COBWEB CORNERS: A cemetery on Pikes Peak?
By Mel McFarland
Let me start by saying, yes there is. One person is buried on Pikes Peak. The grave is just west of the Summit House, and you can easily miss it. He was Carl Gustav Lotave, an artist of some note from the 1900-1920 time period. He painted here, in Santa Fe and New York. He was buried in 1925. It was a result of Spencer Penrose's idea of a special tribute to artists and writers, however it did not do well. Lotave was the only one. Now the Forest Service does not allow other graves there.
There was an earlier grave on the summit. It was for the famous Erin O'Keefe. Thousands went up the mountain to see her grave. It was just outside the original weather station, which became the cog railroad's station. She was the daughter of Sgt. John T. O'Keefe, one of the illustrious, and most creative soldiers who manned the Army weather station on Pike's Peak between 1873 and 1883. The young daughter met her end one cold night, killed by voracious rats!
It was a great tale, told by Sgt O'Keefe and John Potter, an early resident in the area around Colorado Springs. Just when the story was dreamed up is not recorded, but it appeared in an early newspaper in 1876. It has been reprinted several dozen times since. The further a story spread, the more they took on their own life. Those in the saloons of Manitou and Colorado City knew that the likelihood of a soldier having a wife, much less a child, while stationed on the mountain was most bizarre. This aroused the curiosity of the summer visitors to the area, and it gave them another reason to go to the top. The story accomplished one goal: It provided company for the four or five soldiers who manned the weather station - at least in the summer. As the story of Erin spread, her little wooden marker was well cared for. But over the years, and long after the reality of the story became known, it was removed and featured in a display in the summit house. The display told the story of little Erin and the marker. But at some point the marker itself vanished. Perhaps some tourist found it and took it home.