Pueblo County, Colorado
Canon City, Colorado
Greenwood Cemetery reveals some of Canon City's past
By Mary Jean Porter
Canon City - Wind topples the markers, sandstone melts through the years, woodpeckers chew up the tablets memorializing unwanted and perhaps unworthy men.
And the cemetery with the stupendous view bears witness to it all.
Canon City's Greenwood Cemetery sits on South First Street, across the Arkansas River and across the tracks from the former territorial prison and the city's commercial heart. It is the final earthly resting place for city fathers, a governor, railroad builders, orchard planters, miners, soldiers from both sides of the Civil War and several hundred prisoners whose bodies went unclaimed.
It is dusty but well-tended and, like all graveyards, whispers stories at every turn.
There's the mysterious headstone with Chinese characters on it, thought to belong to Lee Mon Ue. Canon City was home to several families of Chinese origin who'd moved from Fairplay and mainly ran laundries in the early 1900s. Lee Mon Ue was one of them. There's the "grave in the middle of the road" where researchers think territorial prison inmate James Stewart was buried. Stewart's body was being transported to his appointed burial place when the wagon hit a bump and the body slid onto the ground. Stewart was a large man and too heavy to move, so the legend goes, and "Old Jim" was buried on the spot. A plot deeded to Stewart lies just off the road and an original cemetery map has the name James Stewart written in the middle of the road, but there's also a marker for Stewart in one of the cemetery's prison sections quite a distance away. Stewart was incarcerated for murder in 1908 and died in 1934.
There are the Polhemus girls, whose graves bloom with purple iris at this time of year. Beulah (born in 1927) and Claudine (1928) died in a house fire in 1930 in New Mexico and their remains were shipped to their grandfather, Claude Rodgers, for burial in Greenwood Cemetery. The graves were never marked except for iris plantings. Dowsing during a burial inventory in 2005 revealed where the girls were buried - head to toe in a plot near their grandfather - and their younger sisters purchased stones and decorative edging for the graves. Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery Committee calls location of the graves "a success story."
Tom Monaco is the cemetery committee's dowsing expert and he also tends the Confederate section of the cemetery.
Monaco uses slim copper rods to locate unmarked burials and says the rods turn one way to indicate a man's remains and another way for a woman's. Movement of the rods also helps him differentiate between an adult and a child, he says.
Monaco points out the graves of W.M. Davis, who died June 16, 1865, and was the first burial in what became the cemetery, and William Catlin, who sold 10 acres of land in 1876 for the cemetery. Catlin was born in England in 1825 and came to the United States in 1849 at age 22. He became one of Canon City's most active and respected businessmen - he farmed, owned livestock and built the first brick yard, located south of his home on Second Street. Catlin's brick business produced about 2.5 million bricks one season, with help from territorial prison inmates who were escorted along First Street to the brick yard, according to the cemetery commitee's book, "A Walk into the Past: A Tour of Greenwood Cemetery."
Inmates from the nearby prison are buried in two sections at Greenwood. Burials in the earlier section were marked with wooden slabs that became infested with insects and targets for the woodpeckers; hence, the burial grounds' nickname, "Woodpecker Hill."
The second inmate section was established in the 1930s and at the highest point in the cemetery. The 360-degree view includes the Wet Mountains, pinon- and juniper-studded mesas and hillsides, and nearby, the territorial prison, now a Colorado Department of Corrections facility.
Monaco walks a visitor through the inmate section and says, "These guys lived at the prison, they died at the prison, and look what they get to see: the prison."
The cemetery committee book estimates that there have been more than 4,000 burials at the city-owned cemetery; many are unmarked. Committee members continue to research the people buried in the cemetery, and they find much of their information at the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. The group hopes to do a complete inventory of the stones and burials.
Among the notables buried at Greenwood Cemetery are former Colorado Gov. James H. Peabody, who served from 1903 to 1905; Guy Hardy, publisher of the Canon City Daily Record and a 14-year member of the U.S. Congress; Robert Cameron, an associate of Gen. William Palmer and warden of the state penitentiary from 1885-1887; Truman Blancett, a mountain man and scout who died at age 106 in 1945; Benjamin Franklin Rockafellow, a businessman, self-educated geologist and the man considered to be the father of Fremont County's fruit-growing industry; and newspaperman and historian Wilbur "Doc" Little.
Source: "A Walk into the Past: A Tour of Greenwood Cemetery," compiled by members of Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery Committee. The book is available at the history center, Dinosaur Depot and the Museum of Colorado Prisons, all in Canon City.
Blancett, Truman died 1945, age 106y
Catlin, William born 1825 in England
Davis, W.M. died June 16, 1865
Green, Doris Amy died 1904
Little, Wilbur "Doc"
Peabody, James H. Gov.
Polhemus, Beulah born 1927 died 1930 in New Mexico, remains shipped to grandfather, Claude Rodgers
Polhemus, Claudine born 1928 died 1930 in New Mexico, remains shipped to grandfather, Claude Rodgers
Rockafellow, Benjamin Franklin
Stewart. James died 1934
Ue, Lee Mon
to the Pueblo County Index Page.
Please e-mail comments and suggestions to
|© Karen Mitchell |