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Ghost Stories of Buckskin Joe Colorado
It was a warm, breezy summer day. A lone tumbleweed is spotted slowly rolling across the main street of Buckskin Joe Colorado. This may seem the only activity at the moment as this deserted ghost town slumbers. The wind picks up and the double doors to the old saloon move back and forth. steady. ominous. Further ahead, the haunted barn comes to life. Livestock can be heard rustling inside the vacant building. Perhaps a few horses talking amongst themselves in a language only they can understand. On a good day one might get lucky and see a full figure apparition crossing the street, or playing the piano in the saloon. To the average observer Buckskin Joe is just a dusty, deserted mining town of the late 1800's. However, on the other side of the veil Buckskin Joe is a vibrant gold rush town filled with rough necks who, like everyone with gold fever have put it all on the line for a chance to get rich. They work sixteen grueling hours by day and party like there is no tomorrow by night. It is fair to say two dimensions are at work here. Buckskin Joe is a doorway to another world. It is a doorway into the spirit realm for those who have passed on, but have not crossed over. The sun falls away and the moon enters the grand stage hovering over Buckskin Joe. Nighttime arrives and the saloon is in full gear. Filthy mouth cowboys with yellow teeth who haven't bathed in days come to drink and have a good time. Gold fever is in the air and money is the topic of every discussion. The smell of Tobacco smoke permeates the room while the piano belts out another old west tune. Whiskey, liquid courage is at the root of every conflict. The beautiful dance hall girl known as Silver Heels is about to perform and the miners are fighting for front row seats. Upstairs one might find the bones of a restless spirit known as J. Dawson Hidgepath. They keep burying his bones but they keep showing up in mysterious places. Yes, to the casual observer Buckskin Joe is just another deserted mining town, but to the keen observer, Buckskin Joe is a vibrant gold rush town of the late 1800's. Won't you join me in my humble abode? I have built a fire to make you comfortable. Come, let us speak of the past and the present. I want to tell you more about Buckskin Joe, Silver Heels and J. Dawson Hidgepath.
Buckskin Joe was founded in 1859 when a group of six prospectors, led by Joseph Higgenbottom settled there. There was some dispute early on regarding the town name. Some wanted to name the town Laurette, which stood for Laura and Jeanette, the wife and daughter of Old Man Dodge. The name Buckskin Joe was finally decided on because Joseph Higgenbottom wore buckskin clothes. At its pinnacle, the town was known for its saloons, gambling halls and traveling shows. Like any other town there were stores, a courthouse, a mill and three hotels. In August of 1861 Horace and Augusta Tabor moved to Buckskin Joe and opened one of the most successful stores in town. Horace invested in the mines and became the Postmaster. Buckskin Joe had its share of traveling preachers, one being Father John L. Dyer, a Methodist from Ohio. When not on the pulpit Father Dyer could be found prospecting. He also combined preaching with delivering the mail to surrounding cities. He had skis that were ten feet long and the mail weighed up to thirty pounds on his back. Nothing deterred Father Dyer from doing what needed to be done. By 1861 the town population was two thousand. In 1862 Buckskin Joe boasted of a newspaper, two banks, several saloons and dance halls. All that is left of Buckskin Joe is a deserted town, a cemetery and distant memories. The cemetery reveals some history of the town and its occupants. Most of the miners were immigrants from Europe. Their history is written on some of the grave stones. Let's talk about Silver Heels.
A local hero and legend emerged in the town in 1861. She was a dance hall girl who went by the name Silver Heels. She arrived by stagecoach and immediately her beauty captivated the mining camp. Never revealing he real name, the miners dubbed her Silver Heels for her dance shoes and her enchanting performances. Initially she was only going to stay in town for a few shows but when the miners started showering her with gifts she agreed to stay and called the town her home. In the winter of 1861 smallpox swept through the mining town claiming many lives. Within days the only road to the cemetery became lined with the living carrying the dead to their final resting place. An urgent plea went out to the city of Denver for nurses and medical supplies but no one came. All who could help did so, including Silver Heels. She stayed in cabin after cabin, nursing the sick, caring for the families and burying their dead. In 1862 the worst of the disease was over and sadly, Silver Heels vanished. The miners looked for her everywhere, to no avail. She had not left by horse or stagecoach. Her cabin was clean but she was nowhere to be found. Some say she contracted smallpox and her face was horribly scarred. A few years later it was said that a heavily veiled woman, dressed in black and carrying flowers was seen in the Buckskin Joe cemetery. The legend goes on that this woman, who is seen often in the cemetery is Silver Heels still looking after the souls that lost their lives to smallpox. The people claimed she never left and named Mount Silver Heels after her. The story goes on that if she is approached at the cemetery her spirit will vanish into the mountain air.
J. Dawson Hidgepath
Another restless spirit is said to inhabit the bones of J. Dawson Hidgepath. In 1865 his battered, broken body was found at the bottom of Mount Boss. He fell several hundred feet while prospecting for gold. Soon after his burial, his bones were found on the bed of a prostitute in the nearby town of Alma. Believing it was a tasteless prank, the townspeople reburied the bones in Buckskin Joe cemetery, yet time after time the bones showed up at the house of some fair lady. By 1872 the bones were the talk of the state. People were throwing the bones down outhouses and finding other unique ways of getting rid of the bones. It is impossible to determine what was happening with these bones but whatever force kept Dawson's bones from staying buried is said to still reside in the old haunted cemetery. So, if you are ever passing through Buckskin Joe you may catch a glimpse of Silver Heels dancing in the cemetery, or you may come across Dawson or his bones. Fear not, I am told they are friendly.