Welcome to SKJ Travel ... my narrative travel blog where you can join me vicariously in adventures around the world. I tell my stories through both words and photographs. If you're joining me on a smart phone, click HERE to quickly access the archive and essays. People say to me all the time, "You should write a book about your travels." Well, my friends, this is essentially it. And in this age, an online blog is easier, displays a bajillion more photos, needs no publisher, and often reaches a broader audience than in print. Unlike a formal book or essay, though, I'm mostly just writing casually off the top of my head, but I hope, dear readers, you will feel as if I'm having a conversation with you. In the archives you'll find personal posts from some of my travels. To read my more formal articles and documentaries visit one of the blue buttons above or see the Travel Essays section. Friday Photos are typically updated weekly, and Tuesday Tales are updated sporadically. You can follow SKJ Travel on social media at:
How many times have I said, "I intended this post to be mostly photographs ..." and then fall down a rabbit hole of history and random anecdotes and end up posting a novelette? Well, I don't know the actual number of times, but it's a pretty big number. But today, I am sticking to my intention! I just wanted to show you a very interesting hike we took up in north-central Colorado, just a hair beneath the Wyoming border near Wellington, CO.
Red Mountain Open Space has several loop trails that intersect, so ultimately you can make quite a hike of it. We walked about 8.5 miles. It's very easy terrain (a necessity for my knees), so including lunch and stopping to take photos, we took roughly 4 hours. Plus about 4 hours round trip driving, it made the perfect day trip. I was a little worried that the hike wouldn't be worth all the driving, but it definitely was. I imagine we'll return to pick up a couple of the other loops and I've since learned there are buffalo you can see in the area (not accessible directly from the Open Space, but in the area).
So I'm just going to take you along on our hike, in chronological order, to share this interesting place. I could have included fewer photos, but I wanted to give you a real feel for the varied terrain and how surprising it is to be packed into what is ultimately a relatively small space for such diversity. For the record, these are the trails we took, linking together to make our loop, though I can't tell you when we transitioned from one trail to another in the photos: Sinking Sun, Big Hole Wash, Salt Lick, Ruby Wash, short stretch of Bent Rock. I'm glad we walked the direction we did, as my favorite part of the hike was at the end, and it's always nice to end with the best. You can see immediately where the "Red" comes from in the naming of the Open Space.
This was mid-May, and at our house spring had not yet sprung. The aspens had not leafed out and only the earliest wildflowers had begun to poke their heads up. So we were pleased to get a flower fix. We don't see cactus much up in our 'hood either.
The path goes on very gently through this scrubby meadow through pale dirt heading toward pale hills. We started with blue sky.
Some more wildflowers to brighten our day along the way. The bottom is larkspur but I don't actually know what the lovely white flower is. (Not going to look it up; might fall down a rabbit hole.)
The terrain becomes a little more undulating with small arroyos and pinkening dirt. It acquires a distinctly Southwestern feel. Clouds begin to form on our horizon.
Back up into the grass and white rocks to the side.
Red starts to enter the landscape again in the distance. I'm beginning to think about the fact I didn't put any rain gear in our day pack, even though I brought it in the car.
Then just like that, within the space of one stride we are back in the Southwest but now with a deep red-colored dirt exposed and another set of sandy arroyos.
And ta-dah! The span of another stride takes us back onto a pale path and greening meadow. It is about now we are thinking about lunch and wondering what options for shade we will have.
This next transition may have taken two or three strides to complete, but once again we abruptly enter another landscape as if we have transported over to southern Utah or something. We were completely unaware that this type of landscape existed in northern Colorado. I'm hoping that wherever we stop for much might also provide shelter from rain should we need it! But the clouds did make for a very striking atmosphere of red, white and blue.
Alas, we did find a perfect alcove in which to have lunch, nice and shady. In spite of the name, Red Mountain Open Space, I have to confess, we still did not expect to be eating lunch in surroundings quite like this. I imagined more of a red mountain looming above a pine-treed forest or something. I only saw reference to this place from a post on Facebook, I really knew nothing about it except it had easy trails.
The eroding sandstone walls look like a giant game of Jenga being played by a whimsical Nature.
Now we emerge from the red canyon into another landscape of cottonwood trees lining a dry riverbed. The trail meandered in and out of the riverbed, and suddenly looks more green than the land we started out on.
Erik was stopped looking back down the trail the way we had come as I approached him and he blurted out a surprised, "Whoa!" "What?" I asked. "Look behind you!" he said. And ... whoa! An unexpected sight indeed. Enormous windmill blades rotating across the horizon. Maybe it's just the giant who plays the Jenga game sitting in front of his fan ... it was, after all, a pretty warm day.
