In 1914, a story surfaced in the Cripple Creek newspaper that was quite curious. It reported on a strange gent who lived up on the hill above Cripple Creek. The newspaper called him “The Hermit of Tenderfoot Hill.” He kept to himself and rarely spoke to anyone. The unknown man seemed to be about 50 years old.
He was known to the residents of Midway, a little community high in the hills. He had a cabin near the Jerry Johnson Mine. He had been in that cabin since about 1910, and was quiet and law abiding. A few attempts to learn more about him were about as successful as trying to get him to leave. The earliest anyone could remember of him was the one morning he was seen walking through Midway toward Victor. The next day he was seen on the same path. This became nearly a daily event, even in bad weather. A few attempted to start a conversation with him, but he rarely did more than just keep walking. He did not respond to questions or comments, even to smile or nod his head.
In bad weather, his routine changed little. A few saw him in Victor, walking the streets, occasionally picking up a stray cigar or cigarette stub from the sidewalk. A few of the Midway folks had visited the cabin, while he was away. In it were only a few things — a broken down table and chair, a mattress and pile of blankets served as a bed, a washtub, and a box of ragged bits of clothing were about all there was. The washtub served as a stove, as it was often filled with the remains of a fire.
He occasionally was seen with lighter or heavier clothing, as the seasons changed, and other than having long scraggly hair and beard, he was fairly well dressed. No food was ever seen in his cabin, nor could anyone remember seeing him anywhere eating. A few reported seeing him near a few of the mines during meal time. The biggest challenge, for those who saw him on a regular basis, was to try to get a few words out of him. He solidly refused to speak, and would not let out even a grunt or give a nod. A few miners who visited the Midway saloons had seen him late at night, but still, never speaking.
There is occasional mention of him in later newspapers, but without any more information than in the original story. It seems that at some point, he wandered away, as quietly as he had arrived. The cabin was burned in a fire in 1916.
E.M. “Mel” McFarland is an artist, historian and railroad enthusiast. Mel is a Pikes Peak region native and has written a handful of books and guides highlighting the area’s rich history. With questions and ideas for his column, contact Mel at email@example.com.