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General Orlando Ward

Under a ledger stone in the center of Block 2 at Fairmount lies Major General Orlando Ward, reputed to be the most highly decorated veteran in the cemetery. His military career spanned over 40 years and included duty in 3 separate wars or campaigns.

Orlando Ward was born in Macon, Missouri on November 4, 1891, but moved to Denver at an early age. In 1914 he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point, and was commissioned in the cavalry. In 1915 he accompanied General John Pershing on his campaign into Mexico to try to capture the bandit Pancho Villa, who had been raiding towns along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Seeing the end of horses in warfare he switched to the artillery, and during the First World War at the second battle of The Marne in France he took charge of a battalion of Field Artillery, and was instrumental in helping to stem a German attack. For his action he was awarded the Silver Star.

Between the wars he had various postings, including a stint as an instructor at the US Field artillery school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he developed many innovations in gunnery, including a technique to concentrate battalion fire very quickly, which made the US artillery much more effective during WWII. Immediately before the war he served as secretary to the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshal.

After the outbreak of the World War II he skipped a rank to be promoted to Major General, and became commander of the army’s First Armored Division, known as “Old Ironsides”. He led them as part of Operation Torch, the American invasion of North Africa. At the Battle of Kasserine Pass, the first time the US Army had encountered the Germans, the First Armored was sent reeling by sudden attacks from the Germans. Ward felt one reason was that his division had been split up into smaller units which weakened their ability to repulse strong concentrations of German troops. Headquarters believed this was the result of planning by the Corps commander, General Lloyd Fredendall, who was replaced with General George Patton. As the campaign along North Africa slowly progressed, Patton felt that Ward was not aggressive enough, eventually relieving him of his command, although Ward had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action in Tunisia during an assault at Meknessy Heights in 1943, as well as another Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

Ward returned to the States and became Commandant of the Tank Destroyer Center at Camp Hood, Texas, and later Commander of the Artillery  School at Fort Sill. In 1944 he took command of the US 20th Armored Division in central Europe, and it was his troops that seized the German city of Munich in April 1945. In his book, “An Army at Dawn”, author Rick Atkinson stated, “In the American Army few relieved commanders got a second chance to lead men in combat; Ward was an exception because he was exceptional”.

In 1946 following World War II General Ward was given command of the Sixth Infantry Division in South Korea. In 1949 before hostilities in Korea began, he returned to the US and became the Chief of the Office of Military History, Department of the Army, where he supervised the production of the official US Army Military history of World War II.

Orlando Ward retired from the army in 1953 and returned to Denver, where he died on February 4, 1972.

By Tom Morton

Peter Joseph, Pvt., CO. A, 92nd Regiment U.S.C.T.

Peter Joseph was born in New Orleans La. in 1842. The son of a slave, Margaret Syphax, and an Austrian merchant, Spaero Narravitch.  His mother, Margaret Syphax, was a descendent of the prominent Washington, D.C. Syphax clan.  Margaret had seen to it that the merchant paid her owner for the baby boy in order to secure Peter’s freedom at his birth.

Military pension records from the National Archives show that Joseph was drafted into the 92nd  in 1865.  However, family lore indicates Peter had also participated in the unsuccessful 1864 Red River Campaign that was designed to capture Mobile, AL.  His involvement in this campaign was possibly as a civilian teamster.  Soon after joining the army he was placed on detached duty as a teamster to aid in the mustering out of union soldiers at the wars end.

After separation from the Army, Peter became a passionate advocate for military training in the colored colleges to prepare colored men for possible careers in the military.  He organized and led three independent military companies in New Orleans.  In 1888 he was a Colonel in the First Battalion of Colored Troops in Louisiana.  The Orleans Light Guard, with Peter Joseph as Captain, marched in the 1889 inaugural parade of Benjamin Harrison.

In 1875 he was a Captain in the New Orleans Metropolitan Police force.  From 1881-1892 he was the Captain of the night inspectors of the U.S. Customs, Port of New Orleans, where he was described as “one of the most efficient officers in the employment of the U.S. Government at this port.”  He later became very successful as a mason.

