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Indiana Sopris Cushman Denver’s first woman schoolteacher.

Indiana Sopris Cushman was Denver’s first woman schoolteacher and one of the city’s very early pioneers.  She was born in 1839 in Indiana; some say she was the namesake not of the state but of a riverboat (named the “Indiana”) that her father worked on in his youth.  She arrived here in a covered wagon in 1860 with her parents and some of her seven siblings.  Since there were few young women here at that time, she and her sister Irene were very popular.  She later wrote that when she got to Denver, “We found some very pleasant people here, but not very many families, mostly men, very few young ladies; my sister and I and half a dozen other young ladies were all there were in Denver.  Of course, we were all belles then.”

On May 7, 1860, when she was only 21 years old, Indiana opened a private school and later taught in the first public school in Denver.  She was also one of the organizers of the First Congregational Church and its Sunday school.  She married businessman Samuel Cushman in 1866.

She later wrote about an incident in Denver in 1864:  “One night we had a very bad scare.  A man came in and told us that a great body of Indians were coming, so the alarm was sounded….  A family I happen to know, a man and wife, were down town on F street eating ice cream at a restaurant and when the scare came the gentleman said, ‘Let’s go down to the Fillmore Block.’  The wife replied, ‘Oh, let’s go home and get the baby.’  ‘Oh, he said, ‘God will take care of the baby; let us save ourselves.’  That really happened.”  (The Indians never came.)

Her father Richard Sopris was one of the most prominent of Colorado’s early pioneers.  He came here ahead of his family in 1859 and was one of the first Gold Rush prospectors and an original shareholder of the town of Auraria.  He was elected to the Territorial Legislature of Kansas representing Arapahoe County (which was then the westernmost county of Kansas).  He became a captain in the First Colorado Infantry and a year later was chosen to be the first president of the Colorado Agricultural Society.  In 1862 Richard Sopris was elected sheriff of Arapahoe County.  He served as president of the Colorado Pioneer Association and was mayor of Denver from 1878 to 1881, after which he was the city’s parks commissioner.  Mount Sopris is named for him.

Indiana’s mother Elizabeth was considered the oldest of Denver’s pioneers when she died in 1911 at the age of 96.  A descendant of Ethan Allen, she was widely known as the “Grand Old Woman of the Ladies’ Aid Society.”

Indiana Sopris Cushman died in 1925 at age 86 and is buried at Riverside Cemetery with her parents and several other family members in Block 1.

Find out more about Riverside Cemetery tours and events here.

Learn more about the amazing Fairmount Heritage Foundation here.

By Garry O’Hara

Veterans of Riverside Cemetery

In late 2014, the Fairmount Heritage Foundation asked if I would develop a research project for the Riverside Veterans as I did for the babies and children buried in Block 12 (Riverside Block 12 Project).  With excitement stirring in my heart I responded:  “Yes, I would love to.”  However, there was a caveat,… the Burial Books and the Block Books had been sent out for digitization, and, therefore not available for me to search through.

I am not easily daunted. The genealogist in me grabbed notebook, camera, umbrella, and hat and headed out to start walking through all of the blocks in Riverside, about 38 of them if I recall correctly.  I’ve walked 20 blocks so far and have another 18 more to go.  I also checked as many of the Riverside Index Cards on file as possible, looking for information on the individuals I had located during my walks and via

I also searched on line for information from the Denver Public Library and I was looking for those ‘Military Records’ and ‘Headstone Application Records’ in order to prove questionable persons as veterans and to provide a little more insight on the veteran and any next-of-kin that he or she may have had.

It has taken me about a year to gather up and document all (I may have missed a handful along the way) the veterans at Riverside Cemetery. To date I have documented 1322 veterans ranging from the Crimean War to the present.  Most of the veterans are Civil War era veterans, located in Block 27.

