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Kokomo: Smaller than a small town?

Brief by Central Staff

Geography – March 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

If you’re somewhat into politics, you’ve doubtless heard of Karl Rove, chief political advisor to President George Walker Bush.

Rove was born in Denver (on Christmas Day, 1950), and spent some of his boyhood in Colorado. His father was a geologist and the family moved often; after stints in Utah and Nevada, Rove moved to Texas in 1977, and operated there as a political consultant until he moved to Washington with the Bush administration.

Late last year, he spoke in Berlin, N.H., and said something that offended residents of that declining small town (10,331 in 2000, down from 11,824 in 1990). So he wrote an apology to the local paper: “Were I ever to belittle small-town America, I would have to do a lot of explaining to my friends and neighbors in Golden, Arvada, and Kokomo, Colorado, where I grew up.”

Even though it’s the seat of Colorado’s second most populous county (Jefferson, with 527,066 residents in 2000), Golden might qualify as a small town with its 17,159 residents.

Arvada, population 102,153, is hardly a small town, but then again, Brill’s Content magazine once referred to Boulder (94,673) as a “mountain hamlet,” which came as something of a surprise to those of us who live in real mountain hamlets.

And Kokomo isn’t even on any modern maps. It once sat between Climax and Frisco on the west side of Frémont Pass. Kokomo and Recen were founded in an 1881 silver excitement, but even when Kokomo existed, it was a confusing place because it sat right next to Recen and the two towns traded post offices and names over the years.

As Perry Eberhart explained in his 1959 Guide to the Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, “When most of Kokomo was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1881-82, what remained of Kokomo merged with Recen…. It has seen a rebirth in recent years, primarily as a residential area for Climax Molybdenum employees. As many as 100 to 200 persons live in the town, and a school operates through the winter.”

Kokomo began to disappear in the 1960s as Climax Molybdenum expanded and needed more room for tailings. In 1964, the company began buying land for the Mayflower Tailings Pond.

Steve Voynick’s book Climax goes on to explain that “One legal concern involved the municipal lands of the old mining towns of Kokomo and Recen. The original Kokomo site was a ghost town, but Recen — now known as Kokomo — still had a bar, restaurant, a post office, and a dozen residents.”

In 1965, its registered voters passed a measure to disincorporate the town. There were nine voters, and that should qualify it as a small town.

In 1973, the site of Kokomo began to fill with tailings, and it was soon covered. Now, does anybody remember anything about young Karl Rove in Kokomo?