When most people think of Spring Break, thoughts turn to sandy beaches or snowy mountain peaks. However, for nine students from the University of Missouri, Spring Break this past March involved a week of service and stewardship in and around Southwest Colorado’s remote Disappointment Valley. For the ninth year, San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) coordinated a Service Learning Project for the college students in conjunction with the Dolores Public Lands Office.
Several projects were undertaken, including cleanup and repair work at the Spring Creek Wild Horse Area. Students also camped in Bull Canyon where they participated in the documentation and preservation of Indian Henry’s cabin. For some students, this was their first camping experience.
Indian Henry, also known as Henry Huff, constructed a cabin in Bull Canyon in the early 1890's. At the time the canyon was uninhabited. He made his living by hunting and trapping. After the turn of the century the area around Bull Canyon became a uranium mining district. Indian Henry was involved in prospecting and apparently made some money selling his claims and prospects to other miners. In May 1917, Henry was involved in a card game at a miners boarding house. During the game a dispute arose and Henry was shot and killed by John Keske, the manager of the boarding house. Indian Henry was buried near his cabin and a tombstone was carved from the local sandstone with the inscription:
May 11, 1917
Working with archaeologists Kristie Arrington (BLM), Vince MacMillan (BLM), and Ruth Lambert (SJMA), the students created photos and drawings of the cabin to record and document the site. They built a brush fence to protect the cabin and surrounding artifacts. Finally, they created a fence to protect Indian Henry’s grave and grave stone.
The students were hosted by Kathy and Ron Heaton at Winterhawk Lodge. At the end of a long week of work, students joined the Heatons and members of the local community for a night of barbeque and playing with local musicians.
Supporters and partners of the SJMA Alternative Spring Break program include: San Juan Public Lands, The National Mustang Association, Four Corners Back Country Horsemen, East Pines Ranch, and the Colorado State Historical Society.