The first photo is at Harry Littlejohn’s cabin with the Green Children, Sally and Warren and Billy Cogan, in 1941. This and the photo on page 11 were recently given to the museum from the collection of The John and Pauline Green family by son Carl Prouty.
Harry’s winter collection of coyote and other skins are hanging in the cabin. The Green family spent many summers in Buena Vista and gave us a large collection of photos from 1930 until 1947. These photos are of St. Elmo, BV Rodeo, Mahan Ranch and numerous mines.
The Littlejohn Mining Complex is about 5 miles up Pine Creek in the Collegiate Peak Wilderness. It is on the National Historic Register. Harry and his brother Henry worked the mine from 1910 to 1945. It was a bismuth mine.
Ninety percent of Bismuth was used for medicinal and cosmetic preparations. One of the familiar products is Pepto Bismol, used for stomach ailments. The mineral is a soft, dense, coarse, crystalline metal and is silvery white with a tinge of red. It was refined into ingots, pellets or needles for sale to foundries and pharmaceutical companies. It was used in industrial applications such as casting alloys and laboratory chemicals.
An old miner, Frank Strah, gave me a plat of this area from 1922. There were many mines and a townsite included on the plat. The town was called Bismuth City. A road and electric tramway were planned but only a burro trail was built and is still used. Harry Littlejohn worked the mine year around until his age forced him to spend the winters in Buena Vista.
He often visited with the Cogan family usually in time for a meal. Jack Cogan helped Harry at the mine in the summer when he was working Cogan cattle in the area on a Forest Service lease.
Harry was small but tough and strong. He used the mine tunnel for cold storage of game he shot. He was calm and easy going but his brother, who was in WWI, was erratic and often disappeared for weeks at a time.
One fall two local men hunting in the area found Harry who had had a heart attack. He was taken to the Salida Hospital where he died a few months later.
A group of Colorado Springs residents had a lease on the property and used it for a wilderness retreat summer and winter. They cross-country skied into the complex for a New Year’s Eve celebration. It was this group that got the property listed on the National Historic Register in 1978.
The Forest Service took over the complex in 1993. In 1994 Buena Vista Heritage Museum received some of the articles taken from the complex and they are on display at the museum.