Often times people think going to cemeteries, other than to visit a grave site, is weird or creepy. We however, find it very interesting. Most of the cemeteries we visit provide a history lesson on our past. The tombs give reference to what life was like at the turn of the century. People suffered many tragedies from sickness and disease, to childbirth, job related incidents, shoot outs, and sucombing to the stress of life in the 1800 and 1900’s.
Hillside Cemetery – Silverton, CO
Hillside Cemetery is located a little north of Silverton. As you drive the dirt road to get to the cemetery, you can see it lies on the lower slope of Boulder Mountain. The sign at the entrance of the cemetery gives some history of its residents. The cemetery is a resting place for around 3,000 documented burials and around 2,000 undocumented burials with the earliest burial in 1875. There are no paths in the cemetery and the plots are not laid out in rows. Because of the more “natural” landscaping it allows for beautiful wildflowers to grow on the mountainside. Some of the gravesite have benches at them for loved ones to sit and visit. If you take a seat and look at the beautiful rugged mountains that surround Silverton, you can imagine the mining days especially if the steam engine train is departing from the station. We found the tombs here interesting because not only did they name the cause of death but they also gave some information of what the individual was like as a person. A pianist, early explorers of the San Juans, immigrants, cowboys, the Sheriff, outlaws, soiled doves, railroad workers and founders. Silverton residents succumbed to pneumonia, typhoid fever, diphtheria, and the flu epidemic of 1918. The alarming number of babies and children buried there along with mothers makes you appreciate modern medicine as childhood diseases and childbirth took many loved ones from families. Hostile, extreme, dangerous, deadly, and primitive environments of work life and life in general gave way to many buried at Hillside. This is one of the more fascinating cemeteries we have been to. Freda Carley Peterson has written a few books on those buried at Hillside. I’m sure they are a good insight as to the life of Silverton residents. If you are in the area, Hillside Cemetery is worth the stop.
Tin Cup Cemetery – Gunnison County, CO
Tin Cup, located around 10,000 feet, is now a ghost town but once was full of prospect to gold miners and a place for as many say the “underworld” to thrive. Where you were buried in the cemetery was based on religion. There are four sections; Protestant Knoll, Catholic Knoll, Jewish Knoll and Boot Hill for more of the misfits. The green meadows and the beaver ponds scattered amongst the burial grounds makes for a peaceful stroll while looking at the graves.
Russel Gulch – Central City, CO
It has been a while since I have been to this cemetery but what stuck out to me when I went there was the tombstones. Many of the tombs are dated from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. There are a variety of tombs there; stone, wood, stone with glass and some have “gates” around them. Visiting Russel Gulch Cemetery makes for a nice day trip into the mountains. After walking through the wooded cemetery you can take a drive down Oh My God Road…if you dare!
Lodore Cemetery – Brown’s Park, CO
Last fall we visited Lodore Cemetery on our trip to Dinosaur National Park and Brown’s Park. Lodore Cemetery is not located near a town however, it is located within Brown’s Park Wildlife Refuge. (It is near the Lodore School which is on the National Register of Historic Places.) There are 30 people buried in Lodore Cemetery. What makes this cemetery interesting is the flyer at the gate of the cemetery that describes the graves and who is buried there.
Central City Cemetery – Central City, CO
Going to the Central City Cemetery at the end of town allows you to get in a nice walk as you learn about those buried there. Like many other cemeteries, Central City Cemetery is also broken up into religious affiliations. It can be very cold up there in the winter but if you go in the fall I believe they do ghost tours as some of the areas around Central City and the cemeteries are believed to be haunted. (Eek! I’ll stick with the daytime walks thanks!) Here there are a few “kiln” type structures and a few other buildings to look at as well. If you are interested in exploring Central City, head to the Gilpin County Museum and they can provide you with information, tours, history, and more!
The next time you pass a cemetery, stop and see what you can learn from those who lived a much harder life before us. Pay tribute to those that helped shape our state to the way it is today.