Last Chance

Last Chance in 2012

Last Chance, Washington County, Colorado is a small cross-roads community established in 1925 at the intersection of State Road 102 (now US 36) and State Road 71 (now Highway 71). In 1925 if you were traveling in your Model T north or south on SR71 or west on SR102 and passed up Last Chance you had a long way to go to find the next gas station--41 miles west to Strasburg, 37 miles south to Limon, or 38 miles N to Brush; if you were traveling east on SR71 through Last Chance you probably could make it to the gas station in Anton 20 miles away--but why chance it?).

Last Chance never had an official post office but residents remember individual mail boxes in the general store. The closest post office was Plum Bush on Plum Bush Creek six miles northeast of Last Chance. It opened 16 Aug 1910 and closed 15 Jun 1918.

School Districts

The following school districts were associated with Last Chance but no Washington County school district was named Last Chance.

District 13: Canyon, Spence, Morning View, Valley View, and Howard. District 13 included the town of Last Chance.

District 79: Plum Bush; it was originally the Anderson school, Plum Bush was about 6 miles northeast of Last Chance. In the 1928 directory the school was listed as the Pride of the Prairie school

District 40: Thurman; The Thurman school was located at Thurman in extreme southern Washington County. After the school closed the school building was moved to Last Chance where it was remodeled and used as a cafe.

Wikipedia current

Last Chance is an unincorporated community in Washington County, Colorado, United States located at 39°44'24?N 103°35'37?W (39.739930,-103.593693). It is situated at the intersection of U.S. Highway 36 and State Highway 71 in a sparsely populated area of eastern Colorado. The town was supposedly so-named because it was once the only place for travelers to secure fuel and provisions for many miles in any direction. The U.S. Post Office at Woodrow (ZIP Code 80757) now serves Last Chance postal addresses.

Trivia: Hee Haw saluted Last Chance, Colorado (pop. 25) on Nov 16, 1974.

Adverse weather

1993 Tornadoes
On July 21, 1993 between 7:00 and 8:45, five tornadoes touched down in the Last Chance-Lindon area. The tornadoes did not kill or cause any injury but several farms were destroyed.

2012 Wildfire
On Monday June 25, 2012 a wildfire started from sparks caused by a flat tire of a passing motorist on Washington County Road 71 burned much of the town, leaving only a few charred structures standing, including the United Methodist Church. By the morning of Tuesday June 26, 2012 the fire had been stopped, but not before burning 45,000 acres between Last Chance and Woodrow, the nearest community.

Both Last Chance and Woodrow had to be evacuated during the blaze, but residents were allowed to return on June 26, 2012. Firefighters from fire departments in Brush, Hillrose, Snyder, Merino, Fort Morgan, Seibert, Burlington, Stratton, Flagler, Idalia, Joes, Sterling, Akron and Bennett as well as Colorado Department of Transportation Crews battled the blaze through the night, allowing for the lift of the evacuations.

Last Chance Wildfire 2012
By Alan Prendergast
Wednesday July 18th 2012

Back in the 1980s, when I still had in-laws working a family farm out on the eastern plains, I used to head out to visit them on U.S. 36 and pause, like many drivers did, at a wide spot in the road called Last Chance. It was a place for gas and chips and a soft-serve and maybe a bed if you were a bug-eyed trucker, a place to stretch and refresh on the long haul to the dwindling amenities of the places ahead -- hardscrabble farming centers with names like Cope, Joes and Kirk.

A place to stop for a moment and take stock, gaping at the sprawling blue sky and the endless procession of fleecy, swift-moving clouds bumping against the undulations of the high plains, a spectacle celebrated in the collected works of Kent Haruf.

The in-laws are gone now. The land endures. And so, just barely, does Last Chance, despite the ravages of time and last month's devastating prairie fire.

Years of diminishing business closed down the Dairy King, the motel, and some other businesses at this crossroads settlement. On June 25, sparks from a blowout on the road just about finished the job. The parched grasses on either side went up like -- well, straw. Within a few hours, the blaze stretched across miles, devouring pastures and cornfields and a sizable ledger of properties, shuttered or not, in town.

Local ranchers and fire departments pooled resources and fought like hell. Fortunately, no one died. The 45,0000 acres blackened by the blaze -- one of the largest wildfires in Colorado history, but hardly noticed in the wake of the High Park and Waldo Canyon conflagrations -- have left the southwestern part of Washington County looking like a lunar landscape, void of life. It's eerie and grim and harshly beautiful, all at the same time, a disconcerting combination Nathan Federico's photographs express so eloquently.

But the land endures. And so do the people of Last Chance.

Pioneer Story
(The following excerpts are from a Denver Post article of Jan 4, 1987 by Richard Johnson)

Every Wednesday Nona Trim and Audrey Gilchrist drive from Brush to Last Chance for their quilting club's meeting. Last Chance is the proverbial wide spot in the road. It's easy to zip through it on US 36 in eastern Colorado without really noticing the little community. Approaching on a winter's morning, you see the highway dip to a junction, with snow and ice glaring on the surrounding prairies, the hamlet's naked trees bending in a wind you feel certain rarely ceases.

The scene under pale blue skies is bleak; a church, a filling station, a café, a few other buildings and homes. Last Chance, about 37 miles south of Brush and about 36 miles north of Limon, is a refuge of sorts for travelers headed east or west, but the words that the wind-whipped village brings to mind are 'desolate' and 'lonely'.

Nevertheless, Last Chance (pop 50) isn't desolate and lonely, for it has, as it were, an extended family. For 40 years, the hamlet's Howard United Methodist Church has been the spiritual and social center for farming folk who live within a 15-mile radius.

One of the groups that meets in the church basement is the quilting club, and it's older than the church itself. It may even be one of the nation's oldest quilting (and talking) societies.

"We don't gossip", declares 84-year-old Nona Trim, referring to members of the club she helped organize 68 years ago. "We have three unspoken rules: No gossip, no talkin' politics, and no arguing denominational differences".

Originally the club didn't have a name but now the group's 10 members call themselves the Last Chance Quilters. Money they earn by quilting helps to support the church, even though not all of the quilters are church members.

Harbart & Chapman

In 1926, two men, Archie Chapman and Essa Harbert, opened a creamery, a store, and a filling station and called the spot "Last Chance" so named because it was the last chance motorists had to buy gasoline before going on west to Denver or east to St. Francis Kansas on Highway 36.

Harbart & Chapman Merchandise built 1926

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