Disappearing towns

My father was a child in Leadville, Colorado; but he was born in Ragan, Nebraska. I hear mention of Leadville from time to time, but I’ve never heard anything about Ragan. So I looked it up.

I wonder what the 2010 census will show? Because it sounds like a place destined to disappear.

Pennsylvania has the definitive vanishing town: Centralia. A nearby town, Byrnesville, is already long gone.

If I’m not mistaken, there’s at least one poster on this board who lives in or near Leadville.

Leadville is relatively small, but doing just fine. There are plans to reopen the Climax mine if molybdenum prices remain high.

That seems to be happening all over the Great Plains, as family farms disappear and young people leave to find their futures elsewhere.

My father was born in 1928 in Dabney, West Virginia, which was a small but thriving coal camp. We went back there in 2003 and it was totally gone, as in vanished and replaced by 50-year-old second-growth forest. No foundations or anything. I think the old company houses had been built on blocks, which were probably just carted away when the coal company left. You would never have known there was a town there. There was a gas station where the road that runs up the hollow intersected the state highway, but it was newly built and not related to the presence of the town - just a roadside stop.

I was in Maple, Texas when Elvis died

Since I’m a WV native, I googled Dabney, WV, and seeing where it was, in the southern WV coal fields, I completely believe it could have vanished, as you reported. (Google Maps shows much evidence of mountain-top removal in the surrounding area. :frowning: )

I think there are many other instances in WV of coal company towns that disappeared in a similar fashion.

Makes me think of “Life Without People”, which showed a LOT of cities that are devoid of humanity…


Yeah, my dad lived in several of the towns up and down that run, and most of them are gone. The people who were left seemed to have gathered in one or two areas. There was a big mountaintop removal project at the end of the run if I remember correctly. They can’t just throw people off their land like they could in the company town days, but nobody can or will stop them from setting off huge explosions near houses and schools, ruining peoples’ wells, blocking off graveyards, and generally doing things that would get you sued or arrested anywhere else.

This is what happened to Yolyn and Chambers. My dad’s baby brother is buried at Chambers but good luck getting anywhere near the graveyard now, if it even still exists.

*Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County,
Down by the Green River, where Paradise lay.
‘Well I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in askin’.
‘Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.’ *