Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sunnyside Cemetery, Victor, CO

Sunnyside Cemetery in Victor, Colorado

The cemetery sits on a hill below the town, on the southwest side. You can see it in the center right of the photo above, just above the power lines. Beyond it in the distance are the Sawatch and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges.

The entrance arch is a testament to the centrality of mining in the community.

Both Victor and Cripple Creek saw their booms start around 1890, with people flocking to the area from the East Coast and Midwest to try and make their fortunes. The hard scrabble life of a miner combined with the life expectancy hovering around 45 circa 1890 means the cemeteries are filled with small plots filled with babies and toddlers and children under 10.

We would notice a number of deaths around the same couple of years, and looking at the history, there were several worldwide flu pandemics both in the early 1890s and again around 1918-1920 (we were spotting many deaths from 1919 to which this is possibly attributable.) That pandemic alone infected some 500 million worldwide and killed tens of millions. 

It also appears that during this time Colorado was battling outbreaks of cholera, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, and diphtheria.  The leading cause of death, however, remained tuberculosis, owing to the mass exodus of people from urban areas to the sanitariums of Colorado. They still didn't know tuberculosis was a communicable disease, at least not until 1900, when the discovery made many much more fearful of coughing strangers. More here

I digress.

Back to Sunnyside, proper:

At the entry is a relatively new monument that waxes poetic:

Golden and rich, the past becomes reality when you take a quiet stroll through Sunnyside Cemetery. At the archway, your breath is literally taken away as infinite mountain vistas and serenity abound. It is indeed a sacred place for those who have passed away.

Okay, first, it is much more likely a sacred place for those who are still alive. And second, "literally"? Gah. This is what you get with the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, I guess. These guys have an interesting history:

"ECV flourished, in part, as the result of the miners' reaction to the "established" organizations such as the Masons and Odd Fellows. Those groups had come to the mining country prior to ECV, and when ECV appeared, the older, more established groups looked down upon the more rowdy nature of E Clampus Vitus. ECV, on the other hand, made fun of the stuffed shirts of the Masons: they made great fun of the sashes and ceremonial attire of the "upscale" fraternities, and began dressing in red shirts and pinning on badges made of cut-out tin can lids. This practice, called "wearing the tin", continues to this day, although the badges are frequently professionally made. Members commonly dress in a red shirt, black hat and Levi's jeans. ECV titles reflected the tongue-in-cheek nature of the organization. Officials were called "Noble Grand Humbug," "Roisterous Iscutis," "Grand Imperturbable Hangman," "Clamps Vitrix," and "Royal Gyascutis." All members are officers and all officers, the organization professes, are of equal indignity."

The list of fraternal organizations gets confusing quickly. The best known and represented of these are the Freemasons, of course, as well as the Elks (B.P.O.E) and the Eagles (F.O.E), the Oddfellows (F.L.T) and the Woodmen. 

Much of the emphasis of these societies was to provide for families when they died. Coming out of the history of masonic guilds who could band together and provide for one another in harsh times, many of the dues collected went to providing a funeral, burial plot, and tombstone for members and their families. Some offered even more elaborate insurance benefits.

Both this cemetery and the one in Cripple Creek have large swaths of plots fenced in and exclusive to their order's membership.

To the right of the 2009 monument is this 2010 addition, complete with purple prose: 

Potter's Field
Long, long ago, misfortune deemed this ground Potter's Field. It remains a mystery today why the destitute, possible unbefriended or unknown were buried outside the fence of Sunnyside Cemetery. According to Victorites memory, such burials took place here until the late 1930's. What markers might have been placed for remembrance have deteriorated and no record exists of burials in this Field.

Unattended and forgotten through time, Potter's Field was rediscovered in 2009 by advance technology. The City of Victor is indebted to the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company in the assistance in this discovery. 

Likely anyone of color or disrepute was not given space inside the fence. Looking at the records, when the Mining Company x-rayed the ground, they found an additional 238 bodies not marked. 88 of those were outside the gates. Small white crosses now mark each of those places where remains are buried but unidentified. The historian in me is just itching to start going through old newspapers in a dusty library basement to try and locate mention of any of these ignominious burials.

As in most cemeteries, these plots are primarily laid east-west, with the feet facing the east and the headstone to the west. They rely more heavily on fencing around burial plots than most urban areas and there is very little maintenance of the graveyard due to the fencing. Wife to the left predominates couple's placement.

The Elks

Memorial Sunday – Every Lodge in the country is required to hold a memory services to honor our, "absent members" on the first Sunday of December.

The 11 O'clock Toast – At a 11pm, providing the Lodge is open, the eleven o'clock toast is given. There is a tolling of eleven strokes. Even if you have to tap a glass eleven times, is acceptable. Then the following toast is given:

You have heard the tolling of eleven strokes. This is to remind you that with Elks, the hour of eleven has a tender significance. Wherever Elks may roam, whatever their lot in life may be, when this hour falls upon the dial of night, the great heart of Elkdom swells and throbs. It is the golden hour of recollection, the homecoming of those who wander, the mystic roll call of those who will come no more. Living or dead, Elks are never forgotten, never foresaken. Morning and noon may pass them by, the light of day sink heedlessly in the West, but ere the shadows of midnight shall fall, the chimes of memory will be pealing forth the friendly message: To Our Absent Members.

