Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chesterfield - a ghost town

Yesterday we decided to go visit Chesterfield, Idaho....a ghost town with a unique story.  Due to a number of factors, the town was pretty much abandoned about 40-50 years after it was settled.  The buildings that were still visible by the 1980s were just foundations and fallen down piles of boards.  The town was settled by various family members of the founder as well as his friends and neighbors which probably resulted in a fair amount of intermarrying.  As time went on, with a desire to preserve their heritage, some of these families decided to restore their old family homes in Chesterfield and furnish them with period furnishings.  Today there are about 20 buildings there which have been restored.  Volunteers take visitors on free guided tours and tell stories about the various buildings and the people who used to live there.  Today there is a foundation which helps to provide some of the funding for the renovations taking place.  We probably spent 3 1/2 hours there and really enjoyed it.

This first building is the Amusement Hall...home of plays, musicals, dances and such for the community.  Chesterfield is on a somewhat high piece of ground, so we heard the story of one fellow struck by lightning getting blasted about 20 feet off the steps of this building.  He survived and came to 4-5 days later.

This little house was the home of the founder of the town, Chester Call.  It is much larger inside than it looks from the outside.  The guide told us that the floors of the house were mopped every day...not just to keep them clean, but also to keep the wood in the floors a bit damp so they would stay somewhat swollen so they wouldn't squeak.  Clearly someone has NOT been mopping the floors because they squeaked a lot.

This is the sacrament trays from the church.

The church was leased to the DUP for 50 years as a museum, but that lease is now up so it was given to the Chesterfield Foundation provided they would restore it as it once was.

The pump organ in the church still works just fine.  I know this as I had a chance to test it out.  Pumping the organ while playing is tricky...sort of like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time.  If you forget to pump, there is suddenly no sound!

This is the amusement hall from a distance showing how it sort of sits on a hilltop...waiting for lightning bolts to hit.  We were told that all of the restored buildings now have lightning rods.

Here we have the Ruger dugout.  It was originally a cave that the Ruger family moved in to.  Later the top was put on as sleeping quarters for the children.  The two levels were connected via a ladder from the downstairs through a small opening between the floors.

This monument was put up by the DUP to commemorate the Oregon Trail which passed through the town. We were surprised to hear that wagons were still using the Oregon Trail into the 1900s.

There was a variety of old equipment here and there around the town.  This one is an old hay derrick.

This is the home of Denmark Jensen.  It was a saltbox style house decorated in bright Scandinavian colors.  It also had a ladder up to the 2nd floor bedrooms.

Here we have the Tithing Office.  It was used for folks to drop off their 'in kind' tithing...10% of whatever they had...eggs, milk, hay...to be used to help poorer families.

This is the exterior of the Denmark Jensen home.  You can see the 'washing machine' on the back step.

This strange piece of equipment is a Fresno...used to scoop dirt and move it.

The Amusement Hall is now full of quilts.  This one in particular struck my fancy.  Each block has a different age of the little girl embroidered on it.  Then the block for each age is made of scraps from a dress the little girl wore at that age.

This house was called 'The Mansion" and was clearly the largest and fanciest house in town.

Our tour guide said he had parents, grandparents and all but one great-grandparent who lived in Chesterfield.  If you like a bit of history, I recommend this site which is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day every year....and it's free!

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