Fairmount Cemetery is Proud to Celebrate and Support the 12th Annual “Doors Open Denver: Explore Our City Inside Out” presented by the Denver Architectural Foundation.
Saturday, April 23rd and Sunday, April 24th, 2016, the Doors Open Denver event will showcase the richness and history of Denver’s architectural environment. The event will highlight 70 of Denver’s unique spaces in historic Union Station, along with the unveiling of the Regional Transportation District’s (RTD) new rail line to the Denver International Airport.
High profile, historic and artistic feats of architectural and design will be honored in this annual event through neighborhood tours and special events.
Some of the neighborhoods that will be featured in Doors Open Denver include:
Auraria Campus: Home to the gold rush birthing site of Denver and the Auraria Higher Education Center
Capitol Hill: Early Greek Revival homes through WWII expansive growth neighborhood
Cherry Creek: Shopping, art, salons, restaurants and home of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival
Downtown: Historic and contemporary with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop
Five Points: Denver’s first African-American neighborhood
Golden Triangle: Mayor Speer’s “City Beautiful” movement began here and includes the State Capital
Highlands: West of the Platte River and a hub of urban re-development
Hilltop: Homes from 1930 to present with views of the Front Range
LoDo: Historic harmonization of residential and commercial space in the heart of Denver
Mariposa District: early working class neighborhood revitalized by LightRail transit
Park Hill: City Park area with a variety of housing styles
RiNo: River North blends industrial roots, art, and development
Santa Fe: Antique shops, artist studios and culinary delights
South Broadway/Baker: unique old residences and urban commercial spaces co-mingle
Uptown: A lively neighborhood where small business and residents live, work and play
Three new items will make the 2016 Annual Doors Open Denver event even better than the last.
To learn more about historical Fairmount Cemetery and their role in the building and development of Denver since 1890, visit them online at www.Fairmount-Cemetery.com
Daniel Cheeseman (D.C.) Oakes was born in Maine in 1825, and like many people of that time moved several times across the country. Losing both of his parents by age 22, he chose to look for his fortune in the California Gold Rush. He didn’t find gold and nearly lost his life, but returned to Iowa where he married Olive Maria Martin in 1853. They eventually had eight daughters together.
D.C. Oakes was one of the founders of Denver, and may have been of the most hated men of his time by the gold prospectors who failed to become rich taking his advice from his “Pike’s Peak Guide and Journal”. He arrived in Denver in October 1858 in search of gold, his second attempt after failing to find gold in California in 1849.
He searched for gold in the Pikes Peak region and wrote extensively about Colorado and gold mining. He left his wife behind to travel west, meeting Green Russell, which proved to be a fortunate encounter as Russell’s journal became the fuel for the “Pike’s Peak Guide & Journal”, the pamphlet that led gold prospectors to leave their homes and travel to Colorado where they believed gold was available for the taking. In fact, when D.C. returned to Colorado in 1859, he crossed paths with headstone markers bearing such painful effigies as:
“Here lies the bones of Major Oakes, the author of this God-damned hoax”
But it wasn’t just the mocking headstones he was confronted with. He also had to look into the faces of the heartbroken miners and their families, referred to as the “go-backers” who called the ‘Pikes Peak or Bust’ Gold Rush the Hoax of ‘59. William Byers, the founder of the first local newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, was also attacked as part of the hoax.
In 1859, however, D.C. brought what would become his fortune to Colorado in the form of the first sawmill. Although it was threatened by angry failed prospectors, Oakes wanted to make Colorado his home and place of business. He and his sawmill supported the building of Denver. The sawmill was set up in what is present day Daniels Park.
