ghost town

ghost town, term for any once flourishing American community that has been abandoned, generally for economic reasons. While most of the towns have little or no population, they often contain old buildings, which may serve as tourist attractions. Many, such as Virginia City, Nev., were gold-mining towns hastily built during a boom. When the gold strike ended, the itinerant prospectors left. Ranking with the largest and most interesting Western ghost towns are Silver City, Idaho; Elkhorn, Mont.; Bodie, Calif.; and St. Elmo, Colo. Other ghost towns were former milling centers, railroad connections, or oil-well communities. In Texas several ghost towns were originally settled by European exiles who emigrated to the United States following the 1848 revolutions. Some, such as Burning Bush, Tex., were religious havens. Many deserted areas of towns have been restored to their original appearance; notable examples are Denver, Colo., Mystic, Conn., Williamsburg, Va., and Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

See D. King, Ghost Towns of Texas (1953); F. S. Blanchard, Ghost Towns of New England (1960); L. Florin, Western Ghost Towns (1961); R. Silverberg, Ghost Towns of the American West (1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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