Peter Joseph was also active socially and politically.  He was Grand Master of the Masonic Stringer Lodge and a member of the Grand United Order of the Odd Fellows.  He served as President of the Grand Council of the Colored Men’s Protective Union which had considerable political influence.  In 1876 Joseph was elected to serve as a Presidential Elector from the First Congressional District of New Orleans in what turned out to be a highly contested race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden.  He was allegedly offered a bribe of $100,000 to vote for Tilden, which he turned down.

Upon passage of Louisiana segregation laws and the increased intimidation of colored people, Peter moved his wife Cora and 4 children to Denver in 1892.  Three older daughters who remained behind were teachers at the Southern University of New Orleans.  Denver’s laws prohibiting construction of frame buildings was the ideal location for practicing his masonry trade.  He became prominent in the Bricklayer’s Union and was vice president of the Denver Trades and Labor Assembly from 1893 to 1894.

Peter Joseph was a proud man who valued education and hard work.  He passed these traits on to his children.  His daughter Zipporah was the valedictorian at Manual Training High School in 1901.  Initially she had been denied the opportunity to speak at commencement because of her color.  Peter was able to finally convince the school board to reverse themselves and allow his daughter to speak.  Peter’s military pension records shows that he worked as long as possible.  He did not apply for a veteran’s pension until the year of his death.  Peter Joseph was buried in a GAR lot in block 27 on July 17, 1905.   Other family members, including my mother and grandmother both named Zipporah, are buried nearby.

By Stephen E Hammond (Great-great grandson)


John-Iliff Quiz


 Can you name a well-known historic Denver citizen that was buried at both Riverside and Fairmount???



  • He was born in Ohio in 1831
  • He attended Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Moved to Denver in 1859 and began a mercantile store
  • To get a supply of meat for miners he started a ranch north-east of Denver, along South Platte River
  • Became the “Cattle King of Colorado”
  • Owned up to 10,00 acres, 25,000 cattle, employed up to 50 cowboys
  • Also supplied meat to the workers building the Union Pacific Railroad
  • His ranch headquarters is now the Town of Iliff, Colorado
  • After railroad completed, sent beef to the Chicago Stockyards
  • He married Elizabeth Fraser in 1870 (12 years his junior)
  • She was a Singer Sewing Machine Saleswoman
  • They had three children, Edna, Louise, and John Jr.
  • In 1878 he died at age 46 from drinking “bad water” on his ranch
  • He was originally buried at Riverside Cemetery
  • His widow erected a monument 33 feet high, topped by a statue of the Roman Goddess Minerva
  • His widow remarried to Bishop Henry White Warren in 1883
  • She and the Bishop began the Iliff School of Theology
  • Denver’s Iliff Avenue and Iliff School of Theology are named for John
  • Elizabeth died in 1920 and is buried in Block 63 at Fairmount Cemetery
  • Later in 1920, John Iliff’s body and the monument
    were moved to Fairmount to be beside Elizabeth.

        By Tom Morton

Marker for Secret Service Agent

Joseph A. Walker (1856 – 1907)


On November 3rd, a service was held in Block 8 of Fairmount Cemetery to dedicate a gravestone honoring Joseph A. Walker, one of the first Secret Service agents killed in the line of duty. Recently his family, especially Robert T. Walker, Joseph’s only surviving Grandson, tried to find his unmarked grave, and Tim Wilson of the Fairmount Cemetery Company was able to locate it for them. A suitable granite marker was erected, and many members of the family attended the dedication, which took place exactly 103 years after his death. In spite of his 89 years Robert T. Walker participated in the dedication, as well as two of Joseph’s great granddaughters, and some of his 19 great-great grandchildren. Also in attendance were members of the Secret Service from Colorado and the regional director of the Association of Former Agents of the Secret Service.

Joseph Albert Walker was born in Port Henry, New York in 1856, but moved to Syracuse at an early age where he received his education. After earning a law degree in New York City he joined the civil service where he was employed for 32 years. In 1888 he moved to the Secret Service which had been created in 1865 to suppress counterfeiting in the US. For a time he was on the detail guarding President Grover Cleveland. He later moved to Denver and became the first agent in charge of the Denver Field office, overseeing operations in several western states and territories.

