The Frontier Towns in Hiding

Part 1

The John S. Cook and Company building in Rhyolite, Nevada, USA – a ghost town abandoned after gold mining rush ended. Photograph by Brian W. Schaller:

Like a movie set in the wild west of a bygone era, a dusty town breaks the earthen surface somewhere on the American continent. In fact, this town could be any found along the American Frontier. For those with time to spare, a meandering tour of the main strip can be finished in minutes.

Adjacent to the only intersection, there is the sole child you see in such towns; the kid’s high tops brush the pavement as gravity pulls his body downhill and then he disappears. The multistory buildings are lonely, seeming to beckon for human occupation; clearly this is no metropolis and yet, that in itself is a charm. There is blessed silence in this town: no ever-present horns scream from the invisible mouths of passing vehicles; few traffic dangers creep upon the usual group of marching cosmopolitans. However, the town is missing the expected hubbub of a commercial center with such architecture. It is not what is expected of the American frontier.

It is common these days for people to imply the physical American Frontier is gone- pushed into the land of unicorns and old fashioned, gun slinging cowboys. However the frontier town is still alive. Such old centers of commerce have only slipped unnoticed into the lesser-seen realms of the American landscape, but their health as individual towns is another matter.

…the frontier moved from the focus of the American psyche and to the background of our collective imaginations, as well as to the exotic landscapes of foreign shores…

stock photography

Representative of so many frontier towns in America, these dusty jewels are being lost to the brutal natures that disintegrate all civilizations, returning engineered structures to dust. The frontier occupied the foreground of the nation’s attention when the country was forming and storming into the wild- when the boundaries of the old union were still vague. The Appalachian Mountains stood as real boundaries separating cultures and tongues.

A Nebulous Promise

These forgotten regions once served as the nation’s decentralized, industrial heart, like the districts found in Michigan and Western New York State, now commonly referred to as the Rust Belt. It is also reflective of the coal-energy producing regions like West Virginia that have long represented a kind of nebulous promise to the pioneer of day’s past. Yet, when most of the gold and coal was excavated and industrial production began to drastically change to favor machines, unfortunate masses of workers were culled from corporate payrolls, and it was the quintessential pioneer who often took up those older occupations being eliminated. And so the frontier moved from the focus of the American psyche and to the background of our collective imaginations, as well as to the exotic landscapes of foreign shores.

These towns and what remain of them, though small as they have become, may still offer big solutions. For when cities are stressed with growing populations, these original frontier towns can serve as important safety valves that continue to reduce population pressures in urban areas and related social problems.

Part 2: Coming Soon