Now we head into an area more lush, the path lined with very tall bushes. It must be gorgeous when they're in full bloom.
We head into a delightful, cool canyon lined with an unassuming babbling brook. Is this tiny stream the ancestor of the thing that carved down through this rock? Now the exposed layers give us an interesting glimpse into the geology that lies beneath the rolling hills and meadows. One doesn't always think about all the layers that lie below them, about how ancient our landscapes are and how dynamic our planet is — adding layers here, tilting layers there, flooding with seas, drying into deserts, all the while subtly shifting.
And from here we soon emerge back into open plain and our parking lot. Never a drop of rain fell on us. Or maybe one or two, I can't remember now. So you have completed a virtual hike through a large portion of Red Mountain Open Space. Hope you enjoyed!
In today's post, we'll take a look around the Catholic Cemetery at Central City. I believe it's the largest, at least in terms of space, on a hilltop full of cemeteries in this old mining district.
What I really find moving in these old mountain cemeteries is the sense of lonesomeness that I would not equate with loneliness. There are plenty of other graves around and many of the cemeteries are regularly visited, and there is the glorious mountain backdrop, but I love the way they are spaced out in the "wild" unmanicured landscape — in the meadows, in the aspens, beside the pines.
The first day that we took time to get out of our vehicle, instead of driving by as we have for years as we come out of or go into a network of 4x4 roads, was a late-autumn day.
We were actually a little stunned to see how far this cemetery stretched once we started walking around. Photos in this post are from that day and subsequent visits in spring.
Like all the other 19th-century mountain cemeteries, there seem to be a disproportionately high number of graves marked for children. Below are three girls, sisters who never knew one another. Two died at about two years of age and another at about six months.
Another memorial of three children born to the same parents. They lasted about 11 months, 1 year, and 13 years. The parents, Ignass Gundy and his wife, were both born in France, and must have had such high hopes for 13-year old George as he outlived his younger brothers. But then that life was snubbed out, too. I always presume, rightly or wrongly, that very young children died from illness of some sort or birth complications if very young. But I'm more intrigued by young teenagers, wondering if they were already working in dangerous mines or also contracted an illness or were victim of some other type of accident.
Another infant grave below, Julia Keyes was the daughter of Andrew and Mary. Mary died one month before her daughter died, who was only 2 months 24 days old at death. It must have been pretty hard on Andrew to lose both his wife and child in such a short span of time. Mary clearly didn't die in childbirth, but I wonder if complications from a difficult delivery could have been a factor. (See how these cemeteries set the curiosity on fire!)
Another babe, Emma Schneider, was laid to rest at nine months old. It's sad see the tombstone sinking into the ground into the indifferent jaws of native the plants. Obscurity for Emma lies just around the corner.
As it does for Mr. Gleason, one of the many who immigrated here from Ireland. During the years of the potato famine, it's said two million Irish sailed to America. Gold wasn't discovered in Colorado until 1858, so a lot of those buried here may have actually traveled to Central City from elsewhere in America. So many of them were imagining they would escape the hardships of mid-century Ireland, only to end up with potentially harder lives here in the mines.
I don't know as much about what situations other Europeans might have been trying to escape (speaking on a broad scale), or if their passage here was motivated purely by the sparkle of gold in their eyes. There are a notable number of Italians, Germans and Austrians. Two epitaphs are written in Italian below.
Michael Egger was born in Austria and married a girl from north Carolina.
A handful of other souls in their mountain peace.....
James Curran was born in Ireland. In this same cemetery, there is an Ellen Curran Flynn born in the same county (Waterford) of Ireland, one year apart from James. Are they siblings perhaps? Ellen’s husband, John Flynn, is also from Waterford, and another woman with the maiden name Curran born in Ireland (county not specified) is buried. She married a man who immigrated from Germany and became part owner of a couple mines in Gilpin County. Are all the Currans related? It's apparently a common surname in Ireland, so they could certainly be unrelated. But are they? Haha, these little mysteries always strike me.
But back to Ellen and John Flynn, who have really tickled my imagination … there are newspaper clippings referring to deaths of three of their sons who preceded themselves in death. Three very curious deaths. Their son, Joseph, died at age 22 when, according to the newspaper, he fell under a moving train in Idaho Springs (just over the mountain from Central City) and died of his injuries. Now how does that happen? Even in that time, I don’t think many people just randomly fell onto railroad tracks. Maybe he was drunk? Or maybe he was pushed?