“This area was settled very early, when Major D.C. Oakes established a sawmill in Riley’s Gulch in 1859 to take advantage of the rich timber there. It was the second settlement in what was to become Douglas County, and the nearby “Pretty Woman Ranch” was a stage stop on the First Territorial Road from Denver to Colorado Springs. Riley Hill, named for an early pioneer, was said to be a popular lookout for outlaws spotting stages to rob in the early days.” SOURCE: Mountain Park History
After the sawmill was established, his wife Olive came to live with him and built a house. He opened a second lumber yard in Denver near 5th and Cherry to continue to fulfill the demand for lumber in the booming Denver economy. An ad in the local Rocky Mountain News, dated October 21, 1861 read:
“We are now prepared to furnish Lumber of assorted grades either at our mills or Lumber Yard, corner of Cherry and 5th Streets at the shortest notice, and at the Very Lowest Cash Prices. Having two mills in operation capacitated to net 20,000 feet of Lumber daily, enables us to fill bills immediately upon presentation. All kinds of stock, wagons & c., taken in exchanges for lumber. Orders left either with D. C. Oakes, Denver City, or J. E. S. Eayre, at the mills, will receive immediate and prompt attention. D. C. Oakes & Co.”
The Oakes Mill was destroyed in a flood during 1864, but in 1865 D.C. had other things on his mind as President Johnson named Oakes an Indian Agent, the first ever, due to his understanding of Native Americans and for keeping the peace between them and the new settlers.
Olive Oaks purchased 160 acres in 1870 to create a farm in Douglas County known as Famous Daniels Ranch, which currently has been sold off to several ranchers. D.C. went on to hold a position in the City and Council in Denver, Postmaster of Douglas County and a Deputy US Land Surveyor. D.C. Oakes died in 1887 in Denver and has a memorial in the Riverside Cemetery.
That’s what early settlers who visited Colorado for the gold rush were saying.
Gold prospectors shouted Colorado’s Gold Rush was the hoax of ‘59. In 1859 Denver wasn’t much more than tumbleweeds and barren land and people looking to make their fortunes by finding gold in the hills. Many who came, died or left disappointed and only a few realized that early American Dream.
However, the so-called hoax helped create many cities now part of Colorado. And, the two people accused of being the liars perpetuating the hoax were D.C. Oakes and William Newton Byers who went on to be founding pioneers of the Denver area.
Traces of gold in Colorado’s South Platte River in the summer of 1858 is what really sparked the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. Today, this area is mostly industrial, with railroad tracks, roads and warehouses near Denver’s Alameda Avenue bridge.
But, by 1862, Colorado was producing $4 million dollars worth of gold annually. In 1865 that number dropped to 3 million and by 1866 dropped another million. 1867 marked an end to Colorado’s gold rush. The true hoax was that early gold rushers were heading to Pikes Peak- where there was no gold. Instead the gold was found 100 miles away in the mining towns west of Golden and in the Denver area.
D.C. Oates was an early gold prospector around 1849 in California. Gold prospectors who didn’t hit it rich there, began heading east again, through the Denver area to try their luck again. When again they didn’t find gold, many of them created graves to mock D.C. Oakes with headstones that read:
“Here lies the bones of D.C. Oakes, Killed for aiding the Pike’s Peak Hoax”
The “Hoax of Fifty-Nine” wasn’t just blamed on him, however. William Newton Byers, the founder of Colorado’s first newspaper also came under attack. In April 1859, he printed a letter that included a death threat for his life, luckily that threat never came to fruition. Byers has had several Denver area locations named after him and he is buried in Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery. Daniel Cheeseman Oakes has a memorial at Riverside Cemetery in Denver.
Imagine for a moment why these first settlers would have gone through, and why they may have been so upset as to create mock headstones for Oakes and submit death threats to Byers’ Rocky Mountain News. What would it have been like in that time?
Imagine yourself a young man, likely one who did farming in the plains… you pick up a newspaper to read reports of gold in the West. California had their big boom in 1849 and you have heard accounts and stories, and now, maybe now is your time to find a fortune in Colorado.
With a mix of skepticism and excitement, you get your guidemap to the Pikes Peak region, maybe even D.C. Oakes’ “Pike’s Peak Guide and Journal” and plan your trip. You prepare all you can for the long journey, including cattle, food, water, camping gear, cooking supplies.
You leave your home and family, hoping to return with wealth, but more likely to not return at all due to illness or murder. You camp alongside rivers, wondering where you will encounter a city for any needs including hay for your horse. Finding timber is difficult and without it, food and water become poison rather than nourishment.
At a pace of about 20 miles a day, you lose cattle overnight, pass buried bodies on your route, some of them unearthed by coyotes or wolves. You fear gunfire, trek through rough terrain and fight the weather. You pass Indians and sometimes trade with them, and fear all who you meet, some who tell you disheartening stories and tell you to turn back.
