Ralph Preston (1926-2019) was a native Oregonian who dedicated much of his adult life studying western history and geology. He spent untold hours for more than four decades studying maps and researching the westward movement of pioneers and gold miners. This enthusiasm for early history and his countless hours of research has resulted in publications of historical map packages of ghost towns and gold & gem locations for ten western states. In addition to the work in his office, much of his research, knowledge and stories was conducted by traveling to many of the remote areas of each of the states for which he has published a map collection. Tracing the early trails, stage roads and military sites always reveals a thrilling story or two for one’s imagination. Perhaps this is best presented in the following selected verses of a poem written by Ralph that appeared in one of his earliest publications, the “Atlas of Early Idaho”, no longer in print.
Much of my life I’ve been searching
For marks cast by years gone by
Always aware of their glowing
These towns that were destined to die.
At last I’ve discovered the “lost one”
As I gaze down a dust covered street.
A rattler slinks here, a rabbit runs there
As a tumble weed tangles my feet.
Slowly I walk down main street
With cobwebs and dust as my host.
My life-long endeavor has ended
As I stand face to face with this ghost.
I look through the haze of sundown
And see on a distant hill.
The stones and crosses of loved ones
In rows so quiet and still.
As I leave I look over my shoulder
I think of the years gone by.
Wishing I’d lived in that era
Of a town that was destined to die.