Tips and Tricks
VISITING THE PIONEER CEMETERIES OF CUSTER COUNTY, COLORADO
Rare wildflowers, prairie grasses, bottlenose dolphins, pig pens and ornate wrought iron fences dot the 200-year-old pioneer cemeteries in Custer County, Colorado.
These include Ula, Rosita, and Silver Cliff, Hope, Assumption, Beulah and numerous private family cemeteries. And although there is a mention of God’s acre Cemetery in the records of the Columbine Genealogical & Historical Society, we couldn’t find it.
Custer County is a rugged, mountainous region that was settled by German miners in the 1870s when silver was discovered near the town of Rosita. Rich ores, cobalt and nickel have been found in a gem mine northwest of Silver Cliff.
The remains of the Geyser, Bassick and Bull Domingo mines can still be seen. The county enjoyed a reputation until the silver bust of 1893, when it became primarily a cattle and ranching community.
ROSITA PIONEER CEMETERY
The residents of Rosita fought against cholera, influenza and other epidemics in the early 20th century. There are numerous graves of children and earthen whales in the cemetery. Potter graves are usually marked with a wordless white wooden cross or a stone that reads “unknown”.
The cemetery is one of the few in the county that is located in a dense, hilly pine and pine forest. The soft, spongy forest floor attracts few visitors for decades.
SILVER CLIFF CEMETERY
Perhaps the county’s most famous cemetery is Silver Cliff. It is known for the “dancing blue lights” discovered by 19th century miners. Ghosts? Hell miners? Rejected lovers? Reflections from the sun?
A National Geographic reporter wrote about the lights in August 1969, and people started traveling to Silver Cliff. However, few have seen the light. Scientific and speculative debates about the origin of the lights followed, but nothing conclusive.
PIONEER ADOPTION CEMETERY
Residents of Silver Cliff Cemetery and its close neighbor, The Assumption, rest beneath the jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Both graves from the beginning of the 19th century.
Many tombstones are decayed or illegible. Others are crudely inscribed with a name or date: Baby 1829 or simply daughter.
Interesting Cemetery FACTS AND POINTS OF INTEREST
Visitors to rural pioneer cemeteries are often attracted by the fascinating history. But the opportunity to experience the peace, serenity and beauty of these remote cemeteries is also an attraction.
It is rare to see anyone but yourself, antelopes, deer, foxes and other creatures. Tombstones only start the story. You can soon imagine what life was like for those who lived 200 years ago.
The graves are characterized by wagon wheels, remnants of mining tools, colored stones, sculptures, hand-carved wooden boards, lone white crosses and stone tree stumps. However, many have been found on Earth.
These secluded resting places, usually unadorned, are rarely visited by anyone other than cemetery enthusiasts who delve into the past to share the stories of those who lived there. Social media groups have emerged where people can share their pictures and stories.
Did you know? A coin left on a gravestone informs the family of a dead soldier that someone has stopped to pay their respects. A penny means you’ve been.
Penny means you and the late veteran trained together at camp. A penny means that you and the deceased veteran served together in some capacity. Stones on a tombstone mean that you have visited, mourned, honored or respected the deceased.
ULA PIONEER CEMETERY
The city of Ula was once the capital of the county, and it is long gone. The Kettle family donated the land to the cemetery in 1870. One of the oldest headstones belongs to Azor Palmer, who died in 1826. The epitaphs on the headstones describe life in the mountains: “I rose to life in the fresh air and clear waters of the mountains.” And this quote from Emily Dickinson comes up often: “Where purple ships sway gently on a sea of daffodils. Glorious sailors mingle, and then the pier stops.”
LUTHERAN PIONEERS OF HOPE CEMETERY
Hope’s Lutheran Cemetery is nestled in the shadow of the mountains, with all German epitaphs on delicate scrolls and engravings. This cemetery is as if placed so that visitors can sit with their loved ones and admire the beautiful mountain scenery. Although history says it dates back to 1872, there is a gravestone for Gottlieb Ogroske, who was born in 1820.
Stone markers representing trees and nature marked the graves of World Foresters until the mid-1920s, when their production was halted due to the price of the stones.
The symbols of the wooden stones were axes, spices, wedges and woodworking tools. WOW’s motto was “Dum Tacet Clamet”, meaning “Even when he is silent, he speaks” and was carved into stone.
BEULAH PIONEER CEMETERY
Beulah Cemetery was founded in 1869 by John Jacob Sease in honor of his granddaughter, Mary Sease, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 19.
Mary loved nature and poetry and often went to the sunny hill to look at the earth and sky. He asked his uncle if he could be buried there and he agreed. The Beulah Historical Society operates the cemetery today.
The entrance gate used to be the “lichgate”, an arched cast iron or wrought iron gate proclaiming the cemetery’s name. It was also popular to surround graves with hand-wrought iron fences and gates three feet high. However, the scroll work, which used to be decorative, is now rusty and dilapidated.
In fact, ironwork made by Stewart Iron Works in Cincinnati, Ohio, can be found in many Colorado cemeteries. As well as the Hassell Iron Works in Colorado Springs. The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum has a diary written by Julia Hassel when she was 12 years old.