c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins
Portions of this article originally appeared in the Colorado Gambler Magazine and the Ute Pass Vacation Guide
He adored animals, people, strawberry ice cream, a warm day and a good chat. Beyond those necessities, Henry W. Reed didn’t need much else to get by in life.
Henry was born near the border of Maine and New Hampshire on September 26, 1907. His parents, Joseph H. Reed and Gratia M. Gage, were married at Benton, Maine in 1903. Joseph worked at farming, first at Winslow, Maine and later at Benton. Meanwhile, Gratia raised Henry and his four sisters: Rebecca, Mary, Margaret and Dorothy. By 1930 Henry’s 87-year-old grandfather, also named Henry, was living with the family at their farm in Benton.
Just how or why Henry got to Guffey, the tiniest of hamlets located between Canon City and Cripple Creek, Colorado is a mystery to most. The small community, originally called Freshwater and Idaville, was established in the 1890’s as a mining district. It was one of many created by the overflow of gold mining all around the Cripple Creek District. By the time Henry got there in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s, Guffey had downsized to just a few cabins, with ranches in the hills around town.
Henry was definitely calling Guffey home by the time he and two other pals were drafted into World War II in 1941. After the war, Henry returned to Guffey, renting out a tiny one room cabin for $10 per month in 1945. The cabin was modest with a stuffed chair, a table with two seats and a radio. There was no electricity, but there was a wood stove and a kerosene lamp and heater. One plate, one bowl, one fork and a spoon were set at the little table at all times.
Simplicity was Henry’s spice of life. Living on his pension from the service, he had plenty of time to enjoy Guffey’s natural ambience as much as the community enjoyed him. A typical day for Henry included walking over to the general store for a strawberry ice cream cone. There, he could catch up on the day’s news and visit with folks. He also faithfully attended barbecues, birthday parties and holiday dinners hosted by friends.
During the 1970’s, many of Henry’s acquaintances were “newcomers” who took comfort in his acceptance of them. In turn, Henry fell right in with their laid back, hippie lifestyles. Friends remember him spending hours playing horseshoes in someone’s back yard or sitting on their porches wearing a straw hat and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. His dry sense of humor may have masked his kind demeanor, but the twinkle in his eye always gave him away. People began calling him Peaceful Henry.
Henry’s love for wildlife was also no secret. In the book Guffey: One Hundred Years of Memories, an anthology written by residents of Guffey, Henry wrote of a time in his childhood when he and his sisters hand-fed and raised a two-week old robin. The children named him Robby Robin, and Henry recalled fond memories of the bird coming to him when called. “I know that robins cannot talk,” he wrote of his animals friends in 1966, “but I believe that they are capable of a lot of reasoning and have ways of communicating with one another.”
Henry’s pets also had ways to communicate with Henry. His chipmunk friend, Alice, lived in the woodpile next to his house. A favorite game was for Alice to perch on Henry’s lap, taking goodies from his lips. He also had a pony with whom he freely shared his cabin. Smaller critters could be seen scrambling around the cabin for treats at any time. When talk started of moving the General Store to a place directly across from Henry’s cabin, he was all for it. For one thing, it would shorten his daily walk for his beloved strawberry ice cream, plus he could keep a better eye on the local traffic.
Unfortunately, Henry died before he could see his newest dream realized. On a chilly November night in 1992, Henry and his cat succumbed to a gas leak. The news shocked and saddened residents of Guffey. Today, Henry’s cabin stands empty. Residents have not forgotten Henry, however. A restaurant in town was once named for him, and old-timers still recall the cheerful little man whose love for life never died.
Peaceful Henry, his pet pony and a small friend peer out from Henry’s cabin in Guffey, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Richard Mandel.