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Hinsdale County Ghost Towns

Sherman

Sherman was one of the many small communities in this region which boomed briefly, then slowly perished. Named for an early pioneer, Sherman was founded in 1877, four year after the U.S. government and the native Ute Indians signed a treaty which opened up the San Juan Mountains to mining and settlement.

Sherman grew slowly at first, then expanded quickly in the 1880s. The largest mine in this area, in addition to several smaller mines, was the Black Wonder. The Black Wonder was a primarily silver mine and was located on the hillside north of town. For many years, this mine was the mainstay of Sherman’s economy. Sherman, like many other mining towns in the San Juans, was basically a “one-mine town”. Like a roller coaster, Sherman’s population and prosperity fluctuated with the fortunes of the Black Wonder mine. 

During its peak in the mid-1880s, the summer population of Sherman reached about 300 people, mostly miners. During the fall, most residents left, and few stayed in Sherman over the winter.  Like many San Juan mining towns, Sherman’s downfall began in the 1890s. When the U.S. government went off the silver standard in 1893, the demand for silver dropped, creating a nationwide depression. The drop in demand for silver forced the closure of scores of mines in the San Juans, and several in the Sherman area. Sherman never recovered from its setbacks, and by 1925, the town was deserted.

 

Little is left of Sherman today. Still visible are the ruins of a few scattered cabins, many of which sit amidst stones rounded by streams and deposited by floodwaters. The largest structure, the foundation of the Black Wonder mill, serves as a quiet reminder of this once-thriving town.

 

Rose’s Cabin

Though little remains today of the once lively inn, Rose’s Cabin was an important wayside which offered food, lodging, and entertainment to miners and travelers for many years.

One of the earliest pioneers in this area was Corydon Rose, who built a one-story inn in 1874. Rose carefully located his inn; it was about halfway in travel time between the new mining towns of Ouray and Lake City, a convenient stopover site for miners travelling this route. Nestled among the trees, the site was also a safe distance from deadly avalanche chutes. Rose is known as the first permanent resident of the Lake City area.

In 1877, Otto Mears constructed a toll road linking Ouray, Animas Forks, and Lake City. The toll road, which passed in front of Rose’s Cabin, increased business here dramatically. With the toll road complete, Rose’s Cabin became the principal stop for the daily stagecoach run between Animas Forks and Lake City. The cabin has a bar running the full length of the cabin, 22 bedrooms created by partitions, and dinner and breakfast was served.

The Rose’s Cabin area continued to grow through the 1880s. At its peak, a total of about 50 people settled in the area immediately abound the cabin. By this time, the cabin served as a bar, restaurant, hotel, store, and post office – all under one roof. Rose’s Cabin truly was the hub of civilization in the upper Henson Creek region. The cabin was also an important transportation link and supply source for local miners. Ore was transferred from the mines to Rose’s Cabin to Lake City for processing.

Activity at Rose’s Cabin and in much of the San Juans dwindled with the downturn in mining during the late 1800s, led by the silver crash of 1893. By about 1900, the cabin’s role as a place of rest and refreshment had died. Little remains of Rose’s Cabins today. The only standing structure is the old stable. The cabin itself was situated to the left of the stable, keeping silent watch over this once-lively settlement.

Carson

1892 was an exciting year for Carson. The mines at Carson were discovered in 1881 by Christopher J. Carson when he encountered rich silver and gold ores while prospecting along the Continental Divide. He staked claims on both sides of the Divide and the next year, a mining camp was organized at the site. During the late 1880s approximately 100 miners were working 150 claims. Carson produced ores rich in silver along with some gold and copper. Unfortunately 1893 brought the collapse of the silver market and with it the eventual demise of the silver rich mining camps of the San Juan Mountains including Carson in 1896.

The height of activity occurred near the turn of the century when between 400 and 500 people worked in Carson and it was home to a drug store, general store, saloons and more. Private Property.

 

Burrows Park

The head of the valley in which the Lake Fork of the Gunnison rises was called Burrows Park, after Charles Burrows who prospected the territory in 1873. A small camp of the same name was established in the valley, and another camp called Whitecross was laid out a quarter of a mile above it.

The exact locations of Burrows Park, Whitecross, Tellurium, Argentum, and Sterling are difficult to establish today, since almost all signs of the camps have disappeared. They all sprang to life between 1877 and 1880 following the rich strikes in the vicinity. The post office was established in 1880 as Burrows Park, (but was actually located at Whitecross). The name of the post office was changed to Whitecross in 1882. The community maintained a summer population of about 200. The Hotel de Clauson at Whitecross was the favorite meeting place for all of the neighboring camps.

The Burrows Park ores were largely copper pyrites and argentiferous galena, although gray copper, ruby silver, sulphurets of silver, copper and iron pyrites were also found. There was plenty of waterpower for use in the mines, and the Bonhomme, Cracker Jack, Tobasco and Champion lodes began to produce extensively. 

Between 1890 and 1900, Whitecross had a population of 300, the men and their families living in cabins and tents. 

 

Capitol City

Once named “Galena City”, this deserted mining town located nine miles up the Henson Creek/Engineer Pass road was a dream of George S. Lee. His ambition was to become Colorado’s Governor and to change this tiny silver camp to the capitol city of the state of Colorado.

He built his home with that purpose in mind in the 1870s, at the cost of a dollar a brick hauled from Pueblo, Colorado. It contained a beautiful living room, a small theater with an orchestra pit, several fine guest bedrooms and also a formal ballroom. Other than his home, he built the Henson Creek smelter and the sawmill.

Although his dreams and ambitions of governor were never realized, the name was changed to Capitol City.

The 200 acre townsite had several hotels, restaurants, saloons, smelters, a sawmill, post office, schoolhouse and several houses during the rich finds of 1877. The population was at one time 800, but as the price of silver dropped, the town began to be deserted. Litigation and transportation also aided in the downfall of Capitol City.

All that is left of the grandeur site is the Old U.S. Post Office and Lee’s Smelter Stack. The rest of the townsite has been reclaimed by aspen, mountain willows and evergreen trees.

Please note: There are several private homes and vacant parcels of private property in the Capitol City area. Please do not trespass.