When five-year-old Elija Foster Stout died in December 1874, Pleasant Valley Cemetery was established to serve the families who had settled along the Arkansas River between present-day CaÃ±on City and Salida.
Four years later, the death of another child led to another cemetery south of the river. Six-year-old Joseph Toupain, whose father owned the Coaldale store, was the first to be buried in Coaldale Cemetery after his death on January 6, 1879.
Small pioneer cemeteries are littered in the mountains and valleys of Colorado and tell in their own way the stories of the families who left the rock-hard country at the end of the 19th century.
Colorado has its share of famous graves and monuments – Gunslinger Doc Holliday (buried at a trailhead in Glenwood Springs), Buffalo Bill Cody (buried on Lookout Mountain), Ute Nation Chief Ouray (buried in Ouray Memorial Park in Montrose), Philip K. Dick, author of Man in the High Castle and Minority Report, among other influential works (buried next to his twin sister at Fort Morgan’s Riverside Cemetery) and singer / songwriter John Denver (Aspen Memorial). There are dozens of small cemeteries, often not far from the beaten path, offering unique road trip stops.
The state has 24 cemeteries that are on the National Historic Register and five on the State Register. Many have been lovingly restored by community historical societies or other groups, often with grants from the State Historical Fund. Since 1993, the fund has raised nearly $ 1.6 million to 43 projects, said Sara Doll, outreach specialist at History Colorado.
They give an insight into the communities that arose there, mostly hastily built mining and railroad towns that faded when mines were depleted or railroads took a different route. They also provide clues to the triumphs and tragedies that followed after the settlers moved west. And they can be a treasure trove for genealogy hunters.
Some websites list all of Colorado’s cemeteries, including colorado-cemeteries.com/Colorado-Cemeteries.html and findagrave.com/cemetery-browse/USA/Colorado?id=state_7. Or, just search for “Colorado Cemeteries” online and see what you can find.
Some cemeteries offer seasonal tours, other information is sometimes available from local museums and tourist offices. Rules and opening times can be posted online or at the cemetery gate; If you go to some of the less well-kept ones, expect weeds to be lurked in by living things. Most do not offer public facilities. So plan your adventure in the back of your mind and bring sunscreen and water with you. The most important âdoâ, however, is to be respectful of the buried subjects and their descendants.
Here is a selection of pioneer cemeteries that are accessible in an easy day trip from Denver. Most are in or near small towns that offer other sightseeing options. We’ll start with several along US 50.
1251 S. First St., Canyon City
The first recorded burial took place in 1865 and the graves include many of the first settlers in the area. In 1933, the southwest corner of the cemetery known as Woodpecker Hill was transferred to the Colorado Department of Corrections for inmates who died in custody. The last inmate buried there was Luis Monge on June 2, 1967. The cemetery also has sections for both Union and Confederate civil war veterans. The cemetery was added to the National Historic Register in 2013. For more information, visit the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center
or at Fremdontheritage.com.
Formerly the Pleasant Valley Cemetery
On 45 Fremont County Road, east of Salida. from the US 50
The cemetery has about 400 marked graves, including that of Jonah Peregrine, who is believed to be the first settler in the area. He arrived on a 160-acre homestead from Tennessee in 1871, according to Cemeteries of Fremont County, a downloadable local heritage guide. The cemetery has great views of the Twin Sisters and Shavano Peak, and is on the former stagecoach and wagon route that led to Leadville.
US 50 about 1.5 miles east of Salida
The cemetery is pretty much all that remains of Cleora, a would-be railroad town founded in 1878 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to win the battle for a railroad line from CaÃ±on City through the Royal Gorge and on to Leadville. But it lost the battle against the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which decided to move its station to its own land a little further west: today’s Salida. However, the cemetery is a prime example of the “Boot Hill” cemeteries, which quickly emerged from necessity and were named after Western legends of people who died with boots on. It’s marked by social trails and randomly placed graves wherever there was space, according to records on the National Register of Historic Places.
County Road 33, on US 285, approximately 10 miles east of Fairplay
The cemetery is located in another former railway town and was laid out in 1887 as a replacement for another cemetery that was too close to a spring that supplied the residents with drinking water. The cemetery has a number of historically significant features, including markings and monuments, as well as inscriptions and iconographies that provide information about industries and fraternal organizations that were important to the community. It is also the burial site for 17 of the 25 miners who were killed in the accident in January 1893 in the King Coal Mine, southeast of the city. The dead included 16 Italians, six Austrians, two Americans, and one Swede, according to Park County’s archives. They were buried in trenches, although the exact location of the graves is not known. There is a memorial that, according to the historical register, bears the names of four of those killed.
Off County Road 10 about a mile west of Alma
The burial site was established in 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt for the residents of the city and is still in use.
It is in a wooded area and the graves are “with no apparent organization,” according to a 2000 survey of the cemetery by Pat and Fred Harris. The Harrises inventoried the marked graves and found some interesting details. Sam C. Carmichael, for example, died in a “runaway accident” when his horse in Alma was frightened by some dogs. And for Tom Casedy: âBorn in Ireland; had a hook arm. He drowned in the Platte River and is believed to have been murdered. âYou may want to take the survey with you when you visit the cemetery.
Mt. Pisgah Cemetery
Teller County Road 1, Cripple Creek
The noisy mining town of Cripple Creek may have been a man’s world during the gold rush of the 1890s and early 20th century, but it’s two women who lure visitors to their cemetery today. The graves of Dr. Susan Anderson, known as Doc Susie, and Pearl de Vere, known as the filthy pigeon of Cripple Creek, are the most popular, according to the Gold Camp Victorian Society.
Doc Susie moved her family to Cripple Creek when she was 21, then dropped out of medical school and spent most of her career caring for miners, loggers and construction workers at the Moffat Tunnel near Fraser. She died in Denver but wanted to be buried in Cripple Creek with her brother. DeVere ran the most elegant brothel in the mining district, and today it is their home
Old Homestead Museum on Myers Avenue. She also founded the city’s first soup kitchen to support widows and orphans. The cemetery is also the resting place for the ashes of astrologer Linda Goodman, the author of Sun Signs. And it has a pottery field where 3,000 people are believed to have been buried. For more information, visit the Cripple Creek District Museum or the Cripple Creek Heritage Center.
Just five miles from Mt. Pisgah Cemetery is the often overlooked mining district cemetery in Victor. It also has a pottery field and the sections known to most of the pioneer cemeteries – Mason, Oddfellows, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Moose Lodge. But perhaps the most interesting âresidentâ of Sunnyside is Joseph Lesher, a silver miner who coined his own âReferendum Dollarsâ on November 13, 1900. He believed that an ounce of silver was worth $ 1.29, but it was actually worth 65 cents. Nobody knows where these now rare coins ended up, but Lesher died on July 4th 1918 and was buried in Sunnyside. As a pioneer in the numismatic world, he would probably love Bitcoin.
About half a mile south of US 50 on Hayden Creek Road (County Road 6)
There are about 260 known graves in this small cemetery, including 24 veterans, an unknown soldier, and three people who lived to be at least 100 years old. The cemetery was mainly used by families who settled in the area and is maintained by the community.
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