Explore What’s Left of Morley, Colorado
As time goes on, many of Colorado's former mining towns have turned into just a memory. The historic sites across the state once buzzing with prospectors and their families now sit quietly undisturbed.
Morley, Colorado is one of those places.
Situated near the summit of Raton Pass, approximately three miles from the New Mexico border, the town of Morley experienced its peak during the 1920s. But those days didn't last for long.
The site of Morley was originally discovered by Spanish traders traveling through the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s. At this point, they called the location Cima, which translated to "summit" or "high place."
The actual establishment of Morley happened in 1878 when the Santa Fe Railroad Company added a stop there. Subsequently, railroad workers were also housed in town.
In 1906, more development took place within the southern Colorado destination thanks to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. After acquiring the land for coal mining, employees of the fuel and iron company moved into town.
The company owned the entire town and almost all of Morley's residents were either an employee of CF&I or related to one. The local mine outputted an average of 600 tons of coal per day, which was used to produce steel at the Pueblo plant, power the Santa Fe Railroad trains, and provide electricity and energy to machinery in town.
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During the 1920s, Morley's population rose to its peak of more than 600 people. The town had its own post office and grade school. But the community's most prominent property was the beautiful St. Aloysius Catholic Church, which was hand-built in 1917 by the residents themselves.
In 1950, layoffs within CF&I began to take place, and by 1955, only about two dozen workers remained employed. As a result, miners and their families moved out of the Las Animas County location to find work elsewhere. It was also during this year that the local school closed its doors to students.
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By 1956, operations at the coal mine ceased completely. During its 49 years of operation, the Morley Mine yielded a total of 11 million tons of coal.
To avoid squatters and trespassers and any liability they may cause, CF&I demolished all of the remaining company buildings after the mine closed.
The only building CF&I that wasn't torn down in town was the old St. Aloysius Catholic Church. Construction crews didn't feel it was right to destroy such "holy ground." However, in order not to have to pay taxes on the vacant property, CF&I was forced to make it unusable. This is why some of the structure's walls and roof are no longer intact. The other buildings in Morley were torn down for the same reason.
Ruins of the St. Aloysius Church remain standing to this day. The Spanish-style church sits on private property but the owner does allow visitors, as long as they get permission ahead of time.
In 2011, developers had the vision to transform the old church and part of the town into a history-themed tourist attraction. However, this idea was opposed by residents of Morley, who did not want outside visitors disturbing their small-town peace.
Many motorists driving past Morley on Interstate 25/U.S. Highway 87 have no idea that this mining town even existed.