He was born in Pennsylvania in 1855, but after contracting tuberculosis there, in 1878 he moved to Denver. Following a short stint as a clerk in the Daniels and Fisher store he entered city government, first as Denver City Clerk in 1884, then as postmaster, then in 1891 as President of the Denver Fire and Police Board where by assigning patronage jobs he built a strong political base, as well as collecting graft from the Red Light district on Market Street, and after hours saloons. In 1901 he became head of the Board of Public Works, the city’s largest agency.
At that time Denver was part of Arapahoe County, but there was a strong movement for “Home Rule”. In 1902 Denver and some surrounding municipalities were merged into The City and County of Denver, and in 1904 Robert Speer became the first Mayor in a disputed election. He immediately set out to change Denver from a dusty western town into what he envisioned as “the City Beautiful”.
He more than doubled the city’s park space to 1200 acres, and ordered that there be no “Keep off the Grass’ signs in any city park, a policy which is still followed today. He had 150 miles of Denver streets paved. He expanded the City Zoo, replacing many cages with moated enclosures. In 1908 he had the Auditorium Theatre built (now the Ellie Caulkins Theatre) just in time to host the 1908 Democratic National Convention. Every year he donated young maple and elm trees to any citizen who promised to care for them, and many of these trees now shade the older residential sections of the city. Cherry Creek had become an eyesore, the original cherry trees had long been cut down and it was used as an open sewer. He ordered the Creek to be cleaned up, retaining walls to be built and trees and shrubs to be planted. In 1910 his supporters changed the name of the street that he had built along the creek from Cherry Creek Drive to Speer Boulevard. He began plans for the civic center, and began clearing the area west of the Capitol building.
By 1912 many people were tired of “Boss” Speer’s authoritarian rule, including the newspapers which charged that his administration was rife with ”cronyism, corruption and crime”. The reformers suggested a commission form of city government. Speer said that would never work, but seeing the mood of the citizens he decided not to run for re-election, but ran for the Senate instead, a race which he lost.
Speer’s prediction turned out to be true, the commission did nothing to beautify the city, although they did shut down the Red Light district in 1913. The mood of the city changed, and when Speer ran again for mayor in 1916 he won in a landslide. He immediately picked up where he had left off, including planning for Civic Center Park, and a large City and County Building.
Unfortunately he never saw these plans come to fruition. In 1918 he came down with a cold which developed into pneumonia, and he died on May 14th. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral, held at the Auditorium Theater, and he is buried in Block 24 at Fairmount Cemetery. His vision of Civic Center Park was completed by succeeding mayors, and his wife Kate donated the bell and the clock on the City and County Building in his memory.
By Tom Morton
Riverside Cemetery is the final resting place of Ollie “The Ghost” Marcelle, one of the greatest African-American baseball players. He is credited with
integrating professional baseball in Denver 13 years before Jackie Robinson officially integrated major league baseball in 1947.
Ollie was just a decent hitter, but he was an outstanding third baseman. He snared hit baseballs that the average infielder would have missed.
His nickname “The Ghost” came from his lightning-fast reflexes at third base. He was only 18 when he joined the Negro Leagues with the Brooklyn Royal Giants. He
later played for another black team in New York City, plus teams in Atlantic City, Detroit and Baltimore.
Unfortunately his violent temper erupted one time in 1929 when he and a teammate got into a
fight over a card game. In this fight his opponent bit off Ollie’s nose, causing him to wear a patch over his missing nose for the rest of his life.
After playing some more ball while enduring derogatory comments by opposing crowds, he left professional baseball and ended up here in Denver as a house
painter and handyman (playing occasional semi- pro ball).
In 1934 Ollie persuaded the promoter of the then-popular Denver Post baseball tournament to invite the Kansas City Monarchs to come here and play against a
traveling team called the House of David. The latter team was all white, while the Monarchs were one of the finest-ever African-American baseball teams.
Thousands of people came to watch these two teams play.
When Ollie Marcelle died here of a heart attack in 1949, he was alone and indigent. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the middle of Riverside’s Block 29. His
grave remained unmarked until 1991, when Fairmount and Riverside Cemeteries along with local sports historian Jay Sanford unveiled the current flat marker to “The
Ghost”. The marker bears the words of his Negro League friend Buck O’Neil:
“Baseball’s best third baseman brought black professional baseball to
By Garry O’Hara
In Block 35, along the east of Fairmount is the beautiful Nisei Memorial. During World War II many people from the west coast of Japanese ancestry were interned in detention camps, including Camp Amache, in southeastern Colorado. Many of those who were born in the U.S. of Japanese immigrants (Nisei) volunteered for U.S. Army service. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team comprised of these Nisei was the most decorated unit in the Army for its size and duration of action in World War II. This memorial was erected in 1963. It lists the names of soldiers of Japanese ancestry who were killed in combat as well as the names of those who were later killed in Korea or Viet Nam.
