Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Legacy that is James 'Jimmy' Burns

Perhaps one of the most interesting, yet mostly unknown benefactor of the Pikes Peak Region is James 'Jimmy' Burns'. Burns with his partner were responsible for one of the most productive mines in the Cripple Creek/Victor mining district in the early days. To learn more of this man's legacy read on.

Burns Mausoleum in Evergreen Cemetery

Why did you come to Colorado Springs?

Chance and fate really brought me here. I had tried several careers before moving to Colorado Springs. I tried being a merchant marine, a lawyer (or at least went to school for it), a machinist, a small time miner in Peru and even a cotton broker. Sometimes I made money, sometimes I lost it. After losing a lottery winning I got word that a few of my sisters and my brother had moved to a new town out in Colorado called Colorado Springs so decided to try my luck there.

What made you believe you could find gold in Cripple Creek, since so many were already there?

Yes, I was a bit of a late comer to the Cripple Creek Mining District. I had no real mining experience but after seeing so many others go and actually find something, I with my partner James Doyle decided to try out our luck. It was a rough go in the beginning as every inch of Battle Mountain seemed to already have been claimed but after much searching we found a postage stamp sized piece of land and went to work.

Store Fronts in Victor, Colorado

How about your family life, your parents, your wife and children?

I was born to an Irish father and a Scottish mother, John and Ellen Burns. They immigrated to North America and finally settled down in Portland, Maine. My two oldest sisters were born in Scotland, the rest of us in the US. We were a pretty close family and remained so throughout most of our lives. In 1900 I met and married the most beautiful women I had ever seen, Olivia Belle Parker. She provided me with a son, James Jr. in 1902, and a daughter Gladys in 1904. It turned out that Gladys was probably the only good thing that happened to me in all of 1904 but that’s another story. Another son, Wilson came along in 1911. I have tried very hard to be a good husband and father and I would like to think that I have been. They all mean the world to me.

How do you see yourself and what would you want your legacy to be?

A good question! I see myself as a man who tries hard, always keeps trying, and has been successful because of it. I have made enemies but I have made many good friends and I hope that it’s those friends and my family that will define my legacy. It the end, being known as a good man will be a good enough legacy for me.

As Ron, what drew you to continue your research on Jimmy?

Since the first time I saw the big white marble family mausoleum and it’s classic styling at Evergreen Cemetery, I was drawn to finding out more about him. Who was the person that would build that kind of monument to himself? What I found is a very interesting person with a rags-to-riches tale whose contributions to Teller and El Paso counties seems to have been nearly erased or forgotten. Some people still remember the Chief Theater but how many people know why it was called the Burns Building? I wanted to be able to bring his memory and the memory of his accomplishments back to light.

James 'Jimmy Burns', is brought to life by Ron West a 6 pm on Thursday, September 11, 2014, at the Historic Chapel in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cost is $10 per person. For more information or to reserve your seat contact:

Historic Chapel, Evergreen Cemetery

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