Originally Published October 28, 2010
The most haunted area, and the most musical, was the town of Brownsville, also known as Browns Gulch, a mining town near Silver Plume. Brownsville wasn’t a particularly prolific mining area, but by all reports, it was a happy one, and a singularly musical one. Almost everyone who came there to mine, run a business, or otherwise work in the area could play a musical instrument, and if they couldn’t play an instrument, they could sing. Many an evening the surrounding hills resounded with the sounds of violins, banjos, all sort of musical instruments; many a day the inhabitants all took part is singing an opera across the valley at each other!
Even though it was musical, it was also most haunted. Mad jack, mentioned in the last article, accidentally blew himself and his mule up, creating the first ghosts in the area. Stephen Pierce, ghostly guardian of the Mammoth Mine, was murdered on October 23, 1877. Seen by every miner in the area at one time or another, Pierce saved many lives in the mines, and even saved some men during a fire in the mine bunkhouse.
Two mules were added to the ghostly repertoire in May of 1879. Peter Moody was leading the heavily mules up the slope to the Montreal Mine when the lead rope broke and two of the mules tumbled down the side of the slope, dying instantly. After that, the braying of the mules was often heard in that area.
In 1884, a locally famous singer died and returned as a ghost as well. This singer was Kerry, a blue terrier, the beloved dog of A.E. McBride. Kerry died of intestinal distress, and his distraught owner claimed he had no right to die and ordered him back. Kerry, an ever obedient dog, came right back and was often heard making a humming sound when other music was played.
The ghosts continued to pile up. On July 4th 1885, Louis Ohio was shot and killed, his ghost later seen by some girls walking home from school. On July 31st of the same year, a former Confederate soldier named William Neff, unhappy with life in general, killed himself by blowing his head off with a stick of dynamite he’d taken from the Telephone mine. Undoubtedly the area’s most unhappy ghost, his spirit was often heard crying inconsolably in the cabin where he’d died. His lamentations were so severe that the miners considered his cabin unholy and avoided it thereafter.
The most memorable and most often heard ghost – even today – was Clifford Griffin, a violinist who could play the classics to perfection. Griffin died on June 19th, 1887 and was buried near the Seven Thirty Mine. Being so popular, rumors about his death and his life abounded, though the true story of either appears to be unknown. In time, a nine foot tall stone memorial was placed on his grave for the entire town to see and remember their favorite violinist. He was seen every year at the time of his death standing near his memorial, dressed in his finest clothes, the ones he’d been buried in. Flowers, once sent by his brother, continued to appear at the base of Griffin’s memorial even after the brother’s death. And of course, on any given breezy day, Griffin plays his violin for the valley and all who can hear him. Even today, his violin can be heard on otherwise quiet days and evenings in Silver Plume.
And still the ghosts came. On February 22nd, 1899, an avalanche took out the ore house at the Seven Thirty Mine and a nearby cabin, killing Ben Nelson, John Anderson and Dan Fitzpatrick. One year to the day later, the ghosts of these men showed up at the Seven Thirty Mine and its buildings, doing the standard ghostly things – moaning, shaking things, rattling doors.
By the turn of the century, the mines of the area being pretty well played out, only 100 residents remained in the town. In 1892 and 1895, loosened by spring runoff, the Seven Thirty Mine’s tailings had slipped down, the first load destroying mine buildings and sealing tunnel entrances, the second destroying some of the houses, the Terrible Mill and the Lampshire boarding house, but leaving the rest of the town intact. However, in 1912, the remainder of the 800 foot run of tailings finished the job. June 24th, loosened again by spring runoff and rain, the whole tailings pile started to slip, bringing not only the tailings but the log supports and other rocks down on the town. Moving slowly, it allowed the townsfolk time to escape with the clothes on their back but nothing more. In the end, the entire town was buried and only two men were missing – John Custer and John Williams, who had shared a cabin.
But the ghosts remained. In 1957, while working on a road improvement crew, a man claimed to have heard the Lampshire’s piano being played.
And while the town no longer exists for us, for the ghosts of Brownsville, it will live forever.