deteriorating a little more each year. The town died in 1946 due to the departure of the trains and the fact that its high grade coal was just about exhausted. For a brief time the store and post office remained open, but the town slowly became deserted and has steadily deteriorated for the past sixty years. One can find a few old falling down buildings now, a couple of old ore cars, the frame that held the swings near the school house, a trestle, and piles of logs and trash. There is a strong sense of desertion here and when the wind blows through the sage brush, one can almost sense the presence of ghosts.

The Ohio Creek Valley, located north of Gunnison, Colo. is a wide handsome valley, nearly 20 miles long, with acres of luxurious meadowland on either side of a stream that bears the name of the home state of some long ago pioneer. For centuries this valley lie quiet ” unnamed and undisturbed by human occupation except for the Tabeguache Ute Indians. In the summer months the tribe set their tepees here and enjoyed a veritable bounty of wild game ” beaver, bear, elk, deer, and streams teeming with trout. When the Utes were removed from the valley by treaty in 1880, they left behind little but fire pits and arrowheads, and most significantly, a trail running the length of the valley and over the mountains to the north ” a trail that would eventually become the valley’s main road.

From the late 1870s to the early 1880s, drastic changes were to come to this country. At the base of cone shaped Mt. Carbon, located in the north end of the valley, great coal fields were discovered. At about the same time, further north on the far side of the Anthracite Mountain Range, tremendous silver deposits were found. An inevitable “boom” resulted and thousands of miners came pouring into the country. Ramshackle towns were constructed and rough roads carved out. The miners were put to work picking at huge veins of coal in the timbered tunnels that lie deep underneath the ground.

The town of Baldwin, located some eighteen miles north of Gunnison, sprang up at this time. It was incorporated in the late 1800s, an adjunct to the Alpine coal mine The town was built by the Citizens Coal and Coke Company. Forty houses were constructed for the miners as well as a company store. The houses were built in rows and fronted by dirt streets.

Baldwin soon became a lively place with baseball and football games, prize fights, schools, boarding houses, dance halls, barber shops, and church services. It was also a rip-roaring, wide-open town ” known for murderous labor problems at the Alpine mine ” problems that often resulted in violence, death, and blown-up railroad bridges. The mines were dangerous places to work and over the years ten men were killed in the mine cave-ins or explosions and many more were injured. Numerous strikes occurred over the years as the miners tried to improve their working conditions and pay.

The severe winters in the area produced incredibly deep snows, and in some months transportation was limited to sleighs and the wide long skis called “snow shoes.” In the spring roads could turn into mud so deep that a miner could easily sink his wagon up to the axles. Children had such difficulty getting to school during the winter months that classes were often cancelled until spring. Most of these students were the children of the Austrian, German, and Italian immigrant families who had homesteaded nearby ranches or were employed by the mines.

The Denver and South Park railroad served Baldwin. This little narrow gauage train huffed and puffed into the valley almost daily providing reliable transportation and a means to ship out cattle and coal. Thousands of tons of coal were transported out of Baldwin in the early 1900s by the Denver and South Park.

Little remains of the town of Baldwin now ” it has long been a ghost town, its remaining buildings deteriorating a little more each year. The town died in 1946 due to the departure of the trains and the fact that its high grade coal was just about exhausted. For a brief time the store and post office remained open, but the town slowly became deserted and has steadily deteriorated for the past sixty years. One can find a few old falling down buildings now, a couple of old ore cars, the frame that held the swings near the school house, a trestle, and piles of logs and trash. There is a strong sense of desertion here and when the wind blows through the sage brush, one can almost sense the presence of ghosts.