by Heather Blanton Originally appeared in Cowboy Kisses
Most authors have an idea for a story FIRST then they go and research it. I did all the research for my best-selling novel A Lady in Defiance years before I ever imagined the saga of three good, Christian sisters taming a bawdy mining town. I still find the research haunting me.
Now, considering that 1993 was practically the Dark Ages, we planned our trip using a 1963 travel guide, Jeep Trails to Colorado Ghost Towns by Robert Brown. The dang thing was out of print at the time and I had to special order it. But it was RICH with the history of these forgotten settlements, abandoned dreams, and unfinished stories. I was captivated by the lonely, remote ruins that once-upon-a-time had fed the dreams of both the courageous and the cowardly, the greedy and the generous, the noble and the cheaters.
The story that fascinated me the most was the tale of George Jackson of Missouri. He came west to Colorado in 1859 and discovered gold near Idaho Springs. He left (with his gold) to fight in the Civil War and then start a farm. Gold Fever never left him, though, and he returned twelve years later with a group of prospectors. They discovered more gold, somewhere near Middle Park. Allegedly, he and his group squirreled away over $10,000 in gold dust, buried in buckskin bags beneath their cabin.
Fast forward to 1912. Ray Peck, a supervisor with Routt National Forest investigated with the help of an unnamed local mountain man. They found the aspen tree in which Jackson had carved his name. Evidence of habitation and mining activities were deteriorated but evident.
Eager as beavers, they started digging. And they dug till they were blue in the face but the pair never found the buckskin bags full of gold.