Hessie Cabin, CO 2021
Hessie Cabin, CO 2021

Hessie Cabin, CO 2021

Hessie Cabin, CO 2021

Located near a wildly popular (and beautiful) hiking area, the Hessie Cabin is one of the last remaining traces of a short-lived Gold Rush boomtown west of Nederland, CO. HistoriCorps volunteers will take on a major rehabilitation project here – and in the future, the cabin may be available for overnight rentals!

PROJECT PARTNER:  Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest

DATES:  August 1-6, August 8-13, August 15-20 and August 22-27

Project Site Description & History

Today, Colorado is celebrated as a dream destination for outdoor lovers, but much of the state’s history and current economic activity is rooted in mining. The discovery of gold on Pikes Peak (historically inhabited by Jicarilla Apache, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations) in 1858, which led to the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, was a pivotal factor in the development of the current state of Colorado. The Rush brought record numbers of prospectors (by some estimates 100,000 people) to the mountains known as Colorado’s Front Range. The population growth that resulted from miners and their families flocking to the area led to the establishment of the Colorado Territory only three years later,  in 1861.

Roughly thirty years after Colorado became a territory, the town of Eldora (historically inhabited by Cheyenne Nation peoples, and currently part of Boulder County) was established. Eldora served as the local center of gold mining activity west of Boulder. After Eldora (peak population 1000) was settled, the lure of gold brought another wave of miners to the vicinity, and a smaller camp town, “Hessie,” grew up a few miles to the west between 1895 and 1905. Hessie Cabin, AKA “Kennewick Cabin,” is one of the few standing residential structures left from Boulder County’s mining history. Kennewick Cabin, built in Hessie prior to 1906, is an excellent example of the type of cabin miners living and working in the Front Range during the 19th century would have lived in.

When Captain J.H. Davis brought his wife, Hessie, to the new settlement, she made herself indispensable by launching a crude postal facility in the Davis Cabin. In gratitude, the miners decided to name the settlement “Hessie” in her honor. The town of Hessie was thus added to the map of Colorado. Hessie supported about eighty residents at its peak. Located just east of where the North and Middle Forks of Boulder Creek come together, the settlement at its peak had several stores, a schoolhouse, boarding house, sawmill, and residences. The high elevation, about 8,600 feet, made agriculture difficult, but some settlers managed to grow hearty vegetables like potatoes, radishes, carrots, and peas.

Mining efforts continued until about 1904, but gold mining around Eldora and Hessie was never as productive or profitable as hoped. To make up for the lack of mining profits, a large-scale timber business was started in Eldora. In 1899, a massive fire swept through the mountains surrounding the town. Eldora itself did not burn, but the trees in the neighboring mountains were gone, marking the end of lumbering. With mining unprofitable, the timber gone, and an unforgiving climate, there was little to encourage residents to stay. By 1910, the towns of Eldora and Hessie were mostly abandoned, but (according to the book Colorado Ghost Towns), not before Hessie became the site of a complicated murder case that remains unsolved to this day.

Most of the area west of Hessie is now public land managed by HistoriCorps’ project partner, the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. Hessie Trailhead is a busy access point to popular hiking and snowshoeing trails within Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest and Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. Parking is limited, so since 2012 a free shuttle service to the trailhead from the Town of Nederland has been provided on summer weekends and holidays. Just south of the Hessie townsite is Eldora Mountain, a local favorite for skiing and snowboarding.

Many thanks to volunteer Miki S. for their assistance in researching and writing this description!

A rustic sign marks where Hessie once stood.

Jasper Lake, above, is a popular destination for hikers on the Hessie Trail

Foliage, primarily aspen trees, is beginning to obscure the cabin.

Hessie Cabin is located near spectacular hiking on the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest

Hessie as a populated townsite in 1920

Location & Logistics

PROJECT PARTNER: Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest

SESSION DATES:   August 1-6, August 8-13, August 15-20 and August 22-27

Please plan to arrive at our campsite no earlier than 6pm and no later than 8pm on the first day of your session. 

