There are numerous ghost towns to be found in Colorado, but few are as well preserved as Independence. Roughly sixteen miles east of Aspen, Independence boomed between its founding in 1879 and about 1890, an extraordinarily short period of time even by the standards of short-lived boom towns. Today the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
While many of Colorado’s boom
towns made their fortune in silver, Independence was based around gold.
Prospectors discovered gold in the area in the summer of 1879, and within a
matter of months there were several hundred people living in the camp.
By 1881, there were roughly 500
people living in Independence, and the town had four grocery stores, four
boarding houses, and a few saloons. Within another year, there were three post
offices in Independence and a population of 1,500. The town also had its own
newspaper, the Independence Miner.
As with most boom towns, however,
the prosperity of Independence didn’t last long. The settlement is located at
an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet above sea level, which meant that living
there was a challenge for even the hardiest souls. By the 1890s, many relocated
to Aspen, with a comparatively mild climate and more opportunities for work.
In 1899, the area was struck by a
devastating storm, the worst one in Colorado’s history at that point. The
miners who remained in Independence were stuck and running low on provisions
and were forced to dismantle their homes and fashion skis from the wood. By
1912, the town was deserted. The site is now listed on the National Register of