The Grand County town of Arrowhead at one time included a post office that received mail for some 2,000 residents. Virtually nothing remains of the town site now, though rumors about its demise persist to this day. Photos courtesy of Grand County Historical Association
The abandoned town site of Arrow was once a bustling and prosperous boomtown. Incorporated in 1904 as Arrowhead, the municipality had an impressive business district and it was reported that over 2,000 people received their mail there. Arrow had around eleven saloons, several hotels and restaurants, a couple general stores, and a school. Additionally, there were four sawmills, a stockyard, and a large log train station. The main street consisted of two story false front buildings. Also, the very first gaslights for any town in Grand County illuminated the business district at night. Photos taken by L.C. McClure around 1905 show a thriving town with people walking about and a crowd at the railroad depot. Nonetheless, there is virtually nothing that remains at the town site today. Not a single building survives and only a lone nearby gravesite gives an indication that the town once existed.
Many myths have surrounded Arrow over the years. One fantastic tale is that the citizens incorporated the town to avoid the law banning liquor sales in the National Forrest. Another myth is that Arrow was the first incorporated town in Grand County. Finally, has long been told that the buildings of Arrow were burned to the ground by the U.S. Forest Service after the town was abandoned in 1929. The first two myths are very easy to dispute. The last myth has been a more difficult one to disprove, until recently.
The assertion that Arrow was incorporated to avoid federal law banning liquor in the National Forest has three errors in history. First, the National Forests did not exist at the time that Arrow was incorporated. What would become the National Forests did exist at the time as the U.S. Forest Reserves, but the reserves did not have the same protections and statutes as the National Forests would have. Next, the Forest Reserves did not yet extend to the area that Arrow and the Moffat Road occupied in 1904. Finally, the town site of Arrow existed then and does today outside the National Forest boundary. If it were within the National Forest boundary, it could not have incorporated in the first place.
The facts surrounding the claim that Arrow was the first incorporated town in Grand County are a simple matter of record. Arrowhead was incorporated as a municipality in December, 1904. Previous to this Hot Sulphur Springs was incorporated in February, 1903 and Kremmling was incorporated in April, 1904. That was two towns incorporated before Arrow. Furthermore, the long abandoned ghost town of Teller had been incorporated around 1880.
The fate surrounding the buildings of Arrow have been much more difficult to attain over the years. It has long been written that reason that there are no longer any structures left of the once bustling town of Arrow is that the U.S. Forest Service burned all the buildings that had been abandoned after the opening of the Moffat Tunnel. Even the notable historian, Dr. Robert Black, carried this assertion in Island of the Rockies, claiming that it was a fire hazard. His source was an oral history in 1968 from a former postmaster. Nonetheless, it has never made sense that the Forest Service would have burned the former town. The town site of Arrow never has even to this day existed within the boundary of the Forest Service, so how could they have had the authority to eliminate the structures of Arrow. Also, an interview with Dr. Gilbert Lininger in the early 1980s contradicts this. Lininger, who grew up in Arrow, claimed that the town burned down in 1927 as a result of arson. Lininger said that the owner of the Arrow Café, who had hit on hard times, set his place on fire and the entire town burned down with it. This seems like a far more likely scenario.
Lininger’s account sheds some insight into what finally befell the once prosperous community of Arrow. Nonetheless, a recent discovery in the archives of the Grand County Pioneer Village Museum both substantiates his account and also dispels part of it. A recently discovered article on the front page of the Middle Park Times dated October 1, 1915 reveals that the town burned down less than a week earlier than the paper was published. The article with the headline, Arrow in Ashes, reported that the town was “was no longer in existence.” Dr. Black wrote that the town had lost its post office in 1915 and he was correct. The 1915 article reported that “the post office and telephone office were wholly consumed together with the entire business section of the town.” What Black did not realize was the reason for the closing of the post office that once received mail for over 2,000 people. Virtually the entire town burned to the ground and disappeared, save for the railroad buildings and maybe a handful of homes.
By 1915, the town of Arrow had dwindled to the point of not rebuilding after the 1915 destructive fire. As the Moffat railroad expanded westward the activity of Arrow fell. The town continued only as a staging point for the helper engines and rotary plows needed to carry trains over the snowy mountains leading up to Corona Station and Rollins Pass. A photo taken by Idellia Bumgarten sometime between 1923 and 1927 reveals that all that remained after the 1915 fire were the railroad buildings and a lone house.