Fremont County has had its fair share of company towns whose survival depended on the mining and industry operations of large companies like Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I). Some, like Brookside, managed to survive when the companies pulled out, while others, such as Chandler, became ghost towns with only a few foundations remaining. Calcite, located about six miles west of Howard, was one of those that faded away when CF&I closed its operations.
Calcite was along Howard Creek at the base of Hunts Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range. The settlement was composed of three camps; Upper, Middle, and Lower. The CF&I quarry opened in 1903 with limestone as the main extraction. The quarry supervisor was also in charge of the community along with three representatives who helped resolve grievances and disputes. While it was a small town, Calcite had all the necessities such as the company store, post office, school, and a railroad to move tons of limestone. The school was part of District No. 37 of Fremont County and was built in 1914. Prior to this, students had to go to Howard for classes. The post office opened in 1904 and operated until 1930.
The houses at Calcite were simple frame homes built by the company for their employees and families. Married workers lived in the houses with their families while single men lived in the boarding house. There were also the scales, powder magazines, and offices and homes for the CF&I supervisors scattered between the three camps. No cemetery was ever established in Calcite despite the population of 200 during it’s height of production. The deceased were generally taken to either Howard or Salida for burial.
CF&I ended their work at Calcite in 1930 due to the high silica content in the limestone. Higher silica contents lead lowered the quality of the steel and removing the silica was expensive. After CF&I pulled out of the site, a contract was given to Jack Caroccia with five or six other men to continue working a few high grade pockets. This contract went on for almost two decades even though the railroad spur was removed in 1936. The majority of buildings had been sold and moved from Calcite by 1930 and now only foundations remain.
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.