Saturday, December 26, 2015

Calico Ghost Town

After leaving Grapevine Station, now known as Barstow, four prospectors headed to the North East, towards what they described as a "calico-coloured" mountain.  This peak, the mountain range it was in, and the town that grew beneath it, became known as Calico.  These intrepid prospectors that made their way to what would become the Calico Mountains, rising within the Mojave Desert region, discovered silver.

Situated in San Bernardino County, Calico became the service town to one of the most successful silver mines in America.  On April 6th, 1881, claims were made on Calico Mountain, and the Silver King Mine was established. 

By 1882, the town of Calico had a post office.  The post office would become known for being the only one in America with a four-legged mail carrier.  Dorsey, a black-and-white Shepherd dog, delivered mail from the post office to one of the mines for three years.  San Diego man John Overshiner founded the Calico Print, a weekly newspaper. 

Calico soon had three hotels, general stores, a meat market, bars, brothels, restaurants, boarding houses and a literary society.  A school was established by the county.  Wells Fargo opened an office, and Calico had a postal and telegraph service. 

With the discovery of the borate mineral colemanite, and the continued successful mining of silver, from over 500 mines, by 1890 it was said that Calico had a population of 3,500 people.

When the Silver Purchase Act was enacted, the price of silver plummeted.  By 1896, the silver mines at Calico were no longer economically viable and, along with the Silver King Mine, the post office and school in the town were closed.  By 1907, Calico was almost deserted, and buildings from the town were relocated to the neighbouring towns of Yermo, Barstow and Daggett.

In 1915, an attempt was made to revive Calico.  It was thought that unprocessed silver from the Silver King Mine could be recovered.  By the 1930s, Calico was deserted, and it remained this way until Walter Knotts purchased the town.

Walter Knotts had begun a berry farm and, later, his wife had opened a Chicken Dinner restaurant.  In order to entertain guests they had started building a ghost town on the farm, finding their materials from all manner of deserted places and buildings.  Knotts was familiar with Calico, as he had spent time there in his youth with an uncle that lived there.  Knotts and his wife, Cordelia, had also had a homestead in Newberry Springs, and Knotts had worked on the construction of the redwood tanks for the cyanide plant. 

After purchasing Calico, Knotts brought many of the original buildings to his farm.  He then set about using historical photographs to reconstruct Calico and create a Ghost Town attraction.  He installed a long-time employee called Calico Fred Nolan as a resident caretaker and greeter at the attraction. 

In November 1962, Calico Ghost Town was registered as a Californian Historic Landmark.  In November 1966, Walter Knotts gifted Calico to San Bernardino County.  The park has many attractions, including mine tours, gold panning, restaurants, a railway, and many stores.  Calico became the first ghost town in America to be established as a residential area in 2012, with the construction of six luxury villas only 100m from the ghost town. 

Calico is indeed a ghost town, with many paranormal incidents being reported.  Dorsey the mail dog, immortalised in a song called "The Ballad of Calico" by Kenny Rogers, is said to haunt the cemetery and the print shop, which was the original Calico Post Office.  His shadow-like spectre is seen flitting around. 

Disembodied voices, the sound of an old-time piano, and the jangle of spurs have all been reported at the Calico Corral and at Lil's Saloon.  Haunting the boardwalks of Calico is its last Marshal, Tumbleweed Harris.  Visitors to Calico have claimed to have seen the ghost of Harris, described as a big man with a long white beard.  Reports have been made of the ghost of an angry old cowboy seen lurking near the Calico Hotel.  This apparition is notorious for having punched a man.  A small child is also said to haunt the town, tugging at people's clothes and hands. 

The building that once housed the theatre has a female ghost called Esmeralda, while the ghostly figure of a woman, dressed all in white, has allegedly been seen walking around the outskirts of Calico.  The old school is said to be haunted by a teacher, and the ghost of a small child has been known to pinch at people's legs and ankles.  A shadow person has been seen on the roof of the school house, and an unexplained red light has been seen shining from within the empty school.  The apparition of a girl of about eleven or twelve has also been seen smiling or waving through the window of the school house. 

One of the best-known ghosts of Calico is that of long-time resident Lucy Bell King Lane.  She reportedly spent nearly seventy years of her life in Calico after marrying John Robert Lane and opening a general store in Calico.  When the silver prices dropped they left Calico briefly, but returned to make their old general store their home.  They eventually moved into the old Courthouse and Post Office.  Her husband John died in 1934, but Lucy remained in Calico until her death, aged 93, in 1967.  Today, her home is a museum in Calico.  Her ghost is often sighted at her old home.  She is described as wearing black, like the lace outfit she was buried in.  Pictures are taken off the walls at night in her old home and stacked neatly, while her rocking chair apparently rocks of its own accord.  In the general store, unexplained noises are heard, and people report having caught something out the corner of their eye, only to turn and find nothing there. 

I enjoyed visiting Calico.  It really was what I imagined an American western town would have been like.  The mine tour is interesting, and I particularly loved the small train that takes you on a little trip.  Being a teacher, the schoolhouse was fascinating to see. 

Old and New Calton Hill Burial Grounds

When the villagers of Calton started to find it inconvenient to continue burying their dead at the South Leith Parish Church, they decided to petition for their own burial ground.  In 1718, the Society of Incorporated Trades of Calton bought a half-acre of land to use as a burial ground.  The Society of Incorporated Trades of Calton was founded in 1631, and was granted a charter by the then Lord Balmerino that allowed it to trade within Calton and tax anyone who wished to do so.  The Society allowed anyone to be a member as long as they were healthy and exceptional at their trade.  It purchased the land from Arthur Elphinstone, the 6th Lord Balmerino and later an officer in the Jacobite Army, for £1,013.