You get to the land you dreamed of and can’t find gold, or work. You are homesick, lonely, disheartened, wondering if you will find what you need. You have a fear of going home empty handed and worry if you could even make the trip back alive. You are riding the line between despair and hope each day. You write in your journal something like this prospector did:
From the Journal of a Gold Seeker: (edited for readability)
“SATURDAY 14TH Here we are camped on Cottonwood crick. It has rained hard and steadily all day. Our cattle all look poorly, the sick ones are better. We shall stay here today and tomorrow, it being 40 miles to wood and 18 miles to water. There is 6 or 700 camped on this crick. There is Buffalo and Deer and Elk and Antelope here.
“MONDAY JULY 4TH, 1859 This is the 4th of July. Have been at work on our race all day. Little does it seem like the 4th.
7/20/1859: “Smith Rube and McShaw have gone prospecting and I am here alone. I have been reading and meditating. I love to be left alone sometimes to commune with silent nature, which is beautiful here. Tall and rocky mountains surround our camp on every side and a rapid river comes rushing down over the rocks in a few steps of our door. I frequently see deer and sheep pass along the side of the mountain.”
You curse D.C. Oakes for his guidebook because you certainly didn’t find anything. You decide to either head back as a “go-backer” or stay in the beauty of Denver.
Therefore, it may be true that the hoax of ‘59 was the catalyst for the development and growth of present day Denver. But, Oakes and Byers weren’t liars. And while many didn’t hit it rich through gold prospecting, they may have made their fortunes in ranching, banking and businesses who offered services to those prospectors and their families. Byers was a huge proponent for the growth of Denver and even ran, unsuccessfully for political office.
Byers was born in Ohio in February 1831, moved with his parents in 1851 to Iowa and settled in Omaha, NE in 1854. At the early age of 24, Byers became the first deputy surveyor and helped create the first plans of the layout of Omaha in the Nebraska Territory. He served in a few political seats before heading to Denver in 1859 to find gold. His idea of gold may have been different than others, however, as he took with him, via an ox cart, a printing press and the first stories and page layout ready for the newspaper he already titled, “The Rocky Mountain News”. He based his writing on the stories he had heard of the gold towns and he knew newspapers would attract people to the area, bringing money and business.
Denver may not have been what Byers had envisioned from what he read in the newspapers, but he was determined to create a local paper, and did so within days of arriving in Denver and strategically days before his competitor, therefore staking his journalistic claim. Although Byers sold it in 1878, The Rocky Mountain News continued publication until 2009.
William Byers helped organize the Colorado Historical Society, Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Tramway Company. The Denver Tramway Company was a system of electric car transportation that eventually handled transportation to Fairmount Cemetery where he is now buried.
“In 1886, John Evans and his son William Gray Evans incorporated the Denver Tramway Company (DTC) with William Byers, hotel keeper Henry C. Brown and businessman and library builder Roger Woodbury… The Denver Tramway Company became one of Denver’s biggest employers and an essential part of many people’s lives. Most, lacking horse and carriages, took streetcars to work, to shop and to play. Special tramway cars were rented out for weddings and honeymoons, while Funeral Cars A and B took many Denverites on their final rides—to Riverside and Fairmount Cemeteries.” SOURCE: Denver History
William Byers had become very popular due to his efforts in the growth of Denver, his fight against crime in the city and The Rocky Mountain News. He was seen as a strong contender for Governor of Colorado in the first year of their statehood. However, his run was short lived when his mistress, Hattie Sancomb attempted to kill him, creating a political sex scandal. His wife Elizabeth stayed by his side and they moved to south Denver. Their home, currently named the Byers-Evans House, at 1330 Bannock in Denver, is now a historical museum. The home was purchased in 1889 by William Evans, the President of the Denver Tramway Company and restored to the 1920’s period and turned into a museum in 1981.
Byers was a leader in bringing pioneers into the Denver area. He cared about Denver’s water, food, transportation, growth. His south Denver home was torn down to create the William N Byers Junior High School in 1921, which features many trees planted by the Byers’ family. William became the Postmaster of Denver in 1880, and passed away on March 25, 1903.
