Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ghosts of the Plains & Black Hills

There is something intriguing about old Western Ghost Towns, dilapidated windswept barns, and old mining camps, I get a real sense of adventure hunting down these historic relics of the past. Perhaps watching Western TV shows of yesteryear have painted a romantic picture of the Old West, or maybe it's the sense of isolation and peacefulness you feel when you come across these "windows to the past".

The Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage

Perhaps one of the most famous Stagecoach Routes in the west was Cheyenne, WY to Deadwood, SD, known as the Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage. This Stage Route operated between 1876-1886 during the Gold Rush period in the Black Hills, it was notorious for being attacked due to the Gold carried on the Coaches. By 1886 the railroad had finally pushed into central Wyoming and the Black Hills, and the demand for the Stage was no longer there.

There is little evidence left of the Stage route today, but a few reminders do exist. The Stagecoach Museum in Lusk, WY has on display one of the original Stagecoaches from the Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage, there is another one on display in Cody, WY, Buffalo Bill Cody bought one for use in his Western show.

Original Cheyenne & Black Hills Stagecoach

The entire route via Stagecoach from Cheyenne to Deadwood was approximately 200 miles long, it departed Cheyenne twice a week only travelling along at 8mph. This meant the Stage required overnight stops, changeovers for the horses, and of course safety from Indian attacks and robbers. Little evidence remains of the Stage Stations, except for Hat Creek Stage Station North of Lusk, WY.

Hat Creek Stage Station

Hat Creek Stage Station

Jay Em, Wyoming

Driving across the vast wildernesses in any of the Western Prairie States you will likely spot old Homesteads, Barns, and even Ghost Towns that have long been abandoned. One such town is Jay Em, Wyoming, located approximately half way between modern day Lingle and Lusk on Highway 85. The location of Jay Em was previously the site of a watering hole along the Texas Trail (1870's-1880's cattle drive route), but the town itself was not established until 1912. In the days before the motor car, Jay Em thrived as a place to support local Ranchers, unfortunately, it was short-lived, by the 1930's the nearby towns of Lusk and Torrington were easily accessible by motor car.

Jay Em Repair Garage

Jay Em Gas Station and Water Tower

Jay Em General Store

Jay Em Bank

Ghosts of the Prairie Grasslands & Black Hills

If you take the time to get off the beaten track, it not only breaks up the monotony of driving through endless brown/yellow Prairie, but you may well stumble across unexpected treasures of the past. One of these unexpected treasures I found whilst hunting for Hat Creek Stage Station, what appears to be an old School House.

Old School, Wyoming

Old School Hose, Wyoming

The Black Hills, SD are littered with old mining camps and relics of the Gold Rush era. I could literally spend weeks, months, years exploring all the Forest roads, Ghost Towns, and hidden pockets, but alas I have only scratched the surface so far.

Old Mining town of Rochford, Black Hills

During one snowy winter weekend, I found these old farm barns close to Pringle that were worthy of a photograph or two.

Farm Barns, SD

Farm Barn, SD

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