That newspaper article mentions that the bereaved parents (John and Ellen) lost another son a few years earlier to “strangulation in the Brooklyn mine” (a gold mine in the district). There is no further explanation given for “strangulation,” and I so far haven’t found any articles about this incident. Does this mean another human killed him? Or perhaps a mine accident in which he was crushed in a way he couldn't breathe? Asphyxiation from toxic fumes, like he forgot to take a canary with him that day as a warning bell? The word choice is so cryptic, though it could have been used more commonly in that day, I don't know (like "apoplexy" is not commonly used now but was back then to indicate a stroke). Strangely, his name is not on the Flynn family tombstone with all the other children of these parents even though he apparently died there in Central City. Why? The mystery is killing me.
Yet another son, John (“Jack”) died in the Queen-of-the-West Mine at age 18. He was stooped over cleaning up a shaft after a detonation when a rock fell loose from above him and hit him on the back of the head near the base. According to a newspaper article, “Flynn commenced bleeding at the ears.” His partner placed him in the bucket and called for it to be hoisted up. He reached the surface and passed away shortly thereafter “without uttering a word after being struck by the rock.” No inquest was held; apparently all the other miners in the area felt there was nothing suspicious. But I dunno … one rock falling precisely on a fatal spot — three accidents for these brothers resulting in three suspicious-sounding deaths.
I really want to know who this John Flynn, their father, was who left Ireland. I feel like he was somebody against whom someone else had a vendetta for him and his family! Haha. Or who had been dealt a curse back in the homeland and fled to America to try to escape the curse! The news article about Jack’s death states that the grieving parents “have the sympathy of a large circle of friends.” So likely, it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances. Many circumstances and fates of miners of that era were, after all, quite unfortunate. It would have been more suspicious if it said the parents “kept to themselves” or were not well-liked, then I could imagine enemies who might push, strangle and clobber their family.
So one of my goals now in returning to these cemeteries is to count the number of nationalities I see. I think there are probably a wider variety in the Catholic and Central City cemeteries than in those of fraternal orders (which outnumber the non-fraternal ones). And another goal is to find the gravestone of Sebastian Zang in the Catholic Cemetery and of William Vine in the Central City Cemetery. There are photos of them on Find-a-Grave, so I know they are still standing. Why these two men?
First I’ll just say what can be divined about them from their gravestones. Vine was an immigrant from Cornwall, married a wife from Cornwall, and drowned in the Bates Hunter Mine in 1885 just a few months after a son was born to him. His first son had died already at 2 years old. His second son went on to outlive him by many years, and his widow remarried another Cornish man. Zang drowned along with Vine in the mine. I haven’t found any info on him, but the name had me curious. Zang is a surname in Mandarin. Many Chinese people assume English names because English people cannot pronounce their Chinese names. But according to a report from one of Colorado's public radio stations, KUNC, "Chinese population in Colorado from 1860-1890: at the time, there were only about 125 Chinese people in Gilpin County. They were considered the lowest ethnic group and relegated to the scraps from abandoned mines to find gold. They used a method called placer mining, commonly referred to as panning." So it seems unlikely he was Chinese. A little Googling revealed that it is also a surname in German, which I wouldn’t have guessed. This makes much more sense. There is even a town in Germany named Zang. His gravestone also includes another Zang, Adam, and from the birthdates I presume they are brothers.
As to my interest in these men … well, I read a ghost story about them. I first read the story in a book, then I found it online pretty much verbatim. But the two texts have different authors and neither one cites the other, so I don’t know who copied who, or if they both copied someone else. So I don’t know the true source but the story goes essentially like this: Zang and Vine drowned in the Bates Hunter Mine after an explosive charge inside the mine caused the shaft they were in to flood. [The two texts both misstate the death date; they say August 7, but the actual tombstones of both men say July 31.] After their demise, there were claims that their ghosts had spared two miners from certain death — one man from an explosion and another from an accidental fall, but it isn’t explained exactly how the ghosts interacted with the men to save them. Then there was a cave-in at the mine that endangered several miners. They all managed to escape alive, and supposedly they each said they had seen Zang and Vine holding back the crumbling walls and roof of the tunnel until the miners were able to run out unharmed. So they were not only helpful ghosts, but superhero-strength ghosts! As to why none of the other miners who died in the mine over the years were so benevolent in the afterlife, I can't guess.
I don't know why Zang and Vine gave up their heroic escapades after that when there were surely many subsequent accidents in the mine, but there are no further references to their ghosts. I guess holding up those walls was a lot of work and they became tired enough to rest in peace afterward.