In 1907 there was a very large land fraud investigation in southwestern Colorado concerning coal mining operations. Seventy citizens of Durango and La Plata County had been indicted by a grand jury. On November 3rd Joseph Walker and another agent, as well as a geologist and a miner left Hesperus, 12 miles west of Durango, to investigate a coal mining operation on land owned by a man named William Mason. While the other three descended into a mine air shaft on Mason’s land seeking evidence, Walker remained on the surface. He was confronted by Mason and a man named Joe Vanderwiede. They later claimed Joseph Walker had drawn his pistol, and Vanderwiede shot Walker in the back with both barrels of a shotgun. It was later shown that Walker’s gun had not been fired, and from Walker’s wounds he could not have been aiming at them. After an autopsy Walker’s body was brought to Denver where it was cremated at Riverside Cemetery and his ashes were interred at Fairmount.

Mason and Vanderwiede were tried for murder in Durango in one of the largest trials in Colorado history. Although the evidence against the two was overwhelming, they claimed self defense, and a jury of local farmers and miners acquitted them. They were re-arrested on a Federal Warrant, but a judge ruled this constituted double jeopardy and released them. Without Walker to testify all charges in the land fraud case had to be dropped.

As a result of Walker’s murder President Theodore Roosevelt had two laws passed. One provided Federal pensions to families of agents killed in the line of duty, and the other made it a Federal crime to kill an agent while in the discharge his duty. So Joseph Walker’s life, although short, over the past 100 years has still had an impact on the United States.

by Tom Morton

Not Your Average “Potato”

RUFUS “POTATO” CLARK (1834 – 1910)

Of the many Colorado pioneers buried at Riverside Cemetery, one of the more interesting was Rufus “Potato” Clark.  He arrived here from Iowa in an ox-pulled covered wagon with his wife and child in July of 1859.  He immediately staked out a large farm in an area that is now Overland Municipal Golf Course, along the South Platte River across from Ruby Hill.  There he started farming on a quarter-section of land.  In her book Denver in Slices (written in 1959 but still popular), Louise Ward Arps wrote, “He was a character, this Potato Clark, a seafaring man ‘steeped in sin and prodigious profanity, and the curse of drink.’  But he got religion.”

As a teenager he ran away from home and became a sailor.  Rufus was at sea for ten years, at first serving on sailing boats and whaling vessels in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  Later, as chief mate of the Columbia in 1848, he sailed through the Bering Strait to the Arctic Ocean.  After gold was discovered in California, he spent over two years in the mines there.  He then traveled to Australia (by way of New Zealand because of a shipwreck), where he did more gold mining (and reportedly walked from Sydney to Melbourne, a distance of 400 miles).  He returned to the United States in 1854, took up farming, and married and became a father.

Rufus Clark cultivated several crops, but his main produce was potatoes (hence his nickname).  On one day he hauled as much as $1500 of potatoes to Denver.  His land in Colorado totaled 20,000 acres, but he sold most of that property to developers for the formation of the “Clark Colony” several miles south of Denver.  The colony was divided into several-acre tracts and was heavily planted with fruit trees, although it died out with the 1933 collapse of Castlewood Dam in Douglas County.

His word was better than gold, and bankers lent him money with no collateral other than his promise to repay the loans.  He was an honest, generous, and highly regarded man, despite his penchants for alcohol and colorful language.  But his “hard drinking and profanity” days ended when he attended a religious revival meeting in Denver.

In 1864 he was elected one of the first represent-atives in the territorial legislature.  He served on the Arapahoe County school board and was one of the founders of the town of South Denver (since absorbed by the city).  After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Rufus raised money for the victims by auctioning off sacks of potatoes; the mayor of Denver presented the mayor of Chicago with a check for over $7000.  He donated much money and property to the Salvation Army.  When local Methodists needed a new campus for their college in 1886, he gave them 80 acres; the school became the University of Denver, and it currently is located on the land he donated.  That same year he provided the money to create the Rufus Clark and Wife Theological Training School in Africa.