We offer several walking tours as well as guided tours that tell the stories of the vast richness of Denver’s history and we invite you to come along. One tour we have is a walking tour of some of our most ornate headstones. Headstone rubbings and photographs have long been used to discover ancestral connections and to capture the beauty of headstones through the years, and you are welcome to do that, following our guidelines.
You will find a headstone with the last name Darrin. Mass produced hollow metal monuments were produced in Des Moines, Iowa by the Western White-Bronze Co. from about 1880 to 1908. Zinc is naturally rust-proof, and its oxidation gives a gray appearance. The zinc was deceptively referred to as white-bronze as it sounded more classy and expensive. The monuments lost their appeal when they began to be seen as cheap and when the Western White-Bronze Company closed in 1908.
Find the Shapter Family’s Romanesque altar monument in Block 2. The design mimics that of the medieval era, including the sarcophagi commonly found in English cathedrals. A cluster of oak leaves with acorns can be found to the right of the inscription and are meant to be a symbol of strength and endurance. To the left, sorrow is symbolized by weeping willow tree leaves.
Holds an example of an altar-like headstone of Reed. A Bible lies atop the monument with a carved scroll beneath it. Reed was a well-known minister, teacher, and lawyer during his lifetime.
Williams, in Block 8, displays a Victorian verse intricately carved on the back of the white marble monument. Blue bells wrapped with Gothic curves is a symbol of sorrow over the loss of this infant.
The art deco memorial Klipfel in Block 9 uses Egyptian design.The relief is contrasted with a domed top, polished for color. The lotus bud molding gives, even more, design to this ornate piece.
The Woodmen of the World memorial for Schaefer in Block 12 is a beautiful example of workmanship and artistry. The carver was able to create architectural perspective on the flat granite, including detail in the wood flooring, window, and siding. Note the Roman egg-and-dart molding below the memorial’s cap.
Is a bit out of the way, but there you will find the marker for Hooper. This beautifully carved monument is of a 1st Colorado Infantry serviceman’s hat resting on his backpack.
Block 17 is home of the Smith memorial.Made of Sandstone, the obelisk and plinth weathered greatly through the years of Colorado weather. White marble withstands our harsh weather better and can be found in the inscription panels.
Walking through the Fairmount Cemetery, you will see many ornate headstones. Take a moment to look at the dates and you will soon realize that many of these were crafted before headstone machining existed, meaning the work was carved by hand using chisels, files, and brushes. This can add even more appreciation and intrigue to the beauty of these headstones and the history and artistry they entail.
A lot has changed over time in the years since then, but there has always been a pull for some to cemeteries, for a variety of reasons. We wanted to take a playful look back at some of those reasons, whether spontaneous or planned and offer some of the things we have heard of happening or have experienced ourselves and bring some humorous insights.
Fairmount is home to over 20 varieties of trees- we even offer a walking tour of them. Our rose garden boasts over 300 bushes of roses, some of them heritage roses unique to us. Our 280 acres of beautifully landscaped space causes some people to spread out a picnic basket and relax. We love and welcome this. However, we have heard that some people find that the lush grounds create an ambiance of love, and with the spring in the air, well, let’s just remind everyone that this is a family place, not a place to make a family.
It’s hard to believe sometimes that when Fairmount opened, people visited in horse-drawn carriages. We were responsible for the growth of the railroads in this area so people could have a place to bury their loved ones outside the city. Millionaire’s row was likely the first to be visited by guests in motor cars, so it’s no wonder that our simple, low congestion roads are a starting point for many new Denver drivers. We see teens and their parental guides slowly maneuvering around the grounds and smile, but we weren’t so excited when we had to call the Denver Police Department for a car vs. headstone accident. No, we aren’t kidding. Some of our headstones are art in their right, and the family expects a level of safety, as they should, for that property. If you choose to learn to drive on our grounds, stay on marked roads that allow for traffic or find a nearby parking lot or neighborhood.
Yes, cemeteries naturally make for a good telling of ghost story it seems to be a tradition of every kid who has ever walked past a grave marker. At Fairmount, we have history living here- from Colorado Pioneers to early Lawmakers, Veterans to Historical Namesakes, with many of the most influential people in Denver’s founding interred here. We have stories of the murdered and the inspired, fighters and healers. With several tours, both paid and free, offered here, we invite you to learn about history and honor the stories of those buried here and save the conjuring of ghost stories for times around campfires.