There are some notable veterans buried at Riverside. Most folks are familiar with Silas Soule, but how about John Long Routt, 1st and 7th Governor of Colorado; as well as, one time Mayor of Denver; how about Harry Mrachek for whom the Mrachek Middle School in Aurora was named.  (Actually, the school was named after he and his wife Ellin, who is in the Aurora Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame).  Harry was once the Principal at the school.  Then there is Webster D. Anthony, who served as Arapahoe County Treasurer, as well as other official positions during his lifetime – including serving under Territorial Governor John Evans. There is also a one time resident of Riverside, who was later removed to Fairmount Cemetery, Dr. William Reddick Whitehead, who served in the Crimean War and the Civil War, and was “knighted into the Imperial Order of St. Stanislaus by the Russian Empire…” (

It is interesting to note, there are a number of veterans who served this country well, who were not citizens of the United States. These veterans came from England, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and various other countries.  What a debt of gratitude we owe to them as well.

In my research, here is a little information I have learned along the way:

  • Riverside Cemetery came into existence in 1876. Then in 1900, Fairmount Cemetery took over ownership of Riverside Cemetery.
  • Before Riverside Cemetery there was City Cemetery. City Cemetery was in operation until about 1890. About 75 to 100 Union Veterans were removed from City Cemetery to Riverside.
  • Riverside Cemetery has a number of military burials. It is said, unofficially, that Riverside Cemetery has the most Civil War vets of any cemetery in Colorado.
  • Soon after Riverside Cemetery came into existence, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Cemetery Association purchased about three-fourths of the lots, minus the walkways, within Block 27 for the purpose of burying their Union Civil War Veterans. Today, the Sons of the Union Veterans, who inherited the lots, have ownership.
  • There are about 900 to 1100 veterans buried in the GAR lots of Block 27. Some are in unmarked graves.
  • However, there are a few Confederate Veterans (about 10 to 15) buried at Riverside Cemetery in various locations.
  • And, yes, there are veterans of various other wars as well; they too are buried in various locations within Riverside Cemetery.
  • For those who may ask, what about Fort Logan? In the early days of Fort Logan, before it became a National Military Cemetery, it interred only those folks who were stationed and died at Fort Logan. It wouldn’t be until 1950, when Fort Logan became a National Military Cemetery, that other members of the military could be buried there as well.

To view all of the veterans documented, visit: and click on ‘Download PDF’.

I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy searching for our veterans and ‘digging’ up whatever information I can find – to fill in the ‘dash’ between their birth and death.

I salute all the Veterans of Riverside.

By Vickie Smejkal

Alice Polk Hill the first poet laureate of Colorado

Alice was the first poet laureate of Colorado, having been selected for this ceremonial post by the governor in 1919.

She was the first person in the nation to hold this position, and her duties included writing poems for public occasions.  She was also the first woman to be a member of the State Historical Society.  In addition to being a poet, she was a writer, reporter, historian, real estate investor, and music teacher.

Born in 1845, in Kentucky, Alice belonged to the Daughters of the Confederacy.  A founder of the Woman’s Press Club and the Women’s Club of Denver, she was the only woman member of the commission who wrote the charter for the City and County of Denver in 1904.  Among her books were Tales of the Pioneers of Colorado (1884) and its revised version Colorado Pioneers in Picture and Story (1915).  When she died, her body lay in state in the State Capitol.

One of her poems was dedicated to the pioneers of Colorado.  She wrote that they were:

“… proud of the State whose corner-stone they laid,
Proud of her mines of silver and gold;
Proud of her flocks spread over the plains;
Proud of her sons, patriotic and bold;
Proud of her fields of golden grain:
Proud of her mountains and sunny skies;
Proud of her Statehood, by birthright a peer;
Midst the stars of the Union she shines, the prize;
The crowning glory of the hundredth year.”

This last line is a reference to the entry of Colorado
into the Union in the nation’s hundredth year (1876).

Alice died in 1921 and was buried at Riverside in Block 19.

By Joan and Garry O’Hara

Zipporah Hammond First Black Graduate University of Colorado Nursing School

First Black Graduate University of Colorado Nursing School

So often when we write about the residents of Riverside it is because of their contributions to early Colorado history,  Zipporah Hammond is the exception to that trend. Up until her death in 2011 she was working as a volunteer at the Denver Public Library’s Western History Department. She spent countless hours cataloging and organizing vast amounts of information pertaining to Denver’s black history.