So I mentioned in an earlier post that we recently spoke to a miner currently working in Central City who told us about the water that needed to be pumped out of the old shafts. That mine he’s working in is the Bates Hunter. I started looking more into it after reading this ghost story and remembering our conversation. This isn’t meant as a plug for the company reviving the mine, but what I found is quite interesting to me. The company has produced a whole series of videos on the reopening of the mine and the mill — work still in progress as of 2023, including interviews with all the workers at these sites. Honestly, they make good PR for the company coming across as running a very “wholesome” and environmentally conscious kind of operation. And maybe it is, but I think judgment will be reserved until they are up and operating to see what kind of impact they’re really having on the area.
According to them, the Bates-Hunter is the second oldest mine in the Central City mining district, which, I’ve mentioned in many of my posts, has been called “the richest square mile on earth.” They also say that only 15% of all the valuable minerals have been extracted from the area. So while I’m ambivalent about the idea of new industrial work intruding into what has become a rather peaceful old town (Central City more peaceful than the adjacent Blackhawk who has utterly sold its soul to casinos, while Central City maintains a more historical presence in spite of casinos), it is kind of cool to see a piece of history being resurrected. Not just any piece, but the history that settled this region and brought all these East Coast and European folk to end up living here and dying here in these cemeteries.
As romantic a vision as it is of the old miners toiling in the mines with their candles and canaries, this area and huge swaths of the Colorado Rockies were exceedingly noisy, dirty, bustling places most people would not want to live in now.
Anyway, these are a couple of the videos I found most interesting showing the old mine tunnels they are restabilizing and the old mill they are restoring.
I’m going to tack on here some photos of a tour we recently took on a random outing to Idaho Springs of the Argo Mill and Tunnel (we didn’t intend to end up here, but there we were and a tour was about to start, so in we went). Since I have just mentioned what noisy places these old mining towns were in their heyday, and also the persistent issue of water in the mines, it’s a relevant topic. If you are driving down I-70 by Idaho Springs you will see the tall red mill building on the side of the mountain from the interstate.
So more than 100 hard rock mines were being worked between Idaho Springs and Central City in the late 19th century, a spread of a little over four miles. As the shafts were dug steadily deeper, the mines of course filled with water to where eventually the cost of pumping water was the primary mining expense, sometimes too costly to continue production.
A Mr. Samuel Newhouse conceived of building a slightly inclined tunnel under the mines of the Central City district with a pipe to carry water away from the mines and empty at Idaho Springs, thereby eradicating pumping costs and letting gravity do the work instead. Additionally, the tunnel would be fitted with tracks to allow mining carts to carry the ore out downhill to the mill that would be built at the mouth of the tunnel in Idaho Springs, again sparing the cost of hoisting the ore out in shaft houses, and utilizing gravity instead. This was pretty revolutionary work for the time, a veritable technological wonder, and beginning in 1893 the Argo Tunnel took 17 subsequent years to complete. It was (they say) the world’s longest tunnel at the time of its completion in 1910.
Here are some historical photos inside the tunnel. The first one shows how there is both the water pipeline above and the ore cart tracks below. I had a hard time finding any source that would explain exactly the water system. One source called it a “flume” rather than a pipeline. This is only photo I saw online that illustrates both the pipe and the tracks. I can’t tell if the top of the piping is open like a flume or if it’s a closed pipeline.
The mill was in full production processing 300 tons of ore per day by 1913. People from all over the world came to tour the tunnel and mill complex. A narrow gauge railroad came right up to the mill and high-grade ore was loaded directly onto the train for transport to smelters and the rest went into the Argo mill. The tunnel is now sealed about 150 feet from the entrance but water continues to drain from the mines it connected to. Although the water is pumped through a water treatment facility before being released into Clear Creek, it’s still a Superfund site. The tunnel today still drains 700 gallons/minute! It’s closely monitored to ensure there is never another flood, which is what closed the tunnel in 1943 when some miners working in the tunnel blasted into an unused shaft that hadn’t been drained of water. All that water dropped down in a mighty wave, killing those miners and flooding the tunnel. The water blasted out of the tunnel like a fire hose for some hours. The flooding was so substantial that it caused Clear Creek to shift across the valley.
So the site lay abandoned until about 1970 when restoration of it began and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Today the Argo Mill is a museum with guided tours, and I believe there is more coming in the way of tourist attraction. It’s noted in the intro film of the tour that this is the only place in the USA that is both a Superfund Site and a National Historic Site.
Part of what is notable about Argo Mill is that because it was taking ore from so many different mines, this diversity of ore meant many different types of equipment were necessary for optimal processing.
