Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Forgotten Fletcher

While the tiny community of Fletcher never boasted more than a handful of residents, it played an important role in the development of business and commerce in the region.

The remains of Fletcher can be found at the intersection of Lucky Boy Pass Road and Aurora Road, about 18 miles southwest of Hawthorne.

Fletcher's heyday—if it can truly be said to have had one—was from about 1883 to 1919. The completion of the Carson & Colorado Railroad to Hawthorne in 1881 provided the impetus for the creation of a way station at the confluence of the road from Aurora and the road leading to Hawthorne.

This crossroad location also happened to boast a vigorous natural spring, which was certainly an advantage in this relatively dry landscape. In 1881, a stage stop was established to connect the thriving mining camp of Aurora, six miles to the south, with the rail line at Hawthorne.

A post office was located at the settlement in 1883 and the intersection took its name from H. D. Fletcher, the first postmaster.

The community's fortunes ebbed and flowed with the successes and failures of mining efforts in Aurora. The post office was opened sporadically over the years, then closed for good on November 30, 1918, when Hawthorne was designated the mail address for its patrons.

The small community of Fletcher quietly slipped into obscurity after the loss of the post office. Ranchers continued—and continue to this day—to utilize water from the spring for livestock, but any permanent residents picked up and moved on.

Today, Fletcher is little more than a wide spot in the road. After driving across miles of flat, dry high desert, you can find Fletcher because it's the only green area around. Tall cottonwoods and poplars, lush green grass, marshy ground and thick foliage attest to the life-giving benefits of the spring.

Indeed, water continues to rush from the spring, funneled through a plastic pipe and into a flat, green meadow that is attractive to local cows. Overflow from this stream of water collects in a small pond, which is thick with cattails and grasses.

Remnants of past settlement remain. Crumbling, hand-piled rock walls indicate the former site of a corral while a locked iron door hints at the hidden things within a stone cellar in a hillside—the only real building still standing.

All around is the refuse of the past; warped wooden boards, rusted metal barrel rims, barbed wire and other castoffs. A U.S. Geological Survey marker indicates this was once someplace—but today few would know where and what and why.

And beware of the few remaining residents of Fletcher. In addition to the cows and the occasional wild horse, the rattler is the most prominent boarder. During a recent visit, we spotted one quietly snoozing within the rotted, hollowed center of a fallen tree.

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