Pueblo County, Colorado
Pioneer Cemetery Articles


By Mary Jean Porter, Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo Pioneer Cemetery at 20th Street and Montezuma Road is green and well-watered, flush with spring flowers and shaded by maturing trees. A large bronze sculpture and a walkway grace the main entrance, and plaques about some of the graveyard's notable residents are posted throughout the 22-acre site. Veterans' graves are clustered in one corner, their white markers in ramrod-straight rows.

A feeling of calm orderliness prevails - vastly different from the abandoned air that veiled the cemetery before beautification and restoration efforts began in the late 1960s. The cemetery today is a peaceful resting place, likely what was envisioned in 1870 when Mahlon D. Thatcher purchased the land for it.

Pueblo Pioneer Cemetery Association will sponsor its annual Memorial Day service at 8 a.m. today at the cemetery. The event will include posting of the colors by the Pueblo Veterans Ritual Team, a prayer by the Rev. Rick Calhoun of First United Methodist Church and music by Betty Hanson and Joey Talbott. Refreshments will be served, and people attending may take self-guided tours of the city's first permanent graveyard.

The cemetery, originally called Pueblo Northside Cemetery, is the final earthly home of local founders and foundlings alike. Buried there are U.S. congressmen, judges, peace officers, soldiers and sailors, railroad workers, merchants, builders, ranchers, teachers, a few prostitutes, mothers and their children. There also are the graves of people who came West in search of renewed health but died instead in a community of strangers, and there are many unmarked, unrecorded graves as well.

"It's beautiful here today," says Marge Patterson, president of the group that's worked tirelessly since 1983 to restore the cemetery. \"It's just a wonderful, peaceful place to come and stroll, study the history, read the plaques.

"It's a long-term history project that reflects the support of the community. Without that support, we couldn't have accomplished it. It's a 20-year project and we still have support for it."

Credit for the cemetery's lovely state today can be spread far beyond the association (formerly the Committee to Restore Pueblo Pioneer Cemetery), to the city of Pueblo and its parks department that maintains the grounds, to foundations, organizations, businesses, individuals, scout troops, 4-H clubs and schools - students from neighboring Freed Middle School fly the flag daily at the cemetery.

Early in its history, Northside Cemetery was divided to accommodate several groups - the Masons, the Odd Fellows, Pueblo's Hebrew community, veterans, public burials (the city section) and paupers (the county section). The last area, formerly the northeast corner, was later sold and subdivided and homes were built over some of the graves, according to a history compiled by Pueblo archaeologist Bill Buckles.

The city maintained the cemetery for a while, but once the Northside Water Board took over in the mid-1880s, a long slide into neglect began. Many families moved their loved ones' graves to Mountain View and Riverview (Roselawn) cemeteries when they were established - Northside tended to get swampy when it rained or snowed, and some folks wanted newer, fancier digsfor their family members. Records of many other Northside burials were lost in the early 1920s.

"They never did take care of it from Day 1, for reasons I never could figure out," says historian Eleanor Fry, whose research has identified many of the people buried in the cemetery.

"Cows grazed everywhere, and it wasn't fenced until 1968 when the parks department took it over. They tried to plat it and put in roads."

At the time, weeds and brush reigned in the cemetery, the grass was dried-out or nonexistent and many of the stones had been overturned or damaged.

Attempts to identify the burials at Northside actually started in the late 1930s, as a WPA project, and at mid-20th century the Daughters of the American Revolution read the graves with headstones and counted at least 1,000.

"A number of people never had grave markers here, and a number of markers from even 50 years ago have disappeared," Fry says.

Navy Mothers Club 953 began cleanup in the Soldiers and Sailors section in 1981 and held the first memorial services at the site, but the real, long-term restoration effort began in 1983 - Colorado Archaeological Awareness Year - when a committee representing several organizations adopted the cemetery and sought and received funds from the city of Pueblo for its project.

So began 20 years worth of cleanups, tree-plantings, public-relations and fund-raising projects and yearly spaghetti dinners. Plaques with historic information were placed a few at a time, flower beds were planted, benches were purchased and installed, trees and trees and more trees were planted. A large bronze sculpture was installed during the 2003 Memorial Day services.

Future work includes more tree planting, more perennial flowers, purchasing more historic plaques, an irrigation system for the Odd Fellows section, replacement of some of the sprinklers already in place and ongoing work on the headstones.

Most of the people who give their time to the cemetery project have no ties to anyone buried there. Indeed, because of the cemetery's age, says Fry, most of the descendants of people buried there are long dead or have moved away.