Actual burials ceased in the Old Calton Burial Ground in 1869, but the Society maintained control over it for a few more years.  In 1814, a new road was approved and was constructed between 1815 and 1819.  The new road was called Waterloo, and it cut through the graveyard.  Bodies and stones from the Old Calton Burial Ground were removed, and bones were carefully excavated and wrapped for relocation to the New Calton Burial Ground 0.5km (0.31mi) east of the original burial ground.  The New Calton Burial Ground served as an overspill for the older burial ground and, when it was opened in 1820, over 300 bodies had been reburied and several of the substantial stones were re-erected.  

Many notable figures are interred at the Calton Burial Grounds.  The Old Burial Ground is dominated by a huge obelisk designed by Thomas Hamilton, a Scottish architect who was based in Edinburgh.  Hamilton was responsible for designing many of the more prominent buildings in Edinburgh.  The obelisk is known as the Martyrs Monument, and was erected in honour of members of the Suffrage movement, Friends of People.  Named on the dedication are Thomas Muir, Thomas Fyshe Palmer, William Skirving, Maurice Margarot and Joseph Gerrald.  They were charged with writing and publishing pamphlets on parliamentary reform and sedition.  They were sentenced to deportation and sent to Australia.  Although none of the martyrs were from Calton, it's believed that the obelisk was erected in the Calton Burial Grounds due to its lack of affiliation to any particular church.  The architect of the obelisk was interred in a vault with Masonic iconography behind the structure.

Erected at the expense of America was a large statue that serves as a dedication to the Scottish soldiers who fought in the American Civil War.  Only one of the soldiers, a William Duffy, is actually buried under the monument.  Designed by American sculptor George Edwin Bissell, with stonework by Stewart McGlashan and Son, the monument has several symbolic parts.  It has a statue of Abraham Lincoln, the only one in Scotland, and a bronze shield with the American flag.  It's wreathed with thistles and cotton, and also features a statue of a black man holding a book, indicative of his freedom and education.

Within the Calton Burial Ground there are many detailed carved headstones.  One of the largest and most elaborate, featuring a set of lions rampant on a shield and two carved female figures exposing their breasts and holding a book, belongs to a heelmaker called John Morton, who died in 1728.

Scottish artist Dave Allen, a painter and illustrator of much of Robert Burns' works, was originally buried in Calton in an unmarked grave.  He was honoured with a headstone by the Royal Academy in 1874, almost 80 years after his death. 

Two famed publishers have their graves at Calton.  William Blackwood, founder of Edinburgh Encyclopaedia and publisher of many of Sir Walter Scott's works, was interred in a vault with a decorative iron gate.  His publishing rival, Archibald Constable, who had the rights to Encyclopaedia Britannica and also published some of Sir Walter Scott's work, has a monument featuring a bronze bust of his head.  Constable's nephew, a lawyer, was buried close to his uncle, and his monument depicts a caterpillar and butterfly and a Greek inscription.

A German knight, Julius Von Yelin, travelled to Scotland to visit Sir Walter Scott but, when he arrived, Scott was unable to see him straight away due to illness.  Before they could meet, Von Yelin himself died, so it wasn't until his funeral and burial at Calton that Sir Walter Scott 'met' him.

Another interesting person buried at Calton Burial Ground is Peter Williamson, nicknamed "Indian Peter".  Williamson was born in Aberdeen and, at 13, was kidnapped and sold into slavery.  He was taken to America, where he escaped his captors and went to live amongst the Native Americans.  Eventually, Williamson came back to Scotland and successfully sued the Aberdeen Town Council.  He became a rich man, and is remembered for starting Edinburgh's first Penny Post in 1773.  He has an unmarked grave near the Martyrs Monument. 

The famed Stevenson family of lighthouse architects - who were also the family of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson - are all buried in the New Calton Burial Ground. 

The Old and New Calton Burial Grounds have had strange occurrences.  Historian and philosopher David Hume was interred in a large cylindrical monument designed by Robert Adam.  Adam was a Scottish neoclassical architect and interior designer who also made furniture.  In his will, Hume requested that his monument only have his name, birth and death recorded on it.  Due to his professed atheism, Hume's monument had to be guarded for eight days after his burial.  It was thought by some that Hume had made a Faustian pact with the devil, and his friends watched his grave, burning candles and firing pistols to ward off any evil.

William Burke and William Hare, the notorious Edinburgh body snatchers or 'resurrection men', were known to steal bodies from the Calton Burial Ground for use by doctors for research.  They particularly worked for a Doctor Robert Knox.  They eventually tired of the efforts involved in body snatching, and instead started murdering people to keep up with the demands of Dr Knox.  A large watch tower was built in the upper corner, near the entrance to the New Calton Burial Ground.  The tower was used to protect fresh graves from body snatchers.  After the 1832 Anatomy Act was legislated, the sale of bodies to medical schools became legal, and the watch tower became largely redundant and was converted to a private residence.

Many tourists have photographed anomalies at the Calton Hill Burial Grounds.  These include faces appearing on the monuments, strange flares of light, and spectral-looking figures.

I was amazed by the beautiful monuments in the Calton Hill Burial Ground.  It is an interesting place to explore.