The best way to examine Zipporah’s life is from her son.
Steve Hammond nominated his mother to become a
member of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012.  She was not selected at that time, we can only hope that in the future that oversight will be remedied. The following information of her life comes from Steve’s nomination documents.

Zipporah Parks Hammond was born on March 1, 1924.  She attended Denver’s Whittier Elementary and Morey Junior High Schools and graduated from Manual High School in 1941.

After high school Zipporah enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the fall of 1941. The United States was about to enter World War II and would need nurses to support the war. Zipporah was the only African American in a class of 30 nursing students. She participated in The Cadet Nurse Corps when it was established in 1943 to help train nurses for the war effort. Although the university was progressive by admitting her, many whites were bitter about her entrance to the university. As a result, she was received coldly by both her professors and classmates. She refused to give up and in 1946 she became the first black student to graduate from the University of Colorado Nursing School.

After graduation, Zipporah worked as a surgical operating room nurse at Colorado General Hospital in Denver. A short time later she was recruited by John W. Chenault, MD, the chief of orthopedics at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama as his chief surgical nurse.  She worked at the John Andrews Hospital-Infantile Paralysis Unit, the institute’s polio clinic.  Zipporah’s nursing career was cut short when she  contracted tuberculosis in Tuskegee. She returned from Alabama to the dry Colorado climate and was hospitalized at the National Jewish Hospital in Denver for many months. There she met her future husband, Sheldon Leroy Hammond of Schenectady, NY, also a TB patient. They courted and were married on November 29, 1952.

Based on scarring of her lungs and doctors’ recommendations, Zipporah was unable to continue her nursing career. However, to maintain her connection to the medical field and continue to serve others, she returned to the University of Colorado in 1951 to build on her nursing
credentials. Zipporah obtained certification as a medical records librarian. She became assistant director of the Medical Records Department at University Hospital and in 1953 became medical records director at Presbyterian Hospital until resigning in 1956 to raise a family. In 1964 she
returned to work at University Hospital, finally retiring in 1991. It was then she began her 17 years as a volunteer at the Denver Public Library.

Zipporah Hammond subtly and gracefully broke down barriers. Through her actions and perseverance she made significant and enduring contributions that changed the perspective of what could be expected of minorities who choose to pursue nursing as a profession.

By Stephen Hammond (Zipporah’s son) and Ray Thal

Prof. P. C. Dorrego, 19th Century “Guitar Hero”

A simple, elegant marker by the side of the road in the northeast section of Riverside cemetery marks the final resting place of a man of mystery.

“Prof. P. C. Dorrego, born in Buenos Ayres, Argentine Republic, died in Denver Oct. 24, 1887.”*

Professor of what?  Why was he buried alone, so far away from his place of birth in a plot purchased by a local music company?  Historic newspapers and records provide clues, but mysteries remain about the man buried in Block 21, Lot 193.

Professor Dorrego arrived in Denver in the summer of 1887 where he received rave reviews for performances on his unique 17-string harp guitar.  The Denver music aficionados were so thrilled to have this famous touring performer that A “Grand Testimonial Benefit Concert” was scheduled on Thursday, October 27 at the Lyceum Hall at Fourteenth and Lawrence Streets.

On the night before the concert the Professor died of a heart attack in his hotel room.  Dorrego’s friends Frank and Frederick Torres, natives of Spain, had recently re-located from Brooklyn to open a cigar factory in Denver.  As representatives of the local Spanish community they took charge of Dorrego’s affairs and with the help of the Knight-McClure Music Company they engaged McHatton’s Funeral Home and purchased a plot at Riverside Cemetery.  The grave-side service was held in Spanish, reportedly the first ever such service in Denver.  When it became clear that Dorrego died penniless and had no known family, Dorrego’s effects were sold at auction to cover expenses.  The McHarport brothers Theodore and Horatio, Denver music store proprietors, became the fortunate owners of his favorite guitar, possibly the famous harp guitar.