The oldest headstone at the cemetery is dated 1863 and may have been moved from the burial grounds at the top of Third Street hill. The name on this stone can't be read.

Fry, who has done much of her research in the archives of The Colorado Chieftain and The Pueblo Chieftain, says the old obituaries provide good information about people but often don't state what was done with the body. Before other local cemeteries existed (1880), it's likely these burials were at Northside.

"A funeral in those days was something," she says. "They'd march in procession from Downtown. They'd have a band - a cornet band or whoever else they could get to play. One guy was pretty popular: He had about 100 people in his procession, and the streets weren't paved then.

"Sometimes, there was just one person and the Ladies Benevolent Union would come."

Like many cemeteries of that time period, Northside had its heartbreaking share of children's burials - evidence of epidemics. And many veterans have been buried there, both in the Soldiers and Sailors section and scattered throughout the rest of the cemetery. There are many Civil War vets, mainly Union soldiers but a few Confederates, Spanish American War vets and a few from the Indian Wars.

Among the people buried at the cemetery are:

Allen Bradford and Emmeline Cowles Bradford. They settled in Colorado in the 1860s and he held several political positions. He died March 13, 1888; she died Nov. 24, 1915, the same day as their son.

George M. Chilcott - Served in the Territorial Legislature and U.S. Congress. Obtained state insane asylum for Pueblo along with J.J. Thomas. A rancher and a lawyer. Died March 6, 1891.

Worsnop Clough - Born in England, a mail carrier between Pueblo and Fort Lyon; first letter carrier in Pueblo and active in the National Association of Letter Carriers. Died Oct. 10, 1902.

George Gordon - A "competent, sober" locomotive engineer who died Aug. 7, 1885, as a result of a head-on collision of two Denver & Rio Grande freight trains near Parkdale. At the last minute before the collision, he jumped into the Arkansas River. His body was found downstream six days later.

William Hyde - Member of Company E, 1st Colorado Infantry, during Civil War; later was a blacksmith, a wagon maker and mayor. Died Feb. 17, 1918.

Michael McCauley - Served in Crimean War in the service of the British Royal Navy; later was a laborer. Died March 25, 1888.

M.A. Patterson - A charter member of the Ladies Benevolent Union of Pueblo and president of the Pueblo district of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She died Sept. 11, 1897. Her husband, Samuel, is buried beside her.

Numa Vidal - "Prince of the saloon men." He was born in France and worked for the postal department in Cairo, Egypt. Came to Pueblo in 1872 to open a saloon. In 1878, his establishment on Santa Fe Avenue had a black walnut bar, fine carpet, a restaurant and an oyster bar. He opened the Numa Hotel at Fifth and Santa Fe in 1881. He died April 20, 1892.

1870 - Site purchased by Mahlon Thatcher from U.S. government for a Masonic cemetery; subsequently divided into several sections, including the Jewish section, which today is owned and maintained by the Jewish community as B'nai Jacob cemetery.

1880, 1891 - Mountain View and Riverview (now Roselawn) cemeteries established; many burials moved from Northside to the newer graveyards.

1886 - Northside Water Board takes over responsibility for cemetery.

1921, 1922 - Many cemetery records lost in flood and Pueblo Opera House fire.

1950 - Daughters of American Revolution starts headstone recording project.

1968 - Pueblo Parks and Recreation Department takes over care of cemetery; begins fencing, surveying and trying to identify burials.

1981 - Navy Mothers group begins work in veterans section.

1983 - Local committee starts restoration of cemetery.

1984 - Main gate constructed at 20th Street and Montezuma Road; cemetery renamed Pueblo Pioneer Cemetery.

2003 - “Decoration Day" sculpture by Nicholas Moffett unveiled during Memorial Day observance.

The Pueblo Chieftain, Wednesday, May 15, 1996 - Many mysteries rest in Pueblo's early cemeteries - by Eleanor Fry

Pueblo had been a town for nearly a decade when a young businessman, M.D. Thatcher, purchased land from the federal government on behalf of the Masonic Lodge. Located just northwest of the townsite, the site would become the town's first permanent cemetery.

The Masons retained the southern portion of the cemetery, selling off what became City 3 and 4. A tract in the extreme northwest corner was sold to the Jewish community to become B'Nai Jacob Cemetery. For years the entire cemetery was erroneously referred to as the ``old Jewish cemetery."

The International Order of Odd Fellows obtained ground just east of Conley Street, and adjacent to the present Freed School. North of that was the county cemetery, a burial place for paupers.

Previously, burials were made in a region known as the Bluffs Cemetery, located atop the Third Street Hill. Many of the graves were moved to the northside site.

