Clifford – Colorado Ghost Town
by local author & historian: John LaBorde
Traveling along the old Golden Belt route, one runs out of old road. The Lady Bird Memorial rest area marks the end of the old dusty road. Here CR 39 joins the re-routed US Hwy 40/287. Just a short distance south of this junction is was the location for the community of Clifford. The one room school house is still there. It sits in a ranchers pasture, private property, and he occasionally puts his bulls in there during the off season. The bulls like to lounge in the shade on the tiny school house.
If one pauses nearby they may catch the school marm hustling out to the shed in back, coal bucket in tow. Maybe it’s recess time and the dozen or so children are out playing. Maybe they are on the merry go round or on the swings. The gleeful laugh of little children fills the air of the prairie.
No longer are the streets of Clifford visible. Nature has reclaimed them. Near the railroad tracks is a grove of giant cottonwood trees. Stretched along the rails are bits of foundations and footers from the structures that stood next to the rails.
South of the tracks, behind gated fence with no trespassing signs is the classic haunted house. Rising into the air to caress the tree tops is a Montgomery Ward catalogue house. Was it a rooming house or the home of the local rancher baron? Weather and neglect have taken its toll on the classic old house. The porches have collapsed, windows gone, and parts of the roof are missing.
Be out here in the evening when the meal is being served. Kerosene lanterns flicker on the dining room table that is full, voices echo out of the windows. Conversation is fast and furious about the day’s happenings. The myths of the house abound. Lights flash in the windows, the amber glow of a pipe on the porch and shadows float around the corner.
There are as many stories about the house as there were pages in a Montgomery Ward catalogue.
Near by is Mirage, the stage station. There are no traces of the station left. Here is a spring and stream that pushed the Smoky Hill Trail a bit north until a bridge was built over the stream. Today the bridge is concrete from the early 1900’s, a testimony to the durability of the bridge construction. In the woods the Indians would wait for the stage and launch attacks. Later out of these woods the Indians would charge the railroad workers. This was the home of the Indians. Along this waterway they would follow the buffalo that grazed nearby on the grasses of the prairie.
With a short drive down a forgotten dusty road, one can visit a piece of history that even Hollywood could not script. Early gold seekers, wagon trains, stage coaches, and railroad construction.