Both a California ‘49er and a Colorado ‘59er, Rufus Clark died in 1910 at age 87.  On his gravestone in Block 19, at Riverside are the names of his wife Ella and his previous wife Lucinda, who died in 1881.  The inscription on this stone reads, “They lived and gave of their substance for the redemption of Sierra Leone, West Africa.”

By Garry O’Hara

Sergeant Cupid

I admit to being curious about a man named Cupid, especially when he also was a Sergeant in the US Army,  Sergeant Cupid Rodgers.  My first thought was, this must have been one tough dude to have survived with that name.  As far as I can determine while doing my research, there seems to have been only 2 or 3 Cupid’s in the
whole US Army, all of them apparently former slaves.

Rodgers pension files indicate some confusion as to his rank at the time of his discharge.  He was apparently made a Corporal at the time
of his enlistment and then was promoted to Sgt. the following month.

According to one document from the Adjutant General’s office in 1886, he was discharged September 15, 1866 as a Sgt.  Two other documents though,
including his pension certificate, list him as a Private. In the AGs document there is also a mention of his spending time at the military prison in Little
Rock “awaiting trial since April 15-66” no mention of why.  It states he was back on active duty in May until he was mustered out as a Sgt.  How or why the rank was changed is unclear to me. I will continue to think of him as a Sergeant.

Some of the things we learn from his pension file are that Rodgers was a slave before the war and that he was also a big man; in 1892 at
the age of “about seventy” he was still five feet, eleven and a half inches tall.  He had been wounded in a battle at Fort Smith Arkansas; a shell
wound to his left hip which he suffered from for the rest of his life.  He was also wounded in a battle at Big Bayou Meadows, also in Arkansas.  At
this battle he claimed to have received a gunshot wound to his head, saber wound on his left thumb, and an unknown injury to his right thumb.  To top
it off, he also had his foot stepped on by a horse.

In the fall of 1864, Rodgers relates that he was south of Fort Smith; his shoes worn out, he stepped on a “cane” (?) that “run
into his foot”.  All in all he had a rough couple of years in 1863 and 64.

The file for Sgt. Rodgers contains the original of his pension certificate.  It is the first time I have seen one; I think that it would
normally have been sent to the soldier.  Dated September 20, 1901, it awards him the sum of six dollars a month for his disabilities. Obviously six
dollars went a lot further back then, but it still seems like a very small amount.

Another interesting document in the file is a report from the Western Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.  This facility,
located in Leavenworth Kansas, was one of eleven situated around the country that offered housing and health care to the disabled soldiers.
(Eventually these facilities would become part of the Veterans Administration Hospitals.)  Rodgers first was admitted to the hospital in November of
1887 for treatment of pain resulting from his hip wound.  He was treated again in 1891, for a broken right arm, the result of a gunshot
wound.  Again we are left to speculate on what he may have been involved in.  He would have been in his late sixties at the time of the shooting;
his occupation is listed as farmer.  I imagine him as being a tough old guy that still wasn’t afraid to mix it up with anyone.

The last mystery concerning Sgt. Rodgers is that I have not been able to find any connection between him and Colorado.  All the documents
in his file indicate he lived in Kansas, at least until September of 1891.  Maybe the gunshot wound had something to do with his coming to

Sergeant Cupid Rodgers was buried January 1, 1900 in section 1
of ward 6 in a GAR lot in block 27 at Riverside Cemetery.

by Ray Thal

Lucile Berkeley Buchanan

Lucy (Lucile) Berkeley Buchanan Jones was the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Colorado. Buchanan was born on June 13, 1884, on the second floor of the family’s mule and horse barn in the town of Barnum, southwest of Denver, Colorado. She was the daughter of Sarah Lavinia and James Fenton Buchanan, emancipated slaves from adjoining plantations in northern Virginia. Sarah and James Buchanan were married in 1872. Within ten years of their marriage the couple, and their four Virginia-born children, migrated to Colorado.

When the Buchanan’s arrived in Colorado in 1882, Lucile’s mother, Sarah, bought five lots of land in an unincorporated area outside the Denver city limits from P.T. Barnum of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The Buchanan’s were one of two black families in this predominately first-generation European immigrant community.

In 1903, after graduating from Villa Park High School, she enrolled in the two-year teacher certification program at the Colorado State College for Education at Greeley (now University of Northern Colorado), which she completed in 1905.