Several varieties of ore crushing, vibrating and grinding machines were employed. One brute-force method was the twenty 1,050-pound stamps that pulverized gold-bearing ore so the “wheat” could be easily separated from the “chaff.” The noise from the mines and the mill, in particular these stamps, gave the valley a reputation as “Thunder Valley.” No earplug on earth could mitigate the noise of the stamp mill, and our tour guide told us that the men who worked nearest the stamps would go deaf within days.
Another type of extraction process used chemistry rather than physics. Different chemicals, notably mercury and cyanide, could be used in different processes to separate gold from other metals.
So, following are some photos I snapped inside the mill. My history lesson has been a little long in this post, so I'll spare you also an ore mill lesson! Even without explanations, I think the space inside the mill is pretty cool and the machinery is still impressive, and most of it is actually the original machinery, not reproductions, and you still get a feel for what a loud and bustling place it must have been.
This is a compressor outside the tunnel.
At the end of the tour, you get a little bag of river sand and a special pan like the placer miners used, and taught how to pan for gold. Unfortunately Erik and I didn’t stay to pan, as this whole afternoon had not been planned, we just ended up here via meandering and by the time the tour ended, it was past our kitties’ feeding time and it was the better part of hour’s drive home. But we got to take the sand home, so now we just need to find one of those pans somewhere! I bet there is a Youtube video to instruct us in the technique. I suddenly have a memory of when I was a kid, my family and I used to picnic at the Poudre River in Colorado and we used our frisbees to pan for fool’s gold. As a kid I thought that was pretty darn fun.
An endnote here that I got a lot of the info on the Argo complex from https://www.goldrushtradingpost.com/argo_mine___mill.
please note all photos in this post may be viewed larger by opening in a new tab (right-click)
OK, so ... I had intended this to be pretty much a purely photographic post, something to counterbalance my recently verbose, historically laden Colorado posts, but of course I engage in just a little bit of research and it's hard to hold my tongue. Erik and I took a brief (several day) trip to San Jose, California, a few years back. The motivation was that the Winchester Mystery House was high on Erik's to-see list and so I arranged a trip to see it on a milestone birthday of his. He has a degree in architecture, so architectural oddities are one of his primary interests. And as it happens, I find them fun and interesting also.
The eccentric, rambling mansion was built by widowed Sarah Winchester whose wealth came to her in the late 1800s as the heiress to a large portion of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company fortune, made predominantly from the manufacture and sales of the popular Winchester repeating rifle, often touted as "the gun that won the west." At the time I made the plan to visit, what we knew of the house's story was the popular paranormal explanation for the widow Winchester's eccentricities. Admittedly, we found the story appealing. But now we know that it's just a myth built up over the decades that has gained an unfortunate amount of steam. It's perpetuated even by the house's own tours. "The tours and marketing of the Winchester Mystery House still emphasize the supernatural elements of the story. The tale about a talented, philanthropic woman architect falls to the wayside in favor of spooking guests." [Santa Clara University Digital Exhibit.] I guess spooks sell more tickets than smarts.
The SCU digital exhibit far more appropriately suggests letting the labyrinth invite contemplation rather than ghosts, and emphasizes the metaphorical aspects of a labyrinth. For it's an architectural wonder, not a paranormal wonder, and Sarah Winchester was far ahead of her time as a woman competently indulging in architecture and interior design. I have a particular sympathy to this, as even my mother-in-law encountered some resistance as a woman architect in the 1970s, so I can only imagine how Sarah's skills and creativity were disregarded as a woman of the turn of the 20th century.
The debunked yet persistently popular, and perpetuated, notions are that Sarah Winchester kept adding nonsensically onto the house because she was a reclusive nutjob convinced she was being haunted by the ghosts of all the people who had been killed by Winchester rifles, that she was heavily involved with seances, and a psychic told her that she would die the instant she stopped building the house.
So the image portrayed is a muttering woman trying to flee both ghosts and her own death through obsessive carpentry. I had recalled from our visit some of what the guides related (you can only view the house via guided tour) of Sarah's skills and motivations beyond the spiritual, but I felt I could use a refresher. So I had a chat with Google and fell down another rabbit hole (like Colorado history). I ended up reading a lot, particularly articles debunking the whole haunted, spiritual aspect. I felt it only responsible to share at least part of this knowledge if I'm going to present photos of the house. I love a good haunted house and mystery as much as the next person, but I also feel bad for Sarah's memory, how it has been rather desecrated with what is essentially nonsense. Her legacy as a very smart, astoundingly creative and philanthropic individual has been maligned by tales of superstition that contradict her actual spirit and brilliance, so I don't want to share this photo-laden post without acknowledging the truth about her and her creation.
