Research Trip Find—A Privately Owned Ghost Town
Only a four-hour drive away from where we live in the southern California mountains is Yuma, Arizona. I’m the type who travels with paper maps and the AAA travel guide with all the rated attractions. My husband has all he needs in his smart phone. Because we didn’t leave until after 6PM, he begrudgingly agreed to calling ahead for a motel reservation. When he was a kid, his birth family set out on the road for the entire summer, Suburban hauling a trailer, as soon as school let out, so he’s used to driving until tired and then looking for a place to stay. Me, I like national chains for motels and restaurants.
Our first day was spent at a couple of state museums—the quartermaster depot and the territorial prison. We learned some interesting facts that may come in handy in a book someday. But he wanted someplace different so he started cruising around on his phone. So the next day we took a different route, past the Arizona proving grounds toward Castle Dome, a mining ghost town. Once off the state highway at mile marker 55 for only a couple of miles, the paved road ended and we rolled onto a gravel road. My reaction was concern about our Prius navigating the road unharmed. My adventure-loving spouse told me to go for it. Eight miles later (paralleling a barbed wire fence warning “Danger--unexploded ordnance”--gulp), we reached the ghost town.
A couple ready to retire, Allen and Stephanie Armstrong, bought the site where gold mining occurred in the 1860s and set about creating this village of 40+ buildings out in the middle of nowhere. From a note in one of the buildings—“the first description of Castle Dome City was of a brush house, an adobe under construction, 2 tents, and 2 fenced in lots. Over the years, Castle Dome boasted of a school, 5 bars within a mile, [city stretched along a river] two mercantiles, a church or 2, sheriff’s office and jail, assay and mining offices, entertainment spots, blacksmith shop and numerous dwellings.”
(general store counter)
The Armstrongs fixed up what was there, brought buildings from other mining ghost towns or from federal property to this location and recreated what Castle Dome might have looked like in its heyday when its population exceeded 5,000 and was greater than Yuma. But when the shiny gold played out, the inhabitants drifted away to their next money-making opportunity. They are to be commended because each and every building held artifacts of the time. A self-guided tour gave us (and the dozen other visitors we saw) a sense of the people who chose to live there. Mr. Armstrong was spotted in the livery stable working on a pump for the sluice box, and he and my husband talked motors for a few minutes.
(general store shelves)
I guess if you’re a history lover, then what better way to demonstrate that than by creating a living museum?
Linda Carroll-Bradd writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her latest release is When My Heart Knew, a story in the Cowboy Kisses anthology. Check out her complete backlist of titles at www.lindacarroll-bradd.com.