There must be something about cemeteries that make it a prankster’s paradise. While Fairmount invites you on the property for the enjoyment of concerts, movies, and nature, we want this to be forever a place known for honor, respect and memories. On our vast acreage, it is not uncommon to see birds, deer, rabbits, foxes and more. While here, honor the wildlife and the land, for all it contains. Avoid littering or destruction of both the natural and manmade property. Bring your camera, paints, and easel or other artist supplies and enjoy the vast beauty here. From ornate headstones, sculptures, and statues, to flowers and wildlife, beauty lives here.
Walkers and joggers, as well as cyclists and snowshoers, love our property. Many guests bring their pets on walks in our dog-friendly space. Our park like setting is tranquil and reflective, and that makes it perfect for getting some outdoor exercise. While you breathe in fresh air, you likely don’t want your tranquility disrupted by a ‘gift’ little Fluffy left behind. Be a responsible pet owner and bring the proper items to clean up after your dog. Again, we want to be known for the beauty and respect we offer, and we aren’t able to scope the grounds for pet waste. Part of being a responsible pet owner also means being familiar with state and local dog laws. If you’re unfamiliar please review before visiting. Enjoy the exercise, and please bring your furry friend, just leave the space the way you found it.
Every year Fairmount Heritage Foundation hosts a Rose Sale to benefit the preservation of Denver’s oldest cemeteries. With over 50 varieties of roses here and, even more, flowers, Fairmount is a place for photography and art, but not for picking. Some roses are heritage roses, brought by early founders and unique to Fairmount. Learn more about why cemetery preservation matters and buy a flower in our annual rose sale.
There are so many ways to honor and celebrate the lives of those who have passed on before us. A walk or drive around the cemetery will reveal how different people and cultures celebrate. You may see flags left at a Veterans grave, rocks on the headstones of members of the Jewish community, or toys left for children in Babyland. We love that people celebrate and offer remembrance of their loved ones, and it’s important to us that those things stay intact and honoring. By showing respect to guests, and the gravesites, mausoleums, and memorials, we are creating a safe place for traditions of all people.
History lives at Fairmount Cemetery, and we invite you to become part of what we continue to create. Tour our grounds to learn more about whatever piece of history interests you, enjoy the tranquility or celebrate in one of our many venues. Contact today to schedule a tour, or just stop by for a visit.
When Fairmount Cemetery opened in 1891, landscape architect Reinhard Schuetze brought in thousands of plantings. He later went on to create more parks for the city of Denver’s City Beautiful Movement in that decade, including City, Congress and Washington Parks and became known as the father of Denver’s park system.
Fairmount Cemetery is now considered Denver’s largest arboretum, with over 20 varieties of trees covering its 280 acres of land. Here are just a few you can see on the Trail of Trees walking tour:
Elm groves were favorite council sites for many Indian tribes and later became meeting places for treaty talks between Indians and whites. Early settlers often spared elms when they cut down all other trees. Elms outnumber white oak and live oak (its two closest rivals) two to one. Over one million American Elm trees succumb to Dutch Elm Disease annually, and in Denver, where is was heavily planted, the disease has left areas barren.
Most American Elm has lopsided, oblong leaves with coarse, double-toothed margins. Winter buds are lopsided, reddish-brown and sharply pointed. The American Elm has a vase shaped with upper branches that tend to arch. It is typically found in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, but is across the US.
Sycamore Tree in Fairmount Arboretum
On the corner of Block 9 and also in Block 8, you will find a large Sycamore tree. From the Greek word meaning ‘broad’ or ‘ample,’ the Sycamore tree grows to enormous size in rich soils. Pioneers favored this tree as it was stable and large and, therefore, was good for stabling livestock to it, or even as a temporary shelter for the family themselves. It is easily recognized by the mottled brown, white or green flaky bark and large leaves that resemble those of the Maple. However, the Maple tree leaves are borne in opposing pairs where the Sycamore leaves alternate on the stem.
The Sycamore tree can be found in the eastern US and Denver’s Highland Park at 32nd and Federal.