Sarah didn't start building from scratch. Shortly after being widowed, she bought a very modest eight-room farm house and continually expanded outward and upward starting in 1886 until her death in 1922, essentially without interruption, at a cost in today's dollars of $71 million. Below is a historical photo from the Mystery House's website labeled "the oldest known photograph of the house" but it does not supply a date for it. I sort of presume the date is after she bought it.
It now covers 24,000 square feet. It also used to be surrounded by lush gardens with hundreds of plants from around the world. Now it sits anachronistically amid the bustling shopping centers of the Silicon Valley. It was registered as a California Historical Landmark in 1974.
In the photo below, note the "doorway to nowhere" above the sidewalk on the right-hand side. You can also see it in the first photo of this post. Much has been made of these doorways and stairways to nowhere, of which there are several. These features and the maze-like layout are purported to have been designed to confuse ghosts of people killed by the Winchester rifle trying to haunt her. But this is rubbish. A lot of these oddities are the result of the 1906 earthquake that damaged much of the house which was subsequently not rebuilt. So doorways that once opened to balconies now open to nothing; staircases that once led to an upper level now end abruptly. Sarah seemed to be more focused on moving forward with her work rather than repairing beyond necessity the past. I think her goal and joy was in the active designing and building itself, not to have a gloriously finished and perfected end-product.
This is a photo of the house pre-1906 earthquake. The tall tower is one of the things toppled by the earthquake that was never rebuilt.
Another reason for the continual construction speaks to her philanthropic spirit. The house wasn't perpetually sprawled because she wanted to rattle around alone in it or because she believed she would die if she ceased building. The truth is, she was able to employ many people who could support their families on the wages she paid, and some employees even raised their families on the grounds while working various aspects of her property. She felt useful as a source of employment. And she could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, indulging her own architectural and artistic interests with local laborers to manifest her visions. The photo below is provided by the Mystery House's website, labeled, "Sarah's workers."
A lot of the information contradicting all the supernatural, superstitious mythology of the house comes from interviews conducted circa 1950 with people who remembered Sarah, from later recollections provided by descendants of workers at the house, and from letters and other documents and photographs in historical archives in San Jose.
So with 24,000 square feet to the mansion, certainly a lot of labor was required over the years! Some stats on the mansion from the Mystery House's website: 2,000 doors; 160 rooms (at one time, before the earthquake, as many as 500); 52 skylights; 47 stairways; 17 chimneys; 13 bathrooms (which seems kind of a small number to me for 160 rooms); 6 kitchens (which seems oddly high, but I imagine speaks to the fact that Sarah wasn't designing toward some finished product for herself to live in, as she certainly wouldn't need six kitchens; or else it was handy if you got hungry in one wing of the house not to have to travel all the way to another wing to fix a bite to eat!)
And a feature that really stands out is the 10,000 windows. In addition to her fondness for windows and light, she liked stained glass. I do not know a stat for how much stained glass there is. But here are some of the windows and glass.
Some stained glass panels.....
Here is a small selection of the 2,000 doors.
I really appreciated the light, open, airy feel of so many of the rooms. With all the ghostly stories of hauntings and seances swirling around the house, I expected maybe something a little more dark and oppressive. But it's actually a very cheery space. I think it would be quite nice to live there. Though if I really wanted to use the whole house I think I'd have to install moving walkways like they have in airports or it would take me all day just to get around.
The bedroom looks a little dark but it's just because of the heavy velvet curtains. If it were my bedroom I'd replace those with something lighter.
And what is a mansion without a grand ballroom? So here it is below. Did Sarah ever host a ball? This I do not know the answer to. But the rumors about her hosting seances are false. No one who actually knew her, nor the workers who lived there, ever saw her have one or ever heard her express interest in such things.
One of the six kitchens. My guess is the bread is a little stale by now.
Storage room with various wooden parts and ornaments.
We really enjoyed our tour through this amazing house and I recommend it to everyone. But if you go, just remember who Sarah Winchester really was — a visionary, artistic woman ahead of her time, not a crazy lady obsessed with the supernatural. Below is a historical photo of Sarah in a carriage ... apparently photos of her are quite rare.
Other things we did on this trip include Big Basin Redwoods State Park. And the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden — a delightful, free space (as in no admission charge) to wander through, with more than 3,500 plantings and 189 varieties of roses, spread over five acres.
