St. Elmo was started in the late 1870s at the height of the gold rush. It was first called Forrest City and was later renamed, possibly after a popular fictional character from the 1859 book St. Elmo by August Jane Evans. In this book the main character, St. Elmo Murray, experiences a spiritual awakening through the influences of a woman named Edna Earl, which is rather romantic, and as you drive through the area with its breathtaking scenic views and sunsets that explode with color, the thought of a romantic title for this town seems perfectly logical.
Annabelle Stark and her brother, Tony, were the last residents of St. Elmo. Annabelle’s personal history fits well with a romantic ghost town. By all accounts, Annabelle was an attractive and charming young woman who certainly had a bounty of handsome suitors available, but some sources claim she remained single and attended few social functions. Annabelle had two older brothers and this could explain why she rarely attended social functions if they were over-protective of their lovely sister! It was rumored that Annabelle was engaged to a man in Salida, but the engagement was broken with no explanation. However, at least one Colorado magazine lists Annabelle’s name as Annabelle Stark Ward, which may indicate that she once married and perhaps divorced, or was widowed at a young age.
The Starks owned and operated the Home Comfort Hotel and a retail store that once supplied the miners, as well as the telegraph and post office. As often happens in mining towns, the more than 2000 residents moved on in the early 1920s when the mines stopped producing, but the Starks decided to stay. They purchased homes and properties as the rest of the miners and their families left, but without a town, the properties lost their value. In 1922, the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad (DSP&P), which brought many of the miners and families to the area in the first place, changed its route and no longer traveled to St. Elmo. After their brother, Joe, and their mother passed away, Annabelle and Tony, who was once a telegraph operator for the DSP&P, remained. In later years, Annabelle was often seen patrolling her properties with a shotgun, and considering the remoteness of the location, I can’t say I blame her!
The drive to St. Elmo is worth the time, especially in the fall when the trees change their colors. St. Elmo now has eight full-time residents and all buildings are privately owned, so please be respectful when you visit. The general store is open from May to October. There are numerous websites that discuss St. Elmo, and I would recommend checking them out and taking notes before visiting this lovely, little town. I have a feeling Annabelle Stark would be more than happy to know her town still attracts visitors!