The Eagles

 In April, 1898, the membership formed a Grand Aerie, secured a charter and developed a constitution and by-laws, with John Cort elected the Eagles' first president. Touring theater troupes are credited with much of the Eagles' rapid growth. Most early members were actors, stagehands and playwrights, who carried the Eagles story as they toured across the United States and Canada.

The organization's success is also attributed to its funeral benefits (no Eagle was ever buried in a potter's field), the provision of an aerie physician, and other membership benefits. The Eagles pushed for the founding of Mother's Day, provided the impetus for Social Security, and pushed to end job discrimination based on age. The Eagles have provided support for medical centers across the United States and Canada to build and provide research on medical conditions. Every year they raise millions of dollars to combat heart disease and cancer, help children with disabilities, and uplift the aged and infirm.

The Odd Fellows (Friendship, Love, and Truth)

Several theories aim to explain the meaning of the name "Odd Fellows".

One says that they were called "odd" because in the beginning of Odd Fellowship in the 18th century, at the time of industrialization, it was rather odd to find people who followed noble values such as benevolence, charity and fraternalism.

A variation on that theory states: "The Odd Fellows, at least according to one story, got its curious name from the fact that it was a lodge that opened its doors to the working class who at that time did not ordinarily belong to fraternal orders—and were thus 'odd'. This may or may not be true as the Odd Fellows have been around for a long time and a good many things get lost in the fog of history."

Another theory states that Odd Fellows were people who engaged in miscellaneous or "odd" trades. In the 18th century, major trades were organized in guilds or other forms of syndicate, but smaller trades did not have any social or financial security. For that reason, people who exercised unusual trades joined together to form a larger group of "odd" fellows.

A slightly different version of this second theory states: "By the 13th century, the tradesmen's Guilds had become established and prosperous. During the 14th Century, with the growth of trade, the guild 'Masters' moved to protect their power (and wealth) by restricting access to the Guilds. In response, the less experienced (and less wealthy) 'Fellows' set up their own rival Guilds. In smaller towns and villages, there weren't enough Fellows from the same trade to set up a local Guild, so Fellows from a number of trades banded together to form a local Guild of Fellows from an odd assortment of trades. Hence, Guilds of Odd Fellows."

One of the interesting things, to me, is how some of the quite old plots seem to still be regularly visited. Albert A. Bielz who died at birth on April 8, 1923 still gets flowers left on his grave. Next door, several lamb tombstones of other infants have no evidence of attention. And on the gray stone in the center, the Lawson family lost their 19 month old Helen two weeks before losing 6 month old Billy in the summer of 1911. 

Off on the side of a hill was a lovely little spot under a tree, with a bench and a birdhouse made from license plates. And yes, there were birds inside. They know a good thing when they see it!

Their native stone marker was too shaded in the photo, but it reads:

Arlene Louise Downs (1936 - 1997) and Paul Edward Downs (1932 - 1999)
Beloved Parents and Grandparents
Home at Last

Another couple that I found touching were even more recent, a mother and daughter, with a huge white stone between their markers.

Their obituaries:

Across the road from the Graingers was this interesting sight. The larger of the two trees was likely there when the first body was laid to rest underneath it. But the smaller tree to the right sprang up from the grave after the inhabitant was interred. This makes me think there is likely no vault underneath. 

Adelbert Moore, aged 29, has merged with a pine tree. 

Unlike Cripple Creek, which boasts many of the towering Woodmen gravestones, Victor only has the one. Albert D. Chapman, 1864 to 1914.

Some of the fencing is puzzling. The Hickman stone on the right is a large monument for Myrtle, aged 5. But while there appear to be another bronze marker suggesting someone else is laid to rest beside her, there are no other names.

Outside of Myrtle's fence are the twins, Carl and Elin, born on August 23, 1910. The baby girl was a week old. Her brother died 6 days later. Their wooden fence has long since rotten and fallen to pieces around them.

On the other end of the spectrum, inside a chain link fence is "Bumps" and Mom (Mayme) covered in AstroTurf and white rocks. Between them appears to be their daughter, Judy, who died at age 60. The spacing is a bit puzzling, though. I'm going on the assumption Judy was cremated.

Another puzzler is the single space on which these three people are buried. Elinor (to the left as always) and Gus Carlson died within about a year of one another after being married for more than 40 years. But who is sharing the foot of their space? When I saw Carlson as the maiden name, I assumed a daughter, except she was born in 1892, well old enough to be either of their mothers.

Nearby are rows of very old wooden markers with no legible names, just worn away bronze plaques affixed to the wood. 

Elizabeth Pollinghorn, aged 2, had far better wood engraving on her marker. Still legible since 1907.



Post a Comment