We talked to some of the volunteer gardeners, mostly retired persons ... honestly I would find this a pretty sweet retirement hobby. If you're in the area, I recommend you stop to smell the roses in this garden!
When we first ran across this old overgrown cemetery above Central City in Colorado, the first thing we had to ask ourselves was, "Who are the Knights of Pythias?"
Maybe you know, but I had to look it up. I guess that's the old person's way of saying I had to Google it. My gracious, how did we ever know things without Google? Trek all the way to a library? Wow, we had a lot of energy. Anyway, I found out, if you don't know, the Knights of Pythias is a fraternal order founded in 1864 in America. Of it, our revered then-president, Abraham Lincoln, said, "It is one of the best agencies conceived for the upholding of government, honoring the flag, for the reuniting of our brethren of the North and of the South, for teaching the people to love one another, and portraying the sanctity of the home and loved ones." Well heck, who wouldn't want to join on those words of endorsement?
And again, maybe you know, but I had to Google "Pythias," as well. He and his pal, Damon, are historical characters who lived in the 400s B.C. and the depth of their friendship is the subject of Greek legend. They belonged to the Pythagorean Brotherhood founded by the father of Greek philosophy, Pythagoras, who held that the two most excellent things for man were "to speak the truth and to render benefits to each other" through bonds of friendship and loyalty. Pythias and Damon's bond has been immortalized by a historical incident in which they had each others' backs when the king of Syracuse condemned Damon to death. (Various renderings of the tale switch the roles of Pythias and Damon ... which can be confusing.) The fraternal order says, "Their loyalty to each other, the adventures that beset them, and the outcome of this noble friendship form the basis for one of the most beautiful stories of history as exemplified in our ritual."
Though many of the gravestones are in disrepair or have disappeared altogether, it's a pleasant cemetery that now finds itself nestled among the aspen trees, with wide paths through the forest. Of the five old cemeteries in this area, all pretty much right next to each other, I find this one the most peaceful.
George Stroehle, below, was born in Austria and fought in our Civil War. Most army units had a band and George was a musician, first class. (Naturally I want to know what instrument he played!) The 45th Illinois Infantry was a highly-respected Union infantry regiment that fought in some of the most famous battles of the Civil War including Shiloh and Vicksburg. I don't know which years he served in the infantry, but it existed 1861-1865 expressly to fight in the Civil War, and was disbanded afterward. His kids are buried across the road in the Masonic cemetery.
I can't say exactly why, but I really like Captain Webb's disassembled gravestone right along a path between the Knights of Pythias and the Central City cemeteries. I guess I want to know what he was a captain of. I couldn't find any information on him; his wife was born in Cornwall, but I found nothing further on her either. These are three photos of it in different seasons.
My little phone camera actually tends to work pretty well catching sun rays and lens flare, and as I walked by this gravestone I noticed a beam from the very low sun striking the top of the stone. So I got out the phone and snapped a pic but planned to maneuver around to arrange the scene such that the sun beam was directly above the pointed finger. But alas the phone ran out of battery, so I only got this one photo. Even though it wasn't what I ultimately wanted, I think it's still a pretty fun picture.
The boundary between the Knights of Pythias Cemetery and the Central City Cemetery is not clearly denoted. On the west side of each cemetery there is a gate and metal fence; the cemeteries are side-by-side and there is nothing I can see separating them into the northern one (Pythias) and southern one (Central City). There may have been a fence in times past, but walking between the two you come across this lovely vista, and the grove of aspen trees seems like the natural border for them.
To me it seemed that Nellie Ballard's grave, both photos below, was on the Central City side but she's listed in Find A Grave in Knights of Pythias with an additional, but not filled-in, entry in Central City. I found several other names that had two listings in both cemeteries, so I think the boundary is fuzzy to everyone. It's hard to tell from the photos, but this is right on the connecting pathway. Nellie has such a friendly tree arching over and protecting her.
So now we have wandered far enough south that we are conclusively in the Central City Cemetery.
"Chas" Engdahl (given name Charles) died instantly in 1907 inside a mine in Russell Gulch when a series of dynamite charges he was tamping 1,600 feet below ground exploded.
One of the best things about exploring the old cemeteries near me is that a lot of the epitaphs spur me to learn local history that I didn't know before. I learned a lot in Leadville's Evergreen Cemetery a couple years ago. Having run across this tombstone below, I was motivated to Google the Sleepy Hollow Mine, and learned about a major event in the early days of Central City -- the Americus and Sleepy Hollow Mine disaster.