In 1915, Miss Buchanan enrolled in the University of Chicago where she studied Greek, German, and English. After studying there for only one year, she returned to Colorado to enroll in the University of Colorado. On June 5, 1918, Miss Buchanan became the first black woman to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado. She majored in German. She left Colorado around 1920 and became a teacher in several all-Black schools such as Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri and the Langston School in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

By 1930, Miss Buchanan had married John Dotha Jones. Their marriage was brief and they had no children. She relocated to Chicago where she became a teacher at the Stephen A. Douglas School on the city’s Southside. She also took graduate courses at the University of Chicago, enrolling in her last class in 1941 at the age of 57. In 1949 Mrs. Jones retired from the Chicago Public School system and returned to the Denver home her father had built for the family in 1905. Lucile Berkeley Buchanan Jones died in Denver on November 10, 1989, at the age of 105 and is buried at Fairmount Cemetery, in Block 52.

By Polly Mclean

Polly McLean is an associate professor of Media Studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Colorado’s Mother of Public Health

Florence Rena Sabin, M.D.  1871-1953

In honor of National Public Health Week, April 6-12, 2009, this month’s biography will be about Dr. Florence Sabin, the “Mother” of public health in Colorado.

Dr. Sabin was born in Central City, Colorado on November 9, 1871. Following the death of her mother, Florence and her sister Mary were sent to Chicago and ultimately to the Sabin family farm in Vermont where they lived with their grandparents. They both attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

After college, Florence returned to Colorado where she taught at Wolfe Hall (located in downtown Denver) and then at Smith College. Her goal was to save money to become a doctor. In 1896, Sabin enrolled in Johns Hopkins  Medical School. The school had opened in 1893 and from the beginning admitted both men and women, in fulfillment of one of the conditions of the gift that made its opening possible. As a student, she designed a beeswax model of a newborn baby’s brainstem that was used for decades by medical school students, along with her text book “Atlas of the Midbrain and Medulla”.   Florence became one of the first women to enter the school and in 1900 graduated at the top of her class.

Following medical school, Sabin became the first woman professor at the school and also conducted medical research. She made important contributions to the knowledge of the histology of the brain,  the development of the lymphatic systems, and to the understanding of the pathology and immunology of tuberculosis.  Dr. Sabin also became the first woman to become a department head at New York’s Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in 1924. She directed the Department of Cellular Studies and conducted significant research in several areas. In 1924, Sabin was also elected the first woman president of the American Association of Anatomists. Florence was the first woman elected to life membership in the National Academy of Sciences and in the 1930s was called “the leading woman scientist in the world”. She was also a prominent supporter of
women’s rights.

Dr. Sabin retired in 1938 and moved back to Colorado.  In 1944 at age 73, following World War II, she was appointed by Colorado Gov. John Vivian to chair a subcommittee on health care in Colorado. Colorado’s health policies and practices were among the worst in the nation at the time. She declared war on “flies, rats, and dirty milk”.  Her work resulted in the “Sabin Health Laws”, which modernized every aspect of healthcare in Colorado, including sanitation standards, enforcement of communicable disease laws, and the creation of better health programs for children.  In later years, Dr. Sabin headed both the state Board of Health and the Denver Department of Health and Charities.

In 1951, Sabin again retired at the age of 80 and died on October 3, 1953.

In addition to the honors listed above, Denver’s Sabin Elementary School was named after her, as was the Sabin Cancer Research Wing at the University of Colorado’s Denver Medical Center. She is also the only Colorado woman to be included in the American Women of Achievement book series, joining other notable women that include Helen Keller and Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1959 Colorado donated a statue of Dr. Sabin, medical research pioneer, to the National Statuary Hall collection located in the Capital Building in Washington D.C. She is one of two Coloradans to be memorialized in this manner. The other is former astronaut Jack Swigert.

In 2005, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine honored Sabin’s legacy by naming one of its four colleges after her.

Dr. Sabin’s ashes are entombed in the Fairmount Community Mausoleum next to those of her sister Mary. Chapel Floor, Col. D, space 1053

 By Marilyn Swett