Gerry Glenn Jones is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, as well as scripts for theatre and film. This is a factual account.
Let's Board The "Eastern Express" And Get Started
Americans and visitors to America are always enthralled and mesmerized by the births and deaths of Western Ghost Towns, but they miss out on some interesting places, including the first ghost town in America. You say, "Where, and what are you talking about?" It is simple--the ghost towns of the Eastern United States. If you love visiting ghost towns, climb aboard the "Eastern Express," have a seat, and enjoy the ride.
Centralia, Pennsylvania has a fire under it that is expected to burn for a couple more centuries, causing dangerous gases to find their way to the surface through cracks and holes in the ground. The fire was reportedly caused by a garbage landfill fire in 1962, which made its way into the coal mines under the town and became more powerful through the years. The dangerous gases got worse in time, and the population dropped from about 2,000 in 1962 to 1,000 in 1980. It's now believed that only seven people live in the town.
Times Beach, Missouri
Today, we hear stories of disasters that strike towns and cities and forces many of their residents to leave town. There have been cases where everyone had to leave. One of those incidents occurred in Time Beach, Missouri in the early 1980s. This is their story.
The year was 1981, and a young St. Louis County Police Officer, drove through the streets of Times Beach, Mo., a town which was created as a summer resort on the Meramec River, about 17 miles southwest of the city of St. Louis. This young officer had no idea that he was driving through the streets of a town, whose soil at times, contained levels of dioxin some 2,000 times higher than the dioxin content in Agent Orange. It was not until 1982 that the officer, who had moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and was working for the Memphis Police Department, learned about the contamination of Times Beach.
When a large number of horses began dying in stables at other locations that Bliss had sprayed the waste, the EPA visited Times Beach in mid-1982 and tested the soil. The tests confirmed that the soil contained dioxin levels 100 times higher than the one part per billion, that they determined was harmful to humans. During these tests, the flood of the Meramec River in December of 1985, resulted in 95% of the town being covered in 10 feet of water, and the EPA announced their findings.
In 1983, the entire town was bought by the federal government for $32 million dollars, and it was quarantined. An incinerator was later built on the site by Syntex, and the contaminated soil and debris from Times Beach and other areas in Missouri were burned. According to some reports, the total cleanup cost the federal government $110 million dollars, with Syntex, which was a parent company of NEPACCO, paying part of that.
Russell Bliss was never convicted of knowingly spraying dioxin, and the former town of Times Beach, Mo., was later turned into Route 66 State Park.
As far as the young St. Louis County Police Officer, who patrolled the area where Times Beach was located, he finally left law enforcement in 2004, due to 4 heart attacks and other illness, possibly caused by the dioxin. He is now, yours truly, the writer of this article in Hubpages.
Getting back aboard the Express, we travel to Flagstaff--no--not Arizona, but rather Flagstaff, Maine. Again, progress took its toll on another community when the town was physically abandoned, dismantled, and legally disincorporated in 1950. This was done in order to build a dam on the Dead River. This enlarged the existing Flagstaff Lake and submerged the site of the town of Flagstaff. There were some buildings and belongings that were not removed, and may still be at the bottom of the lake.
Lost Colony Roanoke Island
Last, but not least on this tour of ghost towns is a place that predates all other ghost towns in America, and is known for its mysterious demise, with no one being able to say what happened to its people. It is the Lost Colony Roanoke Island, which is now part of the state of North Carolina.
In the late 16th Century, Queen Elizabeth I sent Sir Walter Raleigh with a group of over 100 men, women and children to America to begin colonization. The colonists were left on what was named, Roanoke Island by the captain. Later when another expedition returned to Roanoke, they found that the colonists had vanished without a trace.
In 2015 Mark Horton, an archaeologist at Britain’s Bristol University found some evidence that the lost colony may have been taken in by Native Americans but kept their goods. They possibly took them to other areas on the mainland or onto other islands.
Well, this wraps up our adventure in America's past, but we have many more expeditions waiting in the future.