Bovina – Colorado Ghost Town
by local author & historian: John LaBorde
Interstate 70 sweeps across the high plains of eastern Colorado bypassing many a small town. The only memory of some of these little burgs is but an exit sign on the Interstate.
The history of their names is as intriguing as the towns they once were. Bovina sits on a divide ridge between the Arkansas River and the Republican River watersheds. Here were small ponds and when the Texas/Montana Cattle Trail moved west, these ponds became an important watering spot for the cattle being driven north.
When the railroad came through in the late 1800’s, cattle drives were still passing through. The bovines by the thousands would be bedded and watered. So when the railroad platted out the town, it was named after the bovines, Bovina.
Today all that marks this important stop for the cattle men and the railroad is an exit sign, the railroad crossing, old farm buildings, and some old machinery. Cars go whizzing by without a passing thought. The occasional trucker pulls onto the exit ramp stopping for a quick forty winks and the big birds circle overhead looking for their next meal.
The westbound lane of I-70 went over the old Hwy 24 and covered the streets of the few people that had homes next to the tracks. The eastbound lane covered over what few highway businesses that were left. On the south side one can see where the schoolhouse had been and the footers for a few houses. North of the railroad tracks is where the rest of the town was.
Here are parked some old pieces of farm machinery, footers marking where buildings had stood, depressions of basements, and assorted scraps.
Bovina was a major town in eastern Colorado in the early 1900’s. It had two factories that made corn brooms and ice cream. There were banks, a movie house, stores, shops, a post office, and a thriving population of over 500 people. During the era of steam engines, the Rock Island railroad would stop at Bovina to take on water.
During the Great Depression things began to change. Then the Dust Bowl and the flood of 1935. Bovina was changing as people were leaving to go find jobs. Stores and shops were closing and the school consolidated with a neighboring town.
This was a center of commerce on the high plains. Sunday afternoon after Church one can see a few of the locals walking the field north of town looking for arrowheads. That evening they would be sitting around the front porch visiting about their day.
Then reality hits, the rushing wind of the big rigs flying past.Hear the laughter of children playing in the school yard on the south side of town. Listen to the cars whiz by. The cattle herd is kicking up dust to the north as they move on. People loading cartons of freight at the broom factory for shipment on the railroad. The ice cream factory sends out cartons. The bankers are prosperous and visit with the town merchants on the north side of the rails.
The town of Bovina is still platted and people still own lots in the town that now boasts more ghosts then residents. To locate Bovina follow this link.
From a time that has passed, today is but a wide spot and exit on the speedway.