Notice of Dorrego’s death was included in the Boston Weekly Journal along with that of singer Jenny Lind and other notables.  His obituary ran in the Art Journal of New York, the Springfield Massachusetts Republican, San Jose California Evening News and the Los Angeles Times.

The World’s Greatest Living Guitarist

Thirty-something Argentinian Pedro Dorrego performed with his harp guitar in Santiago Chile in 1861 and later at the Grand Theatre of Lima, Peru.  His US music career had a rousing start at Gilbert’s New Melodeon in San Francisco in August 1865.  Most of Dorrego’s time in the US was in California, moving between Sacramento and the Bay area, with a few years in the booming town of Los Angeles and five years on the east coast.

He was billed as Professor Pedro C. Dorrego, “The World’s Greatest Living Guitarist”.  A short, heavy set man with thick, stubby fingers, he played seated, guitar upright in his lap, not strumming, using only the thumb and first finger.  A bit of a showman, Dorrego was known not only for the harp guitar, but also for his ability to play up to 10 guitars at a time.  Play bills announced that he would be performing his own songs, and reviews indicated that he also skilled at improvisation.

Dorrego was comfortable in a variety of venues: the Baptist Church Strawberry Social, a solo during the camp scenes of “The Plains” at the Metropolitan Theater, a Father Mathew Society temperance meeting and a gig at the Long Branch Saloon.  He shared the stage with a variety of performers as well, from the magician Carabaraba to “Harpiste, Pianiste and Vocaliste Signorina Inez Carusi”.  The California Spanish speaking community enjoyed his skill also as evidenced by advertisements in the Spanish language newspapers for Profesor de Musica, available for concerts, dances and serenades.

An association with the Hyers Sisters, famous black opera singers credited with founding musical theater, and Hugo Yanke, student of Liszt, led Dorrego from California to New York in February, 1871.  He took a ship by way of Panama, arriving in New York City on July 13.  By July 30 he was working with some of greats of the minstrel and vaudeville circuits – Hooley’s Minstrels, Cool White and Tony Pastor to name a few.  Dorrego toured the east coast, teaching for a time at the Brooklyn Musical Academy and returned to California in 1875.

In 1880 17 young men from Spain took the New York musical scene by storm, playing Spanish-style guitars in colorful folk costumes.  A number of look-alike groups, most called “The Original Spanish Students”, took advantage of the resulting mandolin craze across the country.  Dorrego joined the San Francisco group that played excursion cruises, picnics and local celebrations.

When this Spanish Student troupe decided to tour the west, Dorrego went along, bringing him in July 1887 to Denver, his final resting place.


By all accounts Professor Pedro C. Dorrego was a skilled and popular musician, an interesting inhabitant of Riverside Cemetery.  Some mysteries may remain unsolved; others may only await further research to provide answers.

Mystery #1  Who were Pedro’s parents?  He claimed his father was Argentinian revolutionary, Manuel Dorrego; that he was born in 1829, raised in exile in Chile.  Manuel was assassinated by firing squad on December 13, 1828 and left a farewell note to his wife and two daughters with no mention of a son.  Likewise, Manuel’s biographers do not mention a son, illegitimate or otherwise.  A good story – embellished perhaps in the P. T. Barnum era of self-promotion?

Mystery #2  Where did Pedro play in Europe and for what audiences?  An early advertisement indicated that Dorrego “Took the Prize in Madrid the Capital of Spain” in 1848.  Obituaries claim he made three trips around the world, was presented medals by the King of Spain, Czar of Russia, King Wilhelm of Prussia.  Possible? – it was relatively common for musicians to do world tours even before planes and automobiles, and music competitions have always been popular.

