Walk through the headstones and footstones and you’ll see the organizations that have held communities together through fraternal groups, veteran groups, or religious affiliations. You can see how deeply the people were committed to themselves and their country, to ideas like duty, honor and faith.
Note the relationships or orientations of headstones and the way in which the deceased were buried. As a simple means of respect, don’t tread over the bodies buried there. Please be aware of funeral processions. If you are wearing a hat, please take it off and stand still until the last car passes. Don’t take photos of processions.
Jeff Campbell, 2008
Ways to Tour Local Cemeteries
You could chose to walk among the soldiers of the Civil War, the War with Mexico, the Spanish-American War, Philippine – Spanish War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Persian Gulf War and the Iraq and Afghan Wars. Or chose to look for the oldest burials in each cemetery, or for the person who was born furthest back in time. You might find octogenarians and infants who died before they could know life and all it holds.
You could seek out the patterns of epidemics that hit the plains, like the influenza epidemic that hit the United States (and the World) in about 1918-19, killing 600,000 in the U.S. alone. You could take an historical approach and seek out those people who were known, famous or infamous in their contributions to the culture of southeast Colorado. You could also seek out the people who came to the West of the United States leaving oppression or just trying to find an opportunity to own their own piece of ground in this New World.
Southeastern Colorado is a path from plains to mountains, on the way to destinations like the Pacific or trade in New Mexico. The famous, infamous and ordinary crossed this country. In the first half of the 1800’s Baptiste Charboneau (son of Sacajawea), the Bent brothers, John Charles Fremont, Tom Fitzpatrick, a young J. E. B. Stuart, Kit Carson and scores of other adventurers and explorers put tracks on the ground of the Arkansas Valley. In the second half of the 1800’s Generals like Sherman and Sheridan, the Grand Duke of Russia, the Earp brothers, Bat Masterson and Doc Holliday crossed the region. In the 20th century came emigrants from around the world, capitalists, and dreamers. The area became a destination as mountain men vanished and traders, farmers and rancher dug in.
The Bent, Carson, Prowers, Boggs and Boone families and the Hiram Holly and Charles Goodnight cattlemen established bases for commerce and later the cattle industry. Eventually the sugar beet industry came to Holly, Lamar, Sugar City and Swink. These were followed by railroads, irrigation canal companies and other agribusinesses.
On this cemetery tour you will find Indian, Italian, Japanese, Swedish, French, Lebanese, Hispanic, Scots, Irish, English, African-American, Scandinavian and other ethnic and national groups. Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Far Eastern religions are all represented. Fraternal, social and civic groups are represented as are popular period themes. Those who served from the 1840’s to present representing every branch of the service have a place of honor, as did police, sheriffs and firemen. Service is exemplified in the people who were laid to rest here.
For more information on the cemeteries of the region, see the County Clerks and Assessors or go to the Town Offices. Look up museum curators and volunteers. Don’t forget local newspaper offices and of course the internet: www.interment.net; www.NetSleuth.com; www.USGenWeb.org, and great local sites like www.coloradoplains.com/otero.