One of those memorialized is Private First Class Kiyoshi Muranaga, who was posthumously awarded
the Medal of Honor. His citation reads, in part: “… Muranaga distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 26 June, 1944, near Suverto, Italy.” His mortar squad was pinned down by a German 88mm gun, and all except he withdrew; he manned the mortar himself and fired at the enemy. When the Germans saw where the fire was coming from they fired back, killing him instantly, but then they abandoned their position. … Private Muranaga’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service….” (Read the full citation here). Kiyoshi Muranaga is buried in California.Near this memorial, in the northeast corner of Block 34, are the graves of many Nisei veterans who survived the war and settled in Colorado, including three soldiers of the 442 Regimental Combat Team:
Photo of PVT 1 CL Muranaga courtesy of 442nd Regimental Combat Team Historical Society; for more information about the 442nd visit:
Life journeys some time take us to places we never expected to go. It was fully expected that Maine born Timothy Reirdan Stinson would spend his life at sea, sailing from port to port and always at a distance from his family. It is no surprise to find “Mariner” next to his name in the 1850 Federal census. Nor is it a surprise two years later, despite his youthful 31 years, to find him in the position as Captain of the newly built packet ship William and Mary.
With a cargo of hay and herring, her maiden voyage from Bath, ME to Charleston, SC must have felt like a cruise to the tropics. The January, 1853, eastbound sail with a load of upland cotton destined for Liverpool, England, was more challenging, as any winter voyage would expect to be. But Stinson’s real test as Captain came on his return voyage. With the William and Mary fully loaded, her steerage with 208 emigrants and her cargo hold with tons of railroad iron and crockery, she sailed low and slow, experiencing one storm after another en route to New Orleans. Some 20 passengers died on the crossing. With food and water supplies dangerously low during their seventh week at sea, everyone was elated on May 3rd when they began seeing evidence they were nearing land. Later that night while passing through the Northwest Providence Channel in the Bahamas, the Captain prematurely changed course, running the ship onto a pile of submerged rock, and puncturing her wooden hull. Immediate the ship began taking on water, alarming both passengers and crew. All through the night, passengers manned the ship’s two pumps and kept the ship afloat. But early the next morning, the Captain did the unthinkable. With a lifeboat stocked with water and food supplies, the Captain, his 2 officers, and several of the crew rowed away from their ship and its deckfull of horrified passengers. Unable to manuever the ship, the passengers did all they could do—they prayed and they pumped. Finally, after two days and just at the point of giving up, a small schooner appeared on the horizon. Although it was manned by Bahamian wreckers, those who make their living salvaging sinking ships, they first moved all the women and children to the western shore of Grand Bahama Island. Next they returned for the men and likewise delivered them to the beach. Eventually the travelers were moved on to Nassau, then to New Orleans, and finally up the Mississippi to become part of the American fabric.
The Captain’s life also changed. The press of 1853 showed no mercy toward Stinson and he quickly disappeared into the western landscape. The 1860 Federal census shows him living in central Illinois; in 1872 he is found in Denver, many miles from the sea, and self-employed as a house painter. The following year, it would appear that he found peace in what had to be a troubling 20 years; he began attending one of the churches in downtown Denver, made public profession of his faith in Christ, and became a member of the church family. Over the next two decades he spent his days painting many of the homes in Denver, and each night went home to his wife. He never returned to the sea. On March 24, 1894, he died of heart failure and was laid to rest in Block 5, Lot 50 in Riverside Cemetery. A large white marble stone, the upper portion somewhat resembling the mast of a ship, now marks his grave and that of his wife and son.
Written by Kenneth A. Schaaf, a retired staff member of the Library of Congress, who lives with his wife near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
Photo by Mark DeNooy, Denver
One of the patron saints of this ideal was Denver’s own Emily Griffith.
Born in Cincinnati in 1880, Griffith attended college in Nebraska and eventually took her degree from the Denver Normal and Preparatory School where she trained as a teacher. Her first job began in 1898 when she worked at Denver’s Central school. But in 1913, she began teaching eighth grade at the 24th Street School, where many of her students came from impoverished homes.
It was clear that her students faced great academic challenges. But Griffith’s insight probed deeper than that. She noticed that the environments her students grew up in posed the biggest hurdle to their success in life. For instance, most of her students had parents and older siblings who could neither read nor write; they were mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who had dropped out of school to take jobs that would help them feed their families. They put food on the table, but they could never advance in society. Their opportunities were severely limited by their lack of literacy and job training.
Created as a free institution within the Denver public school system, the Opportunity School offered trade education for barbers, bakers, and plumbers. Many of Griffith’s students were immigrants. Having come to the United States from foreign countries, they could not speak English well, and sometimes not at all. The Opportunity School helped them acquire new language skills while also teaching them math and the basics of American government.
In later years, Griffith’s compassion and tireless work for the city’s underprivileged made her a natural choice to hold several state positions. She joined the child welfare board in 1920 and was later named president of the Colorado Education Association in 1922. In 1933, she was appointed to the state board of vocational education where she continued to serve until 1945, eleven years after her official retirement.