Mystery #3  Why is his widow buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs?  Dorrego married Mrs. Lola Morales Regnal in New York 1871.  She was the only daughter of a language professor at New York College, and niece of actor Gabriel Harrison.  At the time of Pedro’s death in Denver, Lola, her son Claude from a previous marriage, and her parents were living together in New York City.  After her parents died, she and Claude went to Las Cruces, New Mexico where she taught music at the Agricultural and Engineering school from 1891 to 1895.  When Claude died, Lola moved to Pueblo, Colorado, advertising elocution and voice instruction as the widow of Pedro C.  Her son’s body was moved to Colorado Springs in 1896, and she was buried in the plot beside him in 1923.

*Death certificate for P. C. Dorrego is dated October 26, not October 24.  The lot card indicates that he was originally buried in Lot 15, Block 26 and moved on October 30 to the final resting place.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            By Nancy K. Prince

Tadaatsu Matsudaira, Colorado’s First Japanese Pioneer

Tadaatsu Matsudaira, the son of Japanese nobility, was born in 1851. He sent to the U.S. in 1872 with his brother, Tadanori, to attend Rutgers University in New Jersey.

In 1879, he married Carrie Sampson, daughter of the first superintendent of the Golden Reform School.  Failing health brought him to Denver in 1886 where he became the State Inspector of Mines’ assistant and a civil engineer with the State Engineers Office.  He died on January 26, 1888 at the age of 33.  He has been recognized as the first Japanese resident of Colorado.  A red granite monolith, erected by the Oriental Culture Society, marks his grave in Block 13 at Riverside Cemetery.

In 1989, his descendants erected a red granite cenotaph* in his memory in Block 26.

*Cenotaph is a memorial to a person buried elsewhere.

Frank Mulligan’s Fall from Grace

Frank Mulligan had been a Denver cop since 1904 when he was snared in a scandal that screamed across Denver’s newspapers for weeks in 1918.

It began with a quiet, middle-of-the-night ride in the country for Mrs. Irene Nolan and her priest, Father Garrett Burke. It was New Year’s Eve 1917 and Mr. Nolan, a prominent Denver businessman, was out of town but asked the priest, a friend of the family, to watch over his wife because she was “fond of the butterfly life.”

After midnight, Father Burke and Mrs. Nolan, who had shared a New Year’s celebration with champagne at her home at 1276 Corona Street, arrived at the Model Roadhouse, located on Brighton Boulevard where it crosses Sand Creek. Their explanation was that the father’s car was acting up and that they stopped at the roadhouse to make a phone call for a mechanic. When they entered the roadhouse, Father Burke remembered, patrons were “dancing and having a jollification.” Prohibition had gone into effect in Colorado in 1915, five years ahead of the federal ban, but savvy patrons could bring their liquor and order “set-ups” from the bar.

The couple was escorted to a private room off the barroom to await the arrival of the mechanic. At about 3:30 in the morning, two masked men burst into their room, fired several shot into the floor and relieved Mrs. Nolan of $4,000 in diamonds. She was so distraught, she said, that she drank a whiskey to calm her nerves, but a waiter who served them during the five or so hours they were at the roadhouse recalled delivering ten glasses of highball ingredients. “They were pretty well liquored up.”

Mulligan’s defense at his trial was that he was too drunk to have carried out the holdup. He testified that he confessed to Hamilton Armstrong, Denver’s chief of police, “I made an ass of myself, chief. I was at the roadhouse. I went out there with a man named Kerrigan and Tommy Bartless. They had a couple of bottles of whiskey and I got drunk. I can’t stand whiskey and I know it. This time I allowed it to get the best of me. Robbery was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, I was too drunk to plan or carry out a robbery if I chose to do so.”

Other witnesses disagreed. Mulligan’s co-defendant, Philip Cohen, a 33-year-old fruit dealer from Denver and Greeley, claimed that it was the Denver detective who put him up to it.

The diamonds were mysteriously recovered, mailed in a package from Pueblo some weeks later. The thieves apparently thought they would be forgiven for their crime. They weren’t.  On April 5, 1920, Cohen and Mulligan each were given sentences of five to seven years for highway robbery and grand larceny. Newspapers said Mulligan, 44, “cried like a child” when the verdict was read. Both men entered the state penitentiary in Canon City on April 13. Mulligan was paroled on May 27, 1922, having served twenty-three months of his sentence and Governor Oliver Shoup pardoned him on January 8, 1923.