English Oak Tree in Fairmount Arboretum
On the northwest corner of block 5, you will find two English Oak Trees. Their trunks reveal scars- pronounced frost cracks from the winter of 1948/49 when the winter temperature in Denver dropped 80 degrees in a 24 hour period. This species is considered the symbol of Fairmount Cemetery as there are many examples of the English Oak here, many of them the largest this side of the Mississippi River.
Ther small shallowly-lobed foliage with short stalks and leathery feel with dark brown bark is what distinguishes this tree from others. This tree is known for its strength, holding up to the weight of snow and frequently used in British fighting vessels.
It is found heavily in England and locally at South High School in Denver.
Come to Fairmount Cemetery to see these and several other species of trees, shrubs, and even our collection of Heritage Roses. While here, learn more about the famous Denverites buried here and the stories that live with them. Give us a call or come by to arrange a tour, or take the self-guided walking tours at (303) 399-0692.
Come by Fairmount at 430 S. Quebec Street, Denver CO 80231, to learn more about the numerous walking tours that guide you through the richness and beauty that they have to offer.
Emily Griffith taught for the Denver Public Schools and in 1916 created the Emith Griffith Opportunity School, the first free school for adult learners. Over 1 million students have passed through the doors in its time. She believed everyone deserved an education and that is was the only way to lift people out of poverty. She wanted people of any age, race, background or gender to receive an education. Griffith served as the Deputy State Superintendent of Schools from 1904 to 1910. After retirement, Emily and her sister Florence, who she cared for, were mysteriously murdered in Pinecliff, Colorado on June 18, 1947.
The crime continues to be unresolved. In 1976, a stained-glass window portrait honoring her was placed in the Colorado State Capitol Building and in 2000 Mayor Webb awarded her Denver’s Millennium Award. The award is an honor for citizens who have made the greatest contributions to Denver.
Her grave can be found in Block 61 of Fairmount Cemetery.
Known as the Queen of the Red Light District, Denver, CO. She ran several brothels along Market Street and prided herself on having the best girls, most prestigious client list and beautiful, well-kept brothels. Her life was certainly colorful, as reports show she had a tumultuous love affair and a gun duel with rival madam Kate Fulton. In 1915, one the heels of Prohibition and WW1, brothels became outlawed. With her fortune made, her interests turned toward horses, specifically those at Overland Race Track. 2009 Market Street is said to be haunted, potentially from one or more of her call girls and 2019 Market is a Denver Landmark and currently an office building. Martha A Ready died at age 83 after slipping and breaking her hip.
“Mattie Silks was beautiful and bad. She sinned prodigiously. She lived dangerously. She loved extravagantly but unwisely. Her love for a man who was unworthy of any woman’s love brought her little but misery. She reared and educated the daughter of his child by another woman, which not all women who hold themselves her betters would have done. A bad woman, but not altogether bad.” SOURCE: Denver Post, 1951
Her grave can be found in Block 12 of Fairmount Cemetery.
Denver’s first and only woman doctor and first and only black doctor aspired to follow in her nurse mother’s footprints and did, enrolling in Medical College in Chicago in the early 1890’s. In 1902, she moved to Denver with her husband and began treating patients in their homes because she wasn’t given hospital privileges due to her minority status. This didn’t stop her from serving a wide variety of patients, learning multiple languages in order to do so. A true humanitarian, she was dedicated to provide medical care to people regardless of their ability to pay, age, race or background. In her 50 year career, she estimated she had delivered about 7,000 babies.
“As both a woman and an African American she was initially denied a medical license. After receiving her license, area hospitals denied her and her patients access. She was also denied membership in the Denver Medical Society, the Colorado Medical Society, and the American Medical Association.” SOURCE: Blackpast.org Ford, Dr. Justina
She was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985 and she was named “Colorado Medical Pioneer” by the Colorado Medical Society in 1989. A bronze sculpture stands across the street from the Black America West Museum and Heritage Center at 3091 California Street to honor her humanitarian efforts in the medical community.
Her grave can be found in Block 66 in Fairmount Cemetery.
To learn more about the famous Denverites who are buried here and hear the stories that live here, give us a call or come by to arrange a tour at (303) 399-0692.