When we think of “ghost towns,” we think of abandoned mining camps, towns that were passed by when railroads or highways went through, and these days, New York City. There are many ways for a town or even a city to die out…most of them are really sad. Sometimes, a town just outlives its usefulness, as was the case during the gold rush. When the gold ran out, the miners moved on or went back east to their homes there. The little town that had provided the supplies, homes, entertainment, and necessary offices, like post office and land offices, is simply not needed anymore. I’m sure that the people of the town held out as long as it made sense, and then they picked up and moved on to some other place that needed things like a general store for supplies. The little town then sat there and slowly slipped into disrepair and decay. When we visit such towns, we see history unfolding before us, and we are usually excited to find such an amazing relic. We can’t wait to explore.
Sometimes, as in the case of New York City, a city is “shut down” to help those within it to recover from something, such as a pandemic. That doesn’t usually happen when a new virus goes through, but it did with Covid-19. Normally, only the sick people are quarantined, but in this case, the medical experts (and many people would say that I’m using that term loosely), decided to quarantine the well people in the hope of stopping the spread of Covid-19. I can’t say whether that has been a good or a bad thing, but I tend to think it was a bad thing. When a city like New York City, suddenly is completely empty, businesses are shut down, jobs lost, and it didn’t seem to help. Months later, the city is still, for the most part, shut down, and businesses are considering a move to another location, just like the ghost towns of the old west when the mines dried up. The shut down of our cities is a slippery slope, and one that I think needs to be avoided, at all costs. Still, man will tell you that I’m not an expert, and they would be right. I am just a person who sees that our country cannot continue with this shut down much longer. Something has to change…something!!
While we like to visit ghost towns, we often don’t realize the hardship and heartache that went into turning these places into ghost towns. Just like we have seen in the cities across America, the business shutting down means the loss of a livelihood for millions of people. Depression sets in, and eventually everyone is angry about their rights being stepped on…and it’s not just one group, it’s many. Then, the sad thing is that there emerges a group of people who are…left out. The ones who don’t fit into any of the protesting groups…they are the quiet majority…the ones who usually just go quietly about their daily lives, without hurting anyone. Sadly these are the overlooked ones, and usually the last ones to leave the ghost town, because they are the ones who try to hope for the future. These days, that is much of America. We are just hanging out, waiting for things to get better, so we can get back to normal. Here’s to normal.
“Every state has ghost towns. Eastern and Midwestern States are no exception. At one time or another you may have driven your car right by a ghost town, not aware of it. If you are a hiker, backpacker, or a hunter, you may have walked past or through a ghost town not knowing one was there.” I read that statement on a web site I was using to research stories for my blog. I had read many stories about ghost towns, but this one intrigued me. My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I have hiked many of the trails in the Black Hills, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times we have walked past old abandoned, crumbling, falling down buildings. To us, they seemed like just an abandoned farmhouse and out buildings, but now I am beginning to wonder if we have been one of those hikers who have walked right through a ghost town, and didn’t even know it. In fact, I’ll bet we have walked right through many a ghost town during our many hikes.
I love photographing old buildings, and often find myself wondering how long they had been there, and why they were left to rot. Of course, the Black Hills is rich in gold rush history, so a ghost town or tow makes perfect sense. We have driven through, and by some of them, and even passed through some while riding he 1880 Train, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that some of the old buildings we have hiked by could have been part of a ghost town, but looking back now, it makes perfect sense. I have often found myself wondering who lived there and what their lives might have been like back when the house was newly built. Still, it didn’t occur to me that it might be part of a ghost town. I guess that is because I always thought that all the ghost towns would be well documented with signs alerting the tourists to the site. In reality, those signs would be placed by the town’s owner, who was trying to make a buck by romanticizing the site…and that’s ok too, but that doesn’t mean that every ghost town was so well documented. In reality, it’s the ghost towns that are less documented that hold the most intrigue, because much less is known about them.
I think that the next time we hike and find ourselves passing by an old rotting building, that I will feel much different about the place than I did in the past. I think I will still wonder about who lived there, but also about whether or not it was a ghost town that once sprung up, and prospered, only to be choked out when hard times hit and the people who lived there moved on in search of a better life. That was, after all, the fate of every ghost town. It was a town that sprung up with the promise of becoming a bustling city, but it was in the wrong place, and life could not be sustained there, so eventually it withered and died off, leaving only the buildings to tell of its presence, and then only to those who happened to pass by.