SITE INFORMATION:      Tent camping only    Site is RV/trailer accessible  

LOCATION:  We will camp at the nearby Kelly Dahl campground and carpool to the jobsite daily. This special location will feel remote, and the night sky will be beautiful, but the lovely town of Nederland, which has most amenities, is only 30 minutes away. This site is best-suited for tent and truck campers, but small RVs and trailers can access the site, too. There are no hookups, and the ground may not be perfectly level. Please plan to arrive no earlier than 6pm and no later than 8pm on the first day of your session.

ABOUT VOLUNTEERING:  HistoriCorps projects are free for volunteers! HistoriCorps will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to the campsite, sleeping equipment, work clothes and boots, and other personal gear. Most projects have one spot per session for a “Kitchen Helper” in addition to our project work volunteer spots. Scroll down to read more and register!

Scope of Work

SCOPE OF WORK:    HistoriCorps volunteers will work alongside field staff to learn and improve their skills with the tools and equipment required to undertake significant rehabilitation work on the Hessie Cabin. Volunteers in earlier sessions will work to carefully dismantle the cabin, and volunteers in middle and later sessions will learn to establish an improved foundation for the building and then re-assemble the cabin, repairing and replacing significantly deteriorated logs and roofing as needed. We think this will be a fun project full of opportunities to problem-solve!
  • Dismantle building from the top down, taking care to document “which piece goes where” – 20%
  • Establish foundation footers and piers – 20%
  • Reassemble building from the bottom up, replacing and repairing severely deteriorated wall and roof logs – 40%
  • Install new roof decking, underlayment, and a rusty corrugated metal roof, restoring the cabin to its original, historic appearance – 20%
Please note: Tasks vary by day and by week, depending on a variety of factors including: weather, project priorities, previous groups’ work, and more. Though it is likely you will get to learn and practice most or all of the above tasks, it is not guaranteed. The higher percentage of the scope a particular task is, the more likely you will get to practice it.
HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. The majority of project costs are covered by our project partners and grants, but as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Sign Up!

We’re thrilled this project has inspired you to volunteer! Choose your session and register below:

You will know your registration was successful when you receive a confirmation email. Contact volunteer@historicorps.org for assistance.

HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Volunteer Logistics, Policies, and Advice

We’re so glad you’re interested in joining this project! If you’re new to our community, review the Volunteer FAQ first! Please note the following logistics and policies:

  • Review our COVID protocols here. HistoriCorps is committed to keeping our volunteers, staff, and project communities safe. Beginning with projects starting 9/29/2021, all volunteers will be required to affirm that they will be fully vaccinated from the Covid-19 virus by the time their project begins.
  • Volunteering with HistoriCorps is free! We will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite or shared indoor lodging. Dinner is not provided on the first night.
  • Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own gear, sturdy work clothes and boots, and appropriate sleeping equipment. Check the average temperatures before you start packing – the nights and mornings may be colder than you anticipate! Then, read this advice about how to stay warm when tent camping in colder places.
  • Campsite accessibility varies by project. Some projects can accommodate tents only; others can accommodate small RVs. Please review the project site description above for more information, and if you’re still not sure, email volunteer@historicorps.org for help.
  • If this project does not offer showers, you might want to consider bringing a solar shower or research other methods to clean up after the work day.
  • Volunteer crew sizes generally range from 4-8 volunteers, with two HistoriCorps staff that lead and train volunteers in the work.
  • Safety is one of HistoriCorps’ top priorities, and volunteers can contribute to a safe working environment by ensuring their physical fitness is adequate for the work. See above for this project’s scope of work and difficulty level. Please, call us if you are not quite sure if a project is a good fit for your skills or fitness level. We may be able to suggest a project more suitable and enjoyable for you.
  • Dogs are generally allowed to accompany their humans in project campsites (actually, we love having dogs join us around the campfire!). Dogs are not permitted on the job site for everyone's safety. HOWEVER: HistoriCorps also follows the rules and regulations of our project partner. If the project partner does not permit dogs onsite then HistoriCorps is no exception. Please ask HistoriCorps or the project partner directly if you have any questions about whether Fido is welcome.