Part I: Colorado Wagon Roads And Ghost Towns
There are plenty of ghost stories involving the hotel built by the Stark family after they moved to St. Elmo in 1881. Two of their three children, Dirty Annie and her brother Tony, were the last surviving full-time residents living in St. Elmo. They ran the Home Comfort Hotel with a general store and even operated the post office until it closed in 1952. As business faded away, so did the condition of the hotel. There was no electricity or plumbing so living conditions were primitive. The name, Dirty Annie, evolved from her appearance and lack of bathing. After Tony died, she was moved to a nursing home by relatives and died in 1960.
Annie was said to walk the streets with gun in hand protecting the town from vandals and thieves. Some believe she can still be seen on nights when the moon is full carrying a double barrel shotgun in front of the Home Comfort Hotel. That lone skier believed Annie was the woman in the white dress standing in the window keeping a watch on the street below.
More than a half century has passed since Dirty Annie lived in St. Elmo. The general store is down the street from the Home Comfort Hotel in a building called the Miner's Exchange. It has served in the past as a saloon and a bank. The store is owned and operated by Lee, Chris, and Nora. You can find their website at www.st-elmo.com. The store has a wide range of guide books, souvenirs, and even Miners Run T-shirts.
You'll find old fashioned mountain humor dished out from behind the counter and they don't mind getting some in return. One fellow walked in and said, "Do you know any short hikes near here?" The answer was, "Back to your car is a good start." Another family was standing outside having a picnic lunch and dropping wrappers on the ground. Lee carried a trash can out to them and started throwing stuff on the ground beside them. "Since you folks obviously like living in garbage, I just wanted you to feel at home." They picked up all the trash before they left, including the stuff Lee tossed out and everything else they found on the ground.
Several years ago, before Lee decided to run his store, the lady in charge, Mary, saw some people with a little dog near the chipmunks. They seemed to delight in watching the dog chase the little critters. Mary stepped out of the store with a pistol in her hand. She cocked the hammer and said, "Dog's got to the count of three." The dog was quickly scooped up and put in the car as nearby spectators clapped and cheered.
If the year had been 1886, during the late afternoon hours, those people standing on the street might have been waiting for the Aspen Stage. The Sanderson Stage Company had a route going over Tincup Pass, through Tincup, over Taylor Pass, and into Aspen. It ran seven days a week and was always loaded with freight and passengers. During the winter, crews were hired to keep the passes open.