Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Bike Ride Through History at Denver's Riverside Cemetery

This week I biked up the North Platte River trail with a few friends.  We got off around 52 and Race Court and biked over to Brighton Boulvevard to enter the Riverside Cemetery.  We have always been intrigued by the sight of it when we had seen it across the Platte River on previous bike rides.  Talk about bad timing though, just as we were about to enter the cemetery, a never-ending train crossed our path.
Riverside is Denver's oldest operating cemetery that was founded in 1876.  The 77 acres is rich in history with the final resting-places of prominent men from historic Colorado, distinguished Colorado women and over 1,200 Civil War veterans.
The grounds are divided into 38 sections (stations) that are designated by green corner markers. 
At station 15, you will find the large bronze statue of Col. James Archer.  In 1871, Archer built Denver's first gas works and brought gas lights to the city.  He also was responsible for the first piped water system in Denver.
In section 27, often referred to as the GAR Block, for is the location of many of the Union soldiers found at Riverside.  GAR stands for the Grand Army of the Republic.  You will find the marker of John Crump, the oldest Civil War veteran at Riverside.   Born into slavery in Washington D.C. in 1799 and he died at the age of 104 in 1903.
The only woman included in the GAR, is Frances Klock for she was a charter member of the Women's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the GAR.  In 1906 this women's group took over the Andersonville prison site and created a garden in memorial to the 13,000 men that had died there.  She was instrumental in the women's right to vote in 1893 (Colorado being the second state to achieve this honor).  After she was elected to the state legislature, one of three women at the time.
In section 1, you will find the marker of David Frakes Day, a three Medal of Honor recipient. Like many of his time, he lied about his age in order to enlist in the 57th Ohio.  He was 15 years old.  He was on the front line with General Grant in Vicksburg.  He was captured three times and successfully escaped each time.  After the war, he went into the newspaper business.
In section 28, part of the area is dedicated to 69 tombstones of women who lived at the Old Ladies HomeResidents of the home had to be at lest 65 years old, of good standing and a resident of Denver for at least five years.  Originally opened in 1874 at 800 Logan Street, its current location at 4115 W. 38th Avenue is still in operation with the name of The Argyle which now accepts male residents. 
You will find the markers of children who died in the the Denver Orphans' Home.
One of the 46 Colorado Pioneers is Edmund A. Willoughby; builder and inventor of the famous Willoughby brick and sheriff of Arapahoe county.
Also in section 28 is William Green.  He died in 1915 at the age of 89 and at the time, he was considered the oldest surviving Colorado pioneer.  He was elected to the first Colorado State Legislature, was Captain in the 2nd Cavalry in the Civil War and after the war, served as a scout along side Buffalo Bill Cody.  It was only fitting (and symbolic) that this pioneer was the person chosen to flip the switch that lit the Gas and Electric building for the first time.  This Denver icon has an exterior that is illuminated by thousands of light bulbs set into the stone work.
Elizabeth Brown Lennon and her husband John were abolitionists who sheltered runaway slaves in their home in Missouri before the Civil War.  Her brother, Jenry Cordes Brown, donated the land where the state capital was built and built the Brown Palace Hotel which used to be the site where he corralled some of his cattle.
You will find an interesting limestone replica of Lester Drake's mining cabin in section 4.  Note the details of the ivy growing up the facade and the latch rope on the door along with mining tools.  Drake was gold mining pioneer in Balck Hawk.
Section 16 has three markers that are very touching, for the three Clifton Bell children died at a very early age.  Stella's marker is that of a young girl holding a doll. 
In section 16, you will find three private family Mausoleums.  
All three structures are interesting from the west side.  This one is Gen. Ovando J. Holister's tomb where he and his wife rest.
Such a delicate statue on top of the tombstone of Janet McNeil.
(May 25, 1855 - November 2, 1888).
Beautiful fall colors adorned the mausoleums.
Gorgeous weathered wrought iron cross.
This statue in section 14 is one of a kind in all of the cemeteries in the United States.  It is the marker of Addison Baker, farmer and rancher who settled in west Denver.  This life-size replica is of his Arabian stallion, Ali, is unique for this horse has no rider, saddle, tack or any other adornment.
In section 15E, there is the tombstone of Rufus Clark.  I was impressed in his background and wealth that he achieved.  He came to Colorado in 1859 and grew potatoes.   He homesteaded 170 acres which now known as Overland Park and Golf Course, an area that we bike by often when on the South Platte River Trail.  In 1867 he delivered $1,500 worth of potatoes to Denver one day and in that year he earned $30,000! He also donated 80 acres which is the home for the Denver Seminary at University and Evans.
I have barely scratched the surface of all the life stories behind each of these tombstones.  What a ride through time when we visited the Riverside Cemetery and  rode our bikes and walked as we learned about the many interesting people buried here.
There are walking tours at the cemetery and I know there is one coming up especially for Halloween.  I bought three booklets on a previous occassion and what an interesting read.  They are "Walk Through Historical Riverside Cemetery", "The Civil War at Riverside" and "Riverside Cemetery Distinguished Colorado Women".

Riverside Cemetery

5201 N. Brighton Blvd.
Denver, CO  80216