A major issue with mining here is keeping water pumped out of the tunnels and working areas below ground. We recently ran into a fellow who is working in one of the old mines in Central City that has been purchased with plans to restart production ... after about 200 feet of water is pumped out. Anyway, several adjacent mines in 1895 were in a dispute over the issue of drainage and prorating the expense of drainage between several owners. One of the owners decided to let the water collect in the lower portion of their mine which was above portions of the adjoining Americus and Sleepy Hollow mines. The reservoir of water broke through a section of ore and everyone below the line of the break was almost instantly submerged, "and their bodies must lie there for weeks," according to a newspaper article from the time. The article describes the rescue effort:
"The sounding of the whistle gave the first signal of disaster, and soon the shaft building of the Sleepy Hollow mine was so crowded with families and relatives of the imprisoned miners and those wanting to give assistance that it was almost impossible for the work of rescue to go on.
Sheriff Williams finally arrived on the ground, the building was cleared and practical miners offered their services in lowering the bucket. The farthest depth attained was 330 feet, the accumulated gas forced up by the rising water being such that a candle would not burn at a greater depth.
A second effort was made, a larger sized safety lamp having been place in the bucket. The rescuer who fist descended in the bucket found Mr. H. Prisk at the 330-foot level. On reaching the surface he was almost in an insensible condition. Another man went down afterward, but was unsuccessful in reaching a lower point in the shaft owing to rising of water."
Fourteen men in total drowned in the mines, two in Americus and twelve in Sleepy Hollow. Below is a historical photo of the funeral in Central City for the disaster victims.
Mr. Albert T. Chappel was thrown from a wagon while hunting with friends, and as unlikely as it seems, his double-barreled shotgun discharged in the fall. The shell from one barrel hit his arm and from the other hit his leg, which subsequently had to be amputated. Although the amputation was successful, he died but three days later from gangrene. He was 21 years old.
I'm afraid I just have to chuckle at Mr. Ely's middle name — the "J" stands for Jabez — because I always thought "Jabez" was a made-up name for the Ogden Nash poem, "The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus," which features the naughty boy, Jabez Dawes. It says Mr. Ely was a "pioneer of 1858" ... I've seen that epitaph on several gravestones in various mountain cemeteries in Colorado. Just makes me wish I knew more of his story; these epitaphs are such a tease!
I find it so interesting to see where the people who died here hailed from. Big cities have the reputation as the "melting pots" of America. But the old mining camps and towns were full of immigrants as well. I think Ireland and Cornwall are most highly represented around this area, but George Stegner, left, was born in Saxony, Germany.
Thomas Hooper, born in England, died in 1881, aged 22, in the United Gregory Mine when a block of rock above him gave way beneath an ore cart and he was crushed to death under one ton of ore.
William Reynolds died at 31 from “miner’s disease.” No further description is given of what exactly that means, but I presume a type of lung disease, as is probably the most common health affliction of miners. His parents are from Cornwall. His dad died of heart failure. I find these tidbits interesting because they are some of the few male deaths not listed as some sort of accident. Of course many a cause of death is a mystery to history, not noted for posterity, but of the ones I find info on, it's rare to see a non-accident cause listed, even though William’s was still related to mining. Both men's obituaries specifically mentioned they were very well liked among their peers. Mrs. Reynold's death is listed with the now outdated term, “apoplexy.” I.e. a stroke.
A few more shots I have no further info about, but I think they are picturesque amid the mountain forest reclaiming them.
When I looked up Joseph Nicholas George, gravestone on the left below, I discovered he is buried in yet another discreet cemetery, even though there is no indication that it is separate from the Central City one. But there is actually a tiny Foresters Cemetery, for members of yet another fraternal order, the Ancient Order of Foresters, which originated in England in 1834. If you’re curious, as of course I was: This order, evolved from the even older Royal Foresters, was at first a social order until the members decided they had a duty to assist their fraternal brethren who fell on hard times “as they walked through the forests of life.” Rather than allowing their families to become destitute if the head of the family was incapacitated, the members began paying money into a common fund to dispense as “sick pay” and funeral grants to those in need. I like that their chief officer is titled simply High Chief Ranger (and the various lower ranks are other types of “rangers”) rather than some kind of ridiculous title (in my opinion) of other orders like Noble Grand (IOOF), Exalted Ruler (Elks), or Worshipful Master (Masons), etc. The Foresters seem a little more humble and egalitarian.
Lillie Mitchell, aged 7, is the stone on the right, also in the Foresters.
So to my knowledge so far, all in one basically contiguous area above Central City, there are seven cemeteries for the old miners and pioneers, five of which belong to some fraternal order.