A Brief History of Enos A. Mills
Ann, his mother, told him wonderful stories about Colorado while he helped her with the household chores that he could do. His parents would borrow books from any source they could to educate all their children. The older children would help the younger with their studies. All the children attended school, but often Enos was not well enough to go. He was eventually tutored up to the eighth grade, but received no higher schooling.
Enos was a thin, weak child. As much as he loved being out-of-doors, he did what he could to help out on the farm. Often, he was too ill to help with the harder work. Enos steadily grew weaker and weaker. When he was about 13, a local doctor tried in vain to diagnose his illness, and declared that Enos would not live long.
Enos left home with his parents' blessing. Their hope was that he would be healthier in Colorado than on a dusty, dry Kansas farm. Enos was already, at 14 years old, very self-reliant. He hitchiked to Kansas City, and got a job at a local bakery to earn enough money for a train ticket. He took the train to Denver, Colorado, then to Greeley where his older sister, Belle, lived. He then later came to Estes Park, where he had relatives to stay with. He began working at the Elkhorn Lodge as a housekeeper.
Enos visited his cousins, Reverend and Mrs. Elkhanah Lamb and their son Carlyle at the Lamb Ranch at the foot of Long's Peak. Elkhanah and Carlyle guided climbers up Long's Peak. In 1885, with some other visitors, Carlyle took Enos up Long's Peak for his first climb. Enos became instantly enamoured with the mountain and decided that he wanted to learn all about it. Guiding people up the peak seemed the perfect occupation for his interests and energies.
During his visits with the Lambs, Enos fell in love with a little spot across the valley. Enos started building the small cabin that is now a museum. It was finished in two summers. He had a small cook stove, a table and chairs, a small bookcase and a bed that used two of the cabin walls for the bed frame. This was a "modern" home because of the energy efficiency from a stove instead of a fireplace, having a glass window instead of no window or wooden shutters, cement chinking between the logs instead of mud, a tin roof instead of wooden planks or mud and grass, and thick insulating paper on the ceiling and walls instead of layers of news papers or burlap. Enos did spend a few winters in this cabin, but most of his time at his homestead was during the summer months, when Estes Park was accesible by road.
During the winters between 1887 and 1901 Enos took a job at the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, Montana. During the winters Estes Park was normally devoid of human life, except for a stalwart few who had supplies to last them the several months of snow. While in Butte, he was introduced to the world of mining. The first day Enos got into town, he met another miner who introduced him to the Butte Library. It was a typical day for him to get up at the crack of dawn, work all day in the mines, dine with friends, perhaps go to a club meeting, take a stack of books from the library, and read until well after midnight. At the mine, he started out as a "nipper", or tool-boy, who would ferry dull drill bits from the miners in the shafts, and return with sharpened bits. Always inquisitive, he asked other workers about their jobs, and was observant enough to learn the trade. He advanced up the ranks of the mines every winter he worked. Butte was a bustling mining city, a hub of activity that thrilled Enos in his formative teen years. He joined a poetry club, joined the miner's Union, and was introduced to all walks of life that traveled through there. When Enos left Butte, he was a licensed stationary Engineer in the mines.
When he had the money for it, in times between Butte and Estes Park, Enos traveled around the country. His education by books could only satisfy a small portion of his curiosity, so he satisfied his curiosity by travel. In 1889, after a terrible fire at the Anaconda Mine, Enos traveled to San Francisco to see the Pacific coast. While walking on the beach, he picked up a piece of kelp that had washed ashore, and knowing very little about it, approached an older, kindly-looking man nearby. As they talked, Enos found a man who matched his interests. It turned out that this man was John Muir. Muir took Enos under his wing, and encouraged Enos to pursue his interests in the natural world. To add more fire to Enos' energy, Muir encouraged him to join the cause of conservation, and to write of his adventures in the wilderness. Enos took this advice and applied it to his endeavors throughout his life. Enos and John Muir remained friends until Muir's death in 1914.
Enos Abijah Mills was born on April 22, 1870, in the southeast corner of Linn County, Kansas. The nearest town was Pleasonton. His parents, Enos Mills Sr. and Ann Lamb, were Quakers originally from South Bend, Indiana. They homesteaded near Breckenridge, Colorado to try mining. When they were unsuccessful, they moved to Kansas to start a farm.
Enos's first climb up Long's Peak, 1885.
Enos, Age 8.
Anaconda Miners. Enos is seated bottom left.
Enos outside his homestead.