It would seem I have a new project – a possible book profiling a select number of ghost towns along Route 66. The good folks at the Yahoo Route 66 group have been a real blessing on compiling this list and for that I say thank you.
The criteria for towns selected are that they have a history which predates Route 66 and that they lost more than 75% of their population and 85% of their business district as a result of the Route 66 bypass with the interstate highway system. Here is what I have so far.
Oro Grande – an important mining supply center in the late 19Th and early 20Th century as well as service center for travelers on the National Old Trails Highway and Route 66.
Helendale – the springs here made this an important stop for Indian traders, Spanish explorers, and American fur traders such as Kit Carson and John Fremont before an actual community was established to serve the railroad in the mid 1880s.
Daggett – the discovery of silver in nearby mountains during the 1860s led to the formation of the community as a supply center. Mining remained the primary source of income for the community until the development of tourism with the National Old Trails Highway and then Route 66.
Newberry Springs – the springs made this a key stop on for travelers on the Mojave Trail, the Spanish Trail and, after 1885, the railroad. This importance continued through the glory days of Route 66.
Ludlow – founded as a water stop for the railroad in 1883 the town became an important stop for desert travelers on the National Old Trails Highway as well as Route 66.
Essex – a well installed by the Automobile Club of Southern California made this a veritable desert oasis for travelers on Route 66 and numerous business were established here to cater to those needs.
Goffs – mining, ranching and the railroad were the hinge pin for establishment of this remote desert community. Tourism fueled a small boom until a realignment of Route 66 in 1931 bypassed the community.
Oatman – about twenty years before the creation of Route 66 this community became the center for the last great gold rush in Arizona. In 1914, the National Old Trails Highway was selected as part of the course for the Desert Classic Cactus Derby race. This provided residents a front row seat as Barney Oldfield, Louis Chevrolet, and other drivers roared through town. The collapse of mining in the 1940s and the realignment of Route 66 in 1953 left the town a ghost of its glory years.
Hackberry – at one point during the late 1870s there was talk of this becoming the Mohave County seat. Mining, ranching, the railroad and eventually Route 66 kept this town alive well into the 1960s.
Truxton – speculators hoping to cash in on the construction of a proposed dam in the nearby Grand Canyon gave rise to Truxton in the early 1950s. The dam never materialized but the traffic on Route 66 transformed the stillborn dream into a town.
NEW MEXICO –
New Kirk – was less than a wide spot in the road until the arrival of the railroad in 1901. The town experienced steady growth fueled by the need for services of travelers on Route 66. By 1934 the population was reported as 200.
Montoya – the initial development of Montoya was as a loading point for the railroad in 1902. This coupled with the development of homesteading in the area gave rise to a small community with a thriving business district. Route 66 fueled the growth and the bypass of the 1970s marked its demise.
Endee – the town was founded in 1882 as a ranch supply center and was large enough to warrant a post office by 1886. As late as the 1950s the population was purported to be 150.
San Jon – founded in 1902 this sleepy ranching community became a boom town with the arrival of Route 66. At its peak the business district consisted of several garages, gas stations, cafes, motels, and a general dry goods store.
Glenrio – straddling the border of New Mexico and Texas this town dates to 1901. By the year that Route 66 was commissioned the community boasted of a hotel, hardware store, cafes, service stations and even a newspaper.
Jericho – the cornerstone for this high plains ghost town was the establishment of a stage stop in the 1880s. Ranching and the arrival of the railroad in 1902 fueled growth to a point that a post office was warranted. Serving travelers on Route 66 fueled the growth and by the mid 1930s more than 100 people lived here. The realignment of Route 66 in the late 1930s initiated a downward spiral that resulted in complete abandonment.
Alanreed – in the early 1880s a group of entrepreneurial farmers decided this was an ideal spot for a town and established the Clarendon Land & Cattle Company. With completion of the railroad in 1903 the town entered its glory days. At is peak the town population was purported to be 500.
Erick – founded as a farm and ranch supply center in 1901 the town boomed with an oil discovery nearby. By the 1940s the oil boom was over, farming was a distant memory and only Route 66 kept the town alive.
Texola – also founded in 1901 this town, the result of disputed surveys, has been listed as being in Texas as well as Oklahoma. From the 1940s on it was Route 66 that was the lifeblood of the community.
Afton – this community dates to 1886 and was established as a farm community. At is peak the community boasted several banks, hotels and numerous stores. Its most famous Route 66 connection is that it was home to the famous Buffalo Ranch.
Foss – farming in the Turkey Creek Valley led to the establishment of the town. By 1905 after relocation due to a severe flood the population soared to an estimated 1,000 people. In spite of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression a small air force base and Route 66 kept the town alive well into the 1970s.
Picher – the mines here were counted among the nations leading producers during World War I and World War II. This grey gold was also at the heart of the communities demise as toxic levels prompted abandonment of the community. This one is a bit of stretch in that its demise was not really the result of the Route 66 bypass.
Paris Springs Junction – this Route 66 service center is often confused with nearby Paris Springs, a milling center established in the 1850s. This community became an entity solely as a result of Route 66 with the first building, a garage, being built in 1926.
I have a few other places in mind including Times Beach and Heatonville in Missouri. The Illinois slot is still empty but I am busy scouring old maps, comparing them with new maps and chasing leads. As progress continues I will keep you updated.