Ghost Town USA’s™
NOTE: Some of the definitions are illustrated with photos and are marked THUSLY.
A horizontal or slightly sloped passageway connecting the mine to the exterior. The mine’s opening. Often called a tunnel.
A primitive mill usually powered by burro, mule or a horse. It is usually a circular ring of rock, with a smooth concrete or other hard surface on the bottom. A pole in the center has an arm affixed to it, and that arm reaches to the outside of the rock ring, where the animal pulls it around and around. A heavy weight is attached by chain or rope to the arm, and drags over ore-containing rock placed in the basin. The weight crushes and grinds the ore into a fine sandy material, and that is then scooped out and processed further.
Looking at road maps, highways are designated in various colors and line
thicknesses. Usually the main arterials
such as Interstate Highways and primary highways are designated with thick red
lines. The next level of highway type is
called a secondary highway and is often designated with blue lines. Many times these “blue highways” are state or
A method of construction where the wood frame is covered with flat planks (usually vertically), and the joint or space between is covered by a smaller, thin piece of wood to help keep wind and rain from penetrating through the cracks.
The sidewalks in many old towns was made of elevated wooden planks so the folks using it would not have to walk in mud.
Usually in reference to “MINING CLAIMS.” These are the outcroppings or veins, or other valuable mineral deposit that the miner wants to take possession of, or CLAIM. To do so, specific legal steps must be made, starting with a “Notice of Location” being posted on the site. Over the years, the forms have changed, but here are samples of 1941 LODE and PLACER “Notices of Location.” Once the future mine has been properly posted, the location must be recorded with the governing agency (in the old days - usually the county). The mining claim is now the legal property of the miner, following certain stipulations, one of which is to perform annual assessments of the property’s mineral value. If not performed, then that claim lapses and another miner can legally file on it. Another term often heard in the old days was CLAIM JUMPER. This was a miner or other person illegally taking possession of a legal mining claim. In the mining areas claim jumpers were dealt with harshly!
See our Classification page for details.
Generally this term is applied to “Class$C
” ghost towns located in the western part of the country. These will have standing, roofed buildings, yet have no population except maybe a caretaker. See our Classification page for more details of ghost town classifications.
These ghost town types were wholly owned by the parent company that operated the mine, railroad, or logging operation. Most of the time, the housing stock and the commercial businesses were owned and operated by the parent company. They are very popular in coal mining regions. The tiny, look-alike homes were rented out by the company to miners and their families.
A cluster of buildings (usually commercial) making up the business district. It often occurs at a cross road. The largest buildings are generally located here, and they usually decrease in size as one moves away from that core.
An architectural feature wherein a small gable-roofed building has a large flat front added on to make it appear larger. Often the flat front served as a backing for advertising signage. Sometimes the builder would even install false windows. This style of construction was very popular in the American West during the late 1800s and first couple decades of the 1900s.
A Ghost Town is a town or community that at one time had a commercial or population center, and is either wholly abandoned or faded greatly from its peak, and now is just a shadow of its former self. They can be categorized into five basic types. See our Classification page for more details.
A large, chamber of rich mineral-bearing ore inside of a mine. They are usually in areas where the VEINS spread out or large outcroppings of very rich rock appear. The area being mined is much larger than what tunnel mining will accommodate.
Names Information System (GNIS) is the United States Department of the
Interior, US Geologic Survey, US Board on Geographic
Names’ online database for over 2.1 million geographic and place names in the
Also known as a lode mine, these are the stereotyped mines, where the mineral bearing ore is extracted by the miners from underground by the use of tunnels. These tunnels consist of ADITS (horizontal passageways), WINZES (inclined passageways), and shafts (vertical passageways). Often in larger mines the activity occurs at different levels.
Also nicknamed the “Superslab,” these are wide, multi-lane travel routes stretching across multiple states. The 1950s saw the beginning of these super highways, but the 1960s-1980s were the peak years for construction. They were, and are still built to move massive amounts of traffic long distances. With limited numbers of exits and entrances, and high posted speed limits, long distance travel is fast and generally safe.
Alongside American highways, there are flat numbered paddle-like posts along the edge of the highway . These are called mile posts, post miles (in CA), mileposts or mile markers, and indicate the number of miles traveled from either the beginning of the highway or the county line, depending on which state it’s located in. Mile posts start with 0.0, or 0 at the south and west ends of the highways. They often correspond with Exit Numbers on the interstates. California also designates fractional distances depending on what item is being marked, such as bridges and stream crossings. Most other states do not. In California, they are called mile paddles due to their shape, and are colored black lettering on a white background. The information listed includes an abbreviation for the county, the highway number and the mile point. In other states, the mile posts are generally white on a reflective green background, or black on reflective white. For detailed information on California Mile Posts see the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) website.
This term is often used in conjunction with Ghost Towns in book titles such as: Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California. A Mining Camp is a specific type of ghost town, generally on the smaller side. It was the supporting camp/town for a mining operation. Often the mining camps never really developed into a real, self-supporting town, and may have consisted only of a half dozen tents scattered about a small mining operation.
In the early days of mining, groups of nearby mines were gathered together under the umbrella of a MINING DISTRICT, wherein common laws and rules were issued and abided by. Some of these laws would include size and number of claims a person could have.
This is the physical act of mapping out the site of a new town on paper. The map is called a plat map and shows the features of the town, such as lots, streets and even buildings. It is then usually recorded at the appropriate County Recorder or Assessor’s Office.
A Road Town is a small community that caters to travelers. They are often found at rural crossroads or along old highways. Services usually included a motel/auto court, restaurant/café, gas stations, souvenir shops and other travel related amenities. After the Interstate Highway system came into wide use, many of these old communities died out or, if they were reasonably close to the Interstate, relocated to an off ramp area.
This is a small community of people, generally a loose cluster of residences without a central core. It may have a cemetery, church, school and sometimes even an old store, but generally not. Often they are the remains of what once was a “real” town, but have faded.
This is the tall structure where coal gets dumped from the conveyor belts or mine carts and thence drops down into hoppers from where it is sorted and/or loaded into coal cars on trains, or trailers on trucks.
This is a short term for topographic map, a map produced by the United States Geological Survey. They come in various resolutions and are online. The maps show most physical features as well as towns and buildings in smaller locations.