Park County cemeteries are serene places of peace and beauty. According to the Boreas Pass Railroad Day website, there are 35 cemeteries in Park County. Some of these cemeteries are accessible by passenger car. Four-wheel drive vehicles are needed to access some cemeteries. Other Park County cemeteries are not publicly accessible.
Cemeteries in Park County were developed as town cemeteries, community cemeteries or family cemeteries, depending on their association with a settlement such as a town, mining camp, agricultural community, individual ranch or homestead.
There are several examples of beautiful town cemeteries in Park County. Fairplay Cemetery, established in 1863, is one such example. Fairplay Cemetery was established by the Town of Fairplay, Masonic Lodge and Odd Fellows Lodge #10. This cemetery has easy access just off U.S. Highway 285, sitting on a hill overlooking Fairplay and the Mosquito Range. Fairplay Cemetery is not difficult to walk with sturdy footwear.
Como Cemetery, another town cemetery, was established in 1887. There was an earlier cemetery in Como which was closed. According to History Colorado website, the cemetery was closed, “due to its location just above a spring that provided water for residents, leading to fears it was a possible source of water contamination.” Burials from the old cemetery were removed to the new one which sits on over four acres at an elevation of 9,916’. Como Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places April 10, 2017.
Above the Town of Alma, just outside the original townsite of Buckskin Joe, sits Buckskin Cemetery. U.S. Genweb Archive Project states that Buckskin Cemetery is “one of the oldest preserved cemeteries in Colorado, with 300-plus graves scattered among the trees.” Buckskin Cemetery was dedicated March 21, 1902, although many graves pre-date this. There are many burials from 1861, which coincides with the smallpox outbreak that occurred in Buckskin Joe that year. The most recent burial at Buckskin Cemetery was in 2016, according to Find A Grave website. While Buckskin Cemetery has a dirt road running throughout, it is scattered among the trees and is more difficult to walk and explore.
Hartsel Cemetery overlooks Hartsel. There are no signs identifying this cemetery or any visible boundary. While this cemetery was used for public burials, it now sits on private property. Permission is required to explore Hartsel Cemetery.
There are many other cemeteries that have less information including Baldwin Cemetery near Glen Isle and Harris Park Cemetery. Other graves are on old homesteads and are not accessible.
With a little knowledge about old cemeteries, they can become fascinating history lessons. Many gravestones tell the story of a mining accident, railway accident or maybe even an avalance. Some stones name multiple family members who died on the same day or multiple children from the same parents.
Our Victorian ancestors liked to used symbols on their gravestones. There are many websites and books dedicated to the hidden meanings behind gravestone symbols.
Masonic symbols and Elks Club symbols are easy to understand. Woodsmen of the World is a common symbol seen in old Colorado cemeteries. Woodsmen of the World represented an early insurance organization.
Lambs and cherubs often mark the grave of a small child. A broken column is commonly seen in Park County cemeteries and symbolizes a life cut short, for someone that was young or in the prime of their life when he or she died. Wheat is used to symbolize someone who lived to an old age.
Flowers as symbols on graves are especially interesting. Different flowers have different meanings, and how a flower is presented changes the meaning. For example, a rose is used for a young woman. If that rose is a broken bud, it symbolizes that girl was young, under the age of 12. A partially bloomed rose is for the death of a teenager. A woman in the prime of her life would have a fully bloomed rose. A rose intertwined symbolizes the bond between a mother and a child. The intertwined rose will usually represent a mother who died in childbirth.
There is a beautiful example of a flower engraved stone in Como Cemetery for a young girl named Daisy. Her stone is simply engraved with daisies.
Park County owns and operates four cemeteries: Horn Cemetery in Bailey, Bordenville Cemetery which is south of Jefferson, Lake George Cemetery and Como Cemetery. A Cemetery Board advises the Board of County Commissioners.
Buckskin Cemetery is managed by the Town of Alma. Fairplay Cemetery is managed by the Town of Fairplay.
Park County residents who have resided in Park County and paid Park County taxes for five years are eligible for burial in one of the four county-owned cemeteries. The cost of burial in a Park County cemetery is between $400 and $2000 depending on the cost to the county to prepare the site. There are two information documents regarding Park County cemeteries on the Park County website for individuals interested in burial in Park County. One document is Park County Cemetery Burial Policies. The second document is Rules and Regulations of Park County Owned Cemeteries.
Manicured lawns will not be found in any Park County cemeteries. Sections and rows may be difficult to follow. What will be found in Park County cemeteries are quiet, peaceful places of wild beauty that many residents have chosen as their final resting places.
If you do decide to explore any of these fascinating places, please remember they are cemeteries and should always be treated with respect.