In the earliest days of city ownership, permits were not required for burials in the cemetery. If records were kept by the lodges, they no longer are available. In this cemetery and in old cemeteries throughout the nation, if there isn't a headstone on the grave, there is no record.

After the Pueblos were consolidated in 1886, the city cemetery became the responsibility of the North Side water board. In 1968, the water board and city Parks and Recreation department traded some responsibilities and cemetery operation was given to the parks department. In 1950 the Daughters of the American Revolution recorded the information on all the tombstones in the cemeteries.

When the parks department took possession, George R. Williams took on the project of setting up a records system. The cemetery was surveyed and roadways were established. The entire cemetery was fenced.

The cemetery was the town's only burial ground for a decade. South Pueblo established a cemetery, which is now Mountain View Cemetery, in 1881. And in 1891, the Riverview (now Roselawn) Cemetery was established.

The two lodges have turned over operation to the city. The county portion has been sold off and houses were built on some of the graves. The North Side cemetery never was properly maintained and when newer cemeteries were established, many graves were moved.

In 1983, at the conclusion of Archaeological Awareness year, several members of the Pueblo Archaeological and Historical Society wanted to adopt a permanent project. It was decided to try to improve the looks of the old North Side cemetery, by that time overgrown with weeds and probably the city's worst eyesore. B'Nai Jacob cemetery has been well maintained over the years.

Marge Patterson, a tireless organizer, was elected chairman of the Committee for the Restoration of Pueblo Pioneer Cemetery. Members of other organizations with a similar goal became a part of the committee.

Working in cooperation with the city parks department, the group adopted a plan to plant trees and to restore the headstones and the wrought iron fences which surrounded numerous lots. The city gave $35,000 toward the project.

The cemetery was renamed Pueblo Pioneer Cemetery. A new entry gate was placed at the southwest corner, at 20th and Montezuma streets.

Wrought iron fences were repaired. One that didn't need help was a unique fence made from pipe in three diameters.

The headstones were set upright and were repaired. Since then vandals with black spray paint have desecrated several stones, and others have been damaged with a coat of red paint. Following professional advice no attempt has been made to clean the stones for fear of causing further damage.

Those in the best repair had been placed by a local artisan named Genest; these stones are made from granite, and the engraving is deep enough to still be readable a century later.

The monument to Mrs. C.A. (Cassandra Ann) Collier, in the northwest part of the cemetery, was made by Piper Bros. from Cotopaxi granite.

The grave of Thomas McHogan, who died in 1892, is marked by a monument placed by Woodmen of the World lodge. The 7-foot-tall monument made of Colorado granite represented the broken column in the design. This headstone is found in the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Many stones show a lodge emblem.

This writer read the files of MDRV The Pueblo Chieftain from 1868 until 1912 and found the names of many people who were buried in the North Side cemeteries and are not recorded elsewhere.

Sondra Biddle and the late Nancy Buckles obtained veterans' records and the Veterans Administration provided a couple of dozen replacement headstones.

These were placed in military style in the Soldiers and Sailors Section, which had been set aside by the city in the northeast corner of the cemetery for the use of veterans and wives or widows.

The committee has placed about 15 plaques, giving a history of the cemetery and biographies of some who are buried there.

Cemetery records can be found in the Mountain View Cemetery office and at the Pueblo County Historical Society and McClelland libraries.

The committee has received considerable community support in the form of cash grants, and help on cleanup days. The committee has two fund-raisers annually -- a spaghetti dinner in the fall and a chili supper in the spring -- both served in the Ascension Episcopal Church parish hall.

The committee never has been able to locate a photograph showing the cemetery or a portion of it in an earlier day. Anyone having such a photograph is asked to call Mrs. Patterson at 561-1072.

The Pueblo Chieftain - September 23, 2001 -

Cemetery Ghosts Tell Stories of Pueblo's Past By James Amos

George Gilbert has been dead a long time, but he came back "above the grass" Saturday for "A Walk Through History" at the Pueblo Pioneer Cemetery. Saturday marked the fourth year of the living history event, sponsored by the Pueblo Parks and Recreation Department and the Pueblo Pioneer Cemetery Committee.

Gilbert, Portrayed by local volunteer Phillip Redinger, was one of several cemetery denizens to talk about their lives in early Pueblo. Gilbert said he had two grave markers, one placed by his second wife, but he doesn't know where the other stone came from. After all it's a little hard to get reliable information from the early 1900s, informative ghost or not.