Mulligan, who pursued a career as a car salesman and electrician after his dismissal from the police department, died at the age of 66 in 1942 and was interred at Riverside Cemetery on September 8. He and his wife, Effie, who died in 1956, are buried side-by-side in Section 19 with simple granite markers.

By Dick Kreck, Retired Newpaperman

UCD Partners with FHF to Preserve Riverside

UCD College of Architecture & Planning Partners with

Fairmount Heritage Foundation to Develop a Master Plan to

Preserve Historic Riverside Cemetery

The University of Colorado Denver, College of Architecture & Planning Advanced Landscape Ecology Workshop, has selected Historic Riverside Cemetery as one of its project sites. Founded in 1876, without a written agreement on water rights, Riverside is Denver’s oldest operating and most unique cemetery, and was designated a National Historic District in 1994. Focus of the project will be the application of ecological concepts to landscape design, and on the role of the landscape architect in creating ecologically and socially sustainable systems.  In 2013, efforts will concentrate on the Riverside wetlands, an area rich with wildlife and native plants.

Previous projects include:

  • Overland Park Renovation; the first “habitat park” in Colorado, had lost its irrigation system and potential similar to Riverside.
  • Birding for the Blind- a wetlands education project for Bluff Lake Nature Center
  • Berthoud Pass Historic Wagon Trail – a historic, accessibly designed trail in Empire provides a challenge course for the disabled as well as others interested in the history and ecology of the area.

UCD Architecture Professor Charles Chase said “the intention is to connect students with real world design issues and organizations that can create projects but need assistance with the planning and design components as well as linking the local community to the project design and implementation wherever possible.”

The Fairmount Heritage Foundation’s Riverside Revival, an effort to establish an environmentally sustainable landscape, now in its 5th year, is greatly enhanced through this alliance. According to Fairmount Heritage Foundation Executive Director, Patricia Carmody, “the Riverside Revival is about preserving Riverside Cemetery for future generations as an educational resource–for everything from history to horticulture. This project is an example of community collaboration at its best.”

Advanced Landscape Ecology Workshop students will focus on the development and application of ecological thinking and seeing in project design and implementation.  Human ecological and social needs will provide direction with Universal Design applications and Wildland Urban Interface issues included.

UCD-Students-at-Lester-Drake-MonumentAbout UCD College of Architecture & Planning – Master of Landscape Architecture

Landscape architects articulate and design physical spaces supporting healthy, ethical relationships between people, place, and resources while enhancing the inherent qualities of that place. One hundred and fifty years ago our profession rose to meet challenges presented in a rapidly changing industrializing world. Today, pressures of globalization, unprecedented growth, loss of heritage, disconnection between people and the natural environment, and environmental degradation require our design profession to bring the art and science, and the integrity of landscape architecture to bear on issues requiring designs for environmental and cultural solutions. More about UCD College of Architecture & Planning

National Geographic Channel Films at Riverside

On a beautiful breezy day in June 2011, the Fairmount Heritage Foundation met with a Shine TV film crew at Riverside Cemetery to film an episode for the National Geographic Channel. An advance team had already met with Patricia Carmody and Ray Thal in May that year to view the archival documents and take some background video in preparation for the shoot.

 The crew had traveled across Colorado in their quest for answers to the identity of a man buried in the old City Cemetery (now Cheesman Park) that had been unearthed during recent construction. They interviewed many of our partners and collaborators including: Tom Noel, Dr. Colorado (; James Jeffrey, Denver Public Library, Genealogy Collection Specialist ( and and William Convery, State Historian, Director of Exhibits and Interpretation (  And now they were at Riverside to film the final segment…

Filming-History-Cold-Case-at-RivTo learn more about the mystery you’ll want to tune into the National Geographic Channel on May 10th ; look for The Decrypters USA – Cowboy Corpse. To see a preview of the Riverside segment of the show visit: