The Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative will present its annual Alma Buckskin Cemetery Moonwalk, Saturday, Oct. 12. Those walking through the cemetery will be able to listen to the dead speak, soaking in the flavors of Alma’s history and maybe come upon an occasional ghost.
The town of Buckskin (sometimes called Buckskin Joe) was established in 1860, and the cemetery has been in use since 1863. As Alma became a bustling new town, Buckskin’s days faded.
The cemetery will be populated with various costumed characters representing some of the colorful figures associated with the Alma area. Like voices from the grave, each character had a story to tell.
Alma’s colorful characters
(The Flume May, 15, 1879 – The Flume has been and will remain a zealous advocate of the miners’ cause. Without any disposition to boast we may say that it lies in our power to materially enhance or depreciate the mining interests in this district.
Our miner friends should remember that they can aid their own cause by giving the paper a hearty support. If you are not taking it now, subscribe at once, and if you already have it prevail on some other one to order it.)
Gold and silver brought people to Park County, and it was no different in Buckskin. As the town grew, miners, merchants and families settled in the area. And many of them were laid to rest in the Buckskin Cemetery.
And when people congregate, a preacher is never far behind.
Father Dyer was a Methodist circuit preacher who headed out from Ohio to the Territory of Colorado in 1861. When his horse gave out in Omaha, Nebraska, he walked the last 700 miles to Buckskin.
He was quick to preach against gambling, alcohol and prostitution, the common activities of miners. He walked over Mosquito Pass several times a week to find people who would listen to his message.
And when he was short of cash, he would prospect for placer gold in the gulches.
(The Flume, April 29, 1880 – May will show our town (Alma) in good running order and will show four hotels… a restaurant, a drugstore, two blacksmith shops, two clothing stores, three billiard halls with bars, three saloons, a grocery store, a shoemaker shop, two meat markets and two livery stables.)
Where you have mines and miners, commerce is not far behind. And the most famous purveyors of merchandising in Buckskin were Horace and Augusta Tabor.
They opened a store in Buckskin in 1861 and relocated to Oro City a few months later to look for gold. After living in Leadville for a year, by 1863 they were back in the Buckskin/Alma area.
He was the postmaster until 1868, even though his wife handled most of the postal duties, and to make extra money, she took in boarders and washed laundry.
In 1878, at the start of the silver boom, Tabor managed to turn his ownership of mining stock into a million-dollar sale, and in 1879 he purchased the Matchless Mine.
(The Flume, Dec. 14, 1882 - Silver is down to $1.101and lead is quoted at $4.25. Yet the ore buyers do not appear to be disturbed about the ultimate results.)
The Sherman Silver Purchase Act was passed in 1890. By December 1894 the price was down to 60 cents an ounce. The rest is history.
(The Flume, Nov. 18, 1880 - Last Saturday a man, whose name we suppress, shot a hole in the floor of the Southern Hotel (Alma) and went outside and drew his revolver on a friend. Marshall Link led him off to the cooler. In there he continued to yell and swear that he would set the building on fire.)
And he did.
Some of the men played hard, drank heartily and died lonely, perhaps none harder than the miners and gamblers.
Thomas Faley was born May 22, 1853, and was a hard drinking but picturesque miner who died drunk during a snowstorm. As a nod to his drinking habits, even his horse was named Whiskey. It was assumed he died Feb. 5, 1888, on his way to his mine, and his body wasn’t found until four months later.
Henry Beal, a professional gambler, may have made a lot of money but he didn’t make too many friends.
Faro was the most favored gambling game of the 19th century. But to cheat at it required a special dealers box that would let the dealer know which card is coming out of the box next.
Dealing faro from the hand required the ability to stack the deck, or special decks with cards that were shaved, textured or uneven.
Beal probably stuck to poker, which required no special apparatus or altered cards, just good manipulative skills.
Eventually Beal was asked to leave the Buckskin area and was given a one-way ticket out of town on a stagecoach.
And the man who set fire to the jail? He escaped and was rearrested a few days later, fined for $111.50 and advised to leave town, which he immediately did.
(The Flume, Aug. 5, 1880 – Our festival came off when advertised and was the event of the season. The supper was splendid and the delicacies abundant. Credit is due the ladies who got it up so tastefully.)
In historical accounts and old newspapers, it seems that “the ladies” were always planning for a dance, taking in laundry or rallying against all forms of vice and immorality.
But not all women were relegated to civic endeavors.
Widow Fanny Smith traded the ice cream socials for the dank, dark insides of a mine.
The legendary Silverheels, dancer and “fancy lady,” was credited with saving the lives of many men when smallpox struck Buckskin in 1861. The healthy citizens fled, and she stayed among the sick administering medicine, food and comfort.
There were women who owned ranches, had businesses and hauled mail. If there was a job to do, it was not unusual to find a woman doing it.
(The Flume, Sept. 22, 1881 – John Cowan, the town marshal of Alma, died on Monday evening of a complications of pneumonia and heart disease.)
All through the economic ups and downs, the one business that always flourished was the cemetery.
Death came in various forms, from accidents to old age, but the most heartbreaking deaths were the children.
Children were overwhelmed by infectious disease. Cholera infantum, consumption and influenza were common.
William M. Foley saw many of those children whose lives ended so abruptly. He was the first caretaker of the cemetery, and he played his banjo at the funerals.
You will be able to meet these historic people and many more during the walk through the cemetery. Docents will be playing the various characters, and will give visitors short history lessons about the Alma/Buckskin past.
Family tours of the cemetery for those with small children begin at 6:30 p.m. and regular tours start at 7:30 p.m. and continue until 9:30 p.m. From downtown Alma, take County Road 8 west and follow the signs.
There will be homemade cookies, cider and hot chocolate available after the tour.