Gilbert was born in New York in 1836 and came to Pueblo after trying to prospect for gold in the Colorado mountains with little success. He moved to a spot east of Boone and married, but his first wife died at 35. His two sons later died from diphtheria and after he remarried he and his second wife lost a young daughter too. He sold his herd of 1,500 cattle and moved into town in 1879.

Gilbert worked around the Pueblo and helped lay out the city, according to Redinger. He died at the age of 75 in 1911.

Redinger said this is his third year portraying one of the cemetery's residents. The first year he performed a small skit in addition to his talk.

Further down the cemetery trail, Tom Cummings portrayed one-time Pony Express rider J.J. Thomas. Thomas was born in 1837 and worked as a teamster in the Army in southern Kansas before he moved to Colorado to help built a stage stop. When the Oak Creek stage stop east of Denver was finished, Thomas and his friend were hired to be Pony Express riders and were the first in the area. But Thomas, too, caught gold fever and spent a cold and hungry time in the mountains before joining a Colorado unit going to the Civil War. Thomas thought he would be shipped east to fight, but instead stayed in the West and was part of the battle at Glorietta Pass in New Mexico.

Area historian Eleanor Fry said, the battle sprang from a plan by the South to take over the Southern part of the Western states, including some of Colorado's gold fields.

Thomas's Union Army unit "headed them off at the pass" Fry said. Thomas also was part of a unit sent to recover materials stolen by Indians in a raid near Santa Fe, Cummings said. The unit trailed the Indians nearly; to Amarillo, Texas, and there recovered 94 mules without a fight.

Thomas' fortunes took a turn upward when he returned to Pueblo and, with, partners, built a toll bridge across the Arkansas River, ran a hotel and sold vegetables he grew where the current Midtown Shopping Center stands.

With his economic success, the former horse-feed hauler hung around with one of the Thatcher banking brothers, became postmaster, county treasurer and even represented the area in Colorado's second state assembly.

Thomas died in 1911 and had five children, although two died when they were young, Cummings said. Fry did the research on each of the history walk's 13 characters. She is a member of the Pueblo County Historical Society and the Committee for the Restoration of the Pueblo Pioneers Cemetery. "I've been working on this for about 20 years," Fry said. She found her information in old archives of The Pueblo Chieftain, including long reminiscences written by Thomas himself

Fry said there's a wealth of information about the town's rich and powerful in the old newspaper articles. "Some of these early pioneers, every time they crossed the street it was reported in the paper," she said.

Pueblo Chieftain 3-24-1992 - Gravestones in Pueblo Yard Bear Hint of History, Mystery - Two tombstones in yard of house at Eighth and Greenwood may get double takes from passers-by, but don't mark graves. When John McBride takes his early morning walks Downtown, he's often impressed by the neighborhood detail he notices that he never sees from a car. None more so than the two grave markers behind the white frame house at Eighth and Greenwood in the heart of Pueblo. They stand side by side - a 4-foot-tall gray granite shaft and a foot-high tan sandstone square - almost obscured from sight by a bush. Whose headstones are they, he wondered. Where did they come from? Do they mark graves? The answers are both simple and impossible. Legends on both tell names and dates. The gray granite shaft was on the property when Duncan Henrikson bought the property several years ago from a Missouri man who had inherited it. The legend reads: C.R. Hedges; May 19, 1858; Feb. 4, 1903; Here lies a Woodman of the World. "It used to be sitting closer to the house, but I have no idea where it came from," Henrikson said. Neighborhood gossip suggests the actual grave is under the back porch of the house. No way, said Henrikson. There's a basement under the house. It is the small headstone that is heart-wrenching. And it is a treasure to the present occupant of the house, Nancy Ellen. She has owned the marker for a decade since she found it at one of the many antique and collectibles sales she attends. The tragedy is etched on three sides of the small tan headstone. Three children; three deaths in three months: Our Baby; Died Jan. 20, 1881; Age 7 Days. James Died; April 3, 1881; Age 8 Years. Albert A., son of A.C. and E.A. Randall; Died March 24, 1881; Age 6 Years. Historian Joanne Dodds said such markers were common in early days. "It was some contagious disease," she said. "You see it in the spring and in the winter. Winters were hard and strength was down." It's easy to understand why people were terrified of contagious diseases such as small pox, she said. "It wiped out families, especially children. Ms. Ellen has no idea where the children's gravestone originated. "I always supposed it was from somewhere around here, but I just don't know," she said. Please Note: Ms. Ellen sold the property several years prior to 2012 and the stones are no longer on the property. She did not know what happened to them. A.C. Randall is reported as A.J. Randall in the 1880 census.

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