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Colorado Ghost Town, Saint Elmo

Updated on December 6, 2016

Saint Elmo Colorado

Traveling from Denver to Saint Elmo

M​e​r​g​e​ ​o​n​t​o​ ​U​S​-​2​8​5​ ​S​.​ (go 111.14 miles)

  1. T​u​r​n​ ​l​e​f​t​ ​t​o​ ​s​t​a​y​ ​o​n​ ​U​S​-​2​8​5​ ​S​.​
  2. T​u​r​n​ ​r​i​g​h​t​ ​o​n​t​o​ ​C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​1​6​2​.​
    C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​1​6​2​ ​i​s​ ​0​.​3​ ​m​i​l​e​s​ ​p​a​s​t​ ​C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​1​9​7​
  3. T​u​r​n​ ​s​l​i​g​h​t​ ​l​e​f​t​ ​o​n​t​o​ ​C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​2​9​0​.​
    I​f​ ​y​o​u​ ​a​r​e​ ​o​n​ ​C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​1​6​2​ ​a​n​d​ ​r​e​a​c​h​ ​C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​1​6​2​G​ ​​
    (go 3.74 miles)
  4. C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​2​9​0​ ​b​e​c​o​m​e​s​ ​C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​1​6​2​.​ (go 6.58 miles)
  5. S​t​a​y​ ​s​t​r​a​i​g​h​t​ ​t​o​ ​g​o​ ​o​n​t​o​ ​C​o​u​n​t​y​ ​R​o​a​d​ ​2​9​6​.​ (go 0.05 miles)
  6. W​e​l​c​o​m​e​ ​t​o​ ​S​T​ ​E​L​M​O​,​ ​C​O​.​

Sawatch Mountian Range

Saint Elmo Location

The well preserved ghost town of Saint Elmo lies in the middle of Sawatch Range of the Colorado Rockies in Chaffee County at an altitude of 9,961 feet. Located 20 miles southwest of Buena Vista, Saint Elmo can be in the summer months easily reached with a 2 wheel car. Saint Elmo is located on the eastern side of Tin Cup Pass a rugged road above timberline that connects to the old mining town of Tin Cup. The town is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Saint Elmo Historic District.

Brief history of Saint Elmo

Originally settled in 1878 and named Forest City but the name was later changed to Saint Elmo when one of the founding fathers Griff Evans was reading a 19th century romance novel by the same name.

With local mines producing gold and silver the population soared quickly to over 2000. With the mostly male population of course, there were plenty of saloons, dance halls and soiled doves.

In 1881 during the construction of the historic Alpine Tunnel by the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad the town of Saint Elmo became the leading source of material and manpower for the expanding railroad. With the building of the railroad and 150 plus patented mines in the area the town started to grow to include 3 hotels, 2 general stores, 5 restaurants, 2 saw mills and a weekly newspaper.

In 1881 a rancher named Anton Stark brought a herd of beef to sell to the railroad and decide to stay. Anton and his wife Anna and their 3 children Tony, Roy and Annabelle took up full time residence.

West Main Street

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The Stark Clan

After the Stark Clan settles in Saint Elmo and Anton went to work as a section chief for one of the local mines. The family also started a general store and hotel named Home Comfort Hotel which also housed the post office and telegraph office. Anna and the 3 children Tony, Roy and little Annabelle all worked in the hotel or the store. It was said the hotel was the cleanest and with the best food in all of Saint Elmo.

The Stark family was Saint Elmo social elite. There was, however a dark cloud over the family, mother Anna was a very stern and a tough disciplinarian with the 3 kids. They were not allowed to play with the other kids in town and forbidden to go to any social functions or dances. The 3 kids only had each other and their mother to socialize with.

Death of Saint Elmo and the Stark family.

The local mines the Theresse C, the Molly and the Pioneer started to fail around 1910 about that same time the railroad closed the Alpine Tunnel. The Murphy mine the most successful mine shut down in 1920. The railroad stop running in 1922 and the tracks were torn up in 1926.

As the town started to fade the Stark Family stayed hoping and believing in the re-birth of Saint Elmo. Anton died in the 1925 leaving Anna and the 3 eccentric children to run the store and rent cabins to tourist. By 1930 the population had dropped to 7.

In 1934 Roy passed on and was joined by his mother, Anna a short time later, leaving only Tony and Annabelle as the only living residents in a dead Saint Elmo. The hotel started to deteriorate as well as the family store. Without running water or electricity Tony and Annabelle were not much more than hermits as they continued to run the store with dirty clothes and tangled hair. It was during this time Annabelle Stark got her nickname of "Dirty Annie". "Dirty Annie" started to roam the streets with a pistol and shotgun and would threaten anyone who she thought might try to steal or rob the Stark family business. Tony died around 1957 and "Dirty Annie" was sent to a mental institution and passed on in 1960.

The Stark family holdings including the store were left to a family friend who helped Tony and Annabelle in the last years of their lives.

Ghost of "Dirty Annie"

Since "Dirty Annie" died it has been reported that her ghost still watch's over the town. Tourist to the old town have noted seeing a woman looking out from the windows of the old hotel. Numerous times people also tell of feeling sudden cold spots in or around the buildings that still exist and of doors open and closing all by themselves. That "Dirty Annie" still roams the boardwalks at night. Here is a poem I wrote. I hope you enjoy it.

"Annabelle Stark"

She walks out of the shadows when the day turns dark

Saint Elmo’s only full time resident is Annabelle Stark

From the hotel window overlooking the Stark family store

Watching the empty boardwalks of Saint Elmo once more

She was born, raised, lived and breathed this was her town

Never thought of leaving even when the gold mines shut down

When young Annie was beautiful, the talk of the town

Many years later she would have her mental breakdown

"Dirty Annie" a nickname given as she grew older and aged

Never bathing and tangled hair as mental illness raged

Known to patrol the dusty streets with a pistol and shotgun

Year in and year out as her afflicted mind became undone

"Dirty Annie’s" hotel deteriorated as well as the family store

Trash and sour smelling food tins began to pile up on the floor

In the year of our Lord 1960 "Dirty Annie" fell ill and she died

Some say at night in Saint Elmo that her ghost still resides

Poem by Kurt Reifschneider

Saint Elmo today

Saint Elmo today is a tourist stop and a photographers dream during Autumn when the aspens start to turn. The store is still operational and is like stepping back 100 years in time. You can buy sunflower seeds to feed the chipmunks that will eat right out of your hand.

Saint Elmo today has no full time residents except one the ghost of "Dirty Annie". She still walks the dusty boardwalks protecting her town.

Plan your trip to Saint Elmo

I hope I have provided you with some insight and what to expect on your trip to Saint Elmo... And if you see a woman looking out from the top floor windows of the hotel... well that is just "Dirty Annie"


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    • kurtreifschneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Kurt James 

      12 months ago from Loveland Colorado

      Thanks once again Shyron for taking the time to read and comment

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      12 months ago from Texas

      Kurt, loved your poem and reading about the demise of Saint Elmo, and the Stark family.

      Blessings my friend

    • kurtreifschneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Kurt James 

      2 years ago from Loveland Colorado

      It was a good day Peggy, I was happy to spend that day with you.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      This was probably one of the best day trips I have ever taken..I want to go back there someday if I can find my way. Great article Kurt and I am honored to be in it!!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Awesome article, like all he others, great guy behind it!!


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