Chaffee Co., CO




Gary B. Speck




ST. Elmo, deep in the mountains of Chaffee County, Colorado is a classic ghost town.  It is located at the west end of SH 162, 16.5 miles west of US 285 at Nathrop.  The last 7.3 miles are graded dirt, and can be slick in bad weather.


The weathered wood buildings lining the main street of this wonderful old 1880s gold town lie nestled in a beautiful high mountain valley.  St. Elmo still has a few occupied cabins and an operating general store/post office, as well as a 1990 population of nine.  The mocha brown, wooden buildings range from tumbledown shanties to a substantial two-story hotel. 


St. Elmo's gold mines were discovered in December 1880, and by 1882 between 500 and 2000 people are claimed to have crowded into the small valley.  I say “claimed” since the Colorado Business Directory stated that the town’s population was 300 at that time.  The town was first called Forest City, but the name was changed to St. Elmo when the post office was established, as the Post Office Department wanted to avoid confusion with Forest City in California.  The 1890s were the peak period for the town, whose businesses included dance halls, a general store, five hotels, a newspaper (St. Elmo Mountaineer), post office, and saloons.  The Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad also served the town.


A destructive fire in 1890 took out two blocks of businesses, and that part of town was not rebuilt.  The remaining businesses were adequate to continue servicing the remaining citizens.


In 1920, the Mary Murphy Mine shut down, crippling the town as some 100 men were employed there.  At the time of its closing it is said to have produced $14,000,000 in gold. Two years later the other mines followed suit, and in 1926 the trains stopped running. 


Today fifty or so buildings still mark one of America's finest ghost towns, the town of St. Elmo, Colorado.  I love this town ands have to say it is in my personal Top Ten ghost towns to visit.


This is one of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.


SEE a PHOTO of St Elmo HERE.



·        Sec 33, T15S, R80W, Sixth Principal Meridian (NOTE:  GNIS lists it as the New Mexico Meridian, which is in error)

·        Latitude: 38.7047182 / 38° 42' 17" N

·        Longitude: -106.3480796 / 106° 20' 53" W



This was our GHOST TOWN OF THE MONTH for April 2004.




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FIRST POSTED:  April 01, 2004

LAST UPDATED: September 22, 2009




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