Emily Griffith’s values guided her personal as well as her professional life. In 1934, she officially retired from teaching and moved some 35 miles northwest of Denver to a simple cabin in Pinecliffe where she cared for her ailing sister, Florence, until the end of her days. That same year, the community renamed the Opportunity School to the Emily Griffith Opportunity School to honor her as its founder.
To this day, the case has never been solved, though many believe their caretaker was responsible. The death of Emily Griffith and her sister still stands as one Colorado’s unsolved murders.
The Emily Griffith Opportunity School survives today as the Emily Griffith Technical College (EGTC). In the course of its more than a hundred years’ operation, this impressive institution has guided over 1.6 million students toward new careers in various fields.
The college offers programs and classes in the vocational apprenticeships, business disciplines, design trades, and health care careers, as well as continuing education, GED, and English as a Second Language courses. In keeping with the times, EGTC now offers over 500 online classes with multiple start dates as well as programs that run on nights and weekends to fit the profiles of modern, busy students.
Henry Cordes Brown was born in Ohio in 1820, then moved to Virginia as a teen to learn the craft of carpentry. In 1859, Brown and his family moved to Denver, where he continued in his trade of carpentry, as well as builder and architect. Shortly after, in 1863, he obtained 160 acres of land, including a triangular space he used for cattle, which became the space of the famous Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. In 1868, he donated another part of his land which is now the current location of the State Capital, to Colorado Territory. Today, the dome of the State Capital is honored with an exhibit of Colorado’s early history bearing the name “Mr. Brown’s Attic”.
Stories tell of Brown, who walked into the prestigious Windsor hotel, as one of the richest men in America, but because he wasn’t dressed appropriately (he wore cowboy attire), he was turned away. In revenge, he built the Brown Palace Hotel in 1889, as well as the Tabor Mansion for his personal residence.
The Brown Palace today is still known as a premier hotel in America, and certainly so in Denver. It opened August 12, 1892, in response to fill a need for a place to stay for travelers to and from the mountains seeking gold and silver. He sold off his land in the Capital Hill area to have the funds to create the elaborate and elegant hotel.
Architect Frank E. Edbrooke, also buried at Fairmount, designed the Brown palace, as well as several other Denver buildings. Using an Italian Renaissance style, Edbrooke began work on the hotel in 1888. They incorporated Arizona sandstone and Colorado red granite as well as twenty- six of Colorado’s native animals, carved into stone medallions, in the exterior. Inside, balconies off the atrium lobby shoot up eight floors with beautiful decorative panels.
The project cost capped right around 2 million dollars and allowed guests to stay in one of the 400 rooms for between $3-5 per night. Today, the hotel features 241 guest rooms, a spa, several high end restaurants and gift shops. Since it has opened, it has seen politicians, celebrities and people wanting the elegant experience that only Denver’s oldest luxury hotel can offer.
Henry Cordes Brown was also a member of the Denver Board of Trade who was responsible for bringing the Denver Pacific Railroad to the area, and exists currently as the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. He also established the Denver City Library and the Bank of Denver, both still active to this day. He passed away in March of 1906 and is buried at Fairmount Cemetery, block 3.
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
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.
Fairmount, founded in 1890, hosts two Denver Historic landmarks: the Ivy Chapel and the Gate Lodge. But historic and beautiful Fairmount cemetery is a Denver landmark in its own right. The cemetery is a preserve to hundreds of wildlife, 3800 trees and heritage roses. The 280 acres are adjacent to Denver’s Highline Canal, and as Denver’s second oldest cemetery, many prominent Denver leaders, pioneers and families have made Fairmount Cemetery their final resting place and have become a part of our history.
Do you recognize these names?
These, and many more, can be found here at Fairmount Cemetery.
The layout of the cemetery was created by German landscape architect Reinhard Schuetze, who was also responsible for the design of City Park and Cheesman Parks in Denver. The serene, park-like setting of Fairmount was intentional, with sweeping vistas, trees, rose gardens, statues and unique buildings. Designated by the Division of Wildlife as a Colorado Wildlife Viewing area, sightings of deer, fox, coyote, hawks, eagles, owls and other birds, are quite frequent.
Families of any religion and walk of life can be laid to rest with dignity surrounded by the true beauty of trees, flowers, and water, all cared for year round. Visit a loved one or walk the serene grounds while learning more about history, nature or the many activities Fairmount offers local families.
Within the 280 acres that makes up Fairmount Cemetery is the Ecclesiastical Gothic Ivy Chapel. Built in 1890, the same year as the cemetery, it features a sky penetrating spire, arches and windows. Twenty six feet wide and sixty four feet long, Henry Ten Eyck Wendell’s design reminds onlookers of a miniature Notre Dame Cathedral.
The space is typically used for services and celebrations of all kind and seats up to 200. Historic and beautiful, it is worth a visit when touring the grounds.
Also built in 1890, the Gate Lodge was home to the cemetery’s superintendent and his family as well as the sexton. The 20 foot archway served as the entrance to the 280 acre property. Today, the building serves as offices for the new Q event center and offices and archives of the Fairmount Heritage Foundation.