|When my parents and sister were at the Lynn Grove Cemetery over Memorial weekend to decorate our grandparents' graves, my mother stumbled upon this unique marker. It was not the stone that was unusual but the epitaph that this was the final resting place for 10 circus men who died in a railroad car fire. My sister took a picture of it and sent it my way and of course curiosity got the better of me.
According to an article I found on the Greeley Tribune site the Orton's Anglo-American Circus train was moving from a show in Fort Collins to Greeley, where they were scheduled to perform
|the next day. At 12:30 am the engineer saw the flames and immediately slammed on the braking system of the train. The fire blocked both escape doors leaving only one small window for attempted escapes. Men outside began carrying water and pouring bucketfuls on the flames but that did little to stop the rapidly spreading blaze. Meanwhile, hearing the screams of the men inside the car, the engineer uncoupled the engine and sped to Greeley to find a doctor. He returned with Dr. Jesse Hawes, one of Greeley's most respected physicians. The injuries to the burned were horrific and it was too late to save the 10 men who burned alive in the railroad car.
The coroner's inquest determined the fire was probably started when one of the circus workers carrying a torch laid it down in the train car to play cards. The railroad car slept 60, in three tiers of berths on each side of the car. With no electricity in the car, they used torches, matches or lanterns to find their way. Though it was believed that a torch started the fire through the car, officials couldn't find a reason why it spread so quickly. After the inquest, others stepped forward to explain that the circus manager had stacked barrels of highly flammable naphtha in the car, blocking both doorways. The article went on to say that after the fire, the circus manager changed their schedule and turned the train south to Denver, where they performed the next day, leaving the 10 dead men to be buried at the expense of the county. The circus manager also allegedly tried to take the injured men on the train with them in order not to have to pay for hospital care, but Dr. Hawes refused to release them.
Most of the men who died were drifters picked up along the way, and no one knew them very well. The names included Alex McLeod, John Kelly, and men known only by their first names of Andy, Frank, George, Smithee and Frenchee. The other three men were never identified. The day after the fire, the dead were buried in a large 7-foot by 10-foot coffin in what was then the pauper's section of Lynn Grove Cemetery. A small cement marker, provided by the county, identified the grave for more than 100 years. The markings on the stone had almost disappeared, leaving the circus workers' grave unidentified, when in 1999, Greeley Monument Works donated a new stone.
Oh, the Raven? That is our good friend Mortimer. He accompanies us on our cemetery outings.
|As a kid the first thing I would do when I picked up a book was to see how many pictures it had in it, if none or few, back it went. I guess then it should be no surprise that I love how gravestones tell their tales through symbols. Here are a few fascinating finds....|
|These two grave are from the Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado.|
|The Hatch stone is a plethora of symbolism. The cross with the crown usually symbolizes both victory and Christianity. It can also sometimes denote members of the York Rite Masons. The palm branch signifies victory over death and rejoicing. A completed pillar or column represents a complete and full life; steadfastness; support of heaven. Ivy can mean abiding memory, friendship, fidelity or immortality. The fern implies humility and sincerity.|
|The Snyder stone also has the palm branch meaning victory over death and rejoicing along with the symbol of the Knights of Pythias. This fraternal organization was founded after the Civil War. Their emblem is a knight's helmet with a bird atop, a shield with skull and crossbones and the initials, FCB, which stands for Friendship, Charity, and Benevolence. The added three chain links indicates they also belonged to the Odd Fellows, another fraternal society that originated in the United Kingdom.|
|The photos below were taken at the Riverside Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.|
|A torch is a symbol of eternity; however, on this stone where it is inverted, it can suggest the end of life or represent the end of a family line.||The elk with the B.P.O.E. means the deceased was a member of the fraternal organization, The Elks.
The B.P.O.E. stands for Benevolent Protective Order of Elks.
|A women holding an anchor represents hope.||The pointing up hand
is the symbol for the pathway to heaven.
|Not sure on this one. Kind of looks like dandelions to me, which has multiple meanings: grief and bitterness; symbol of the sun; symbol of coquetry, used by Flemish and German painters to symbolize the suffering of Christ.|
|The harp symbolizes praise to the maker or harmony. Though in this case I am not exactly sure that was the message they were going for.|
|My sister and I are drawn to crypts and mausoleums. I am sure part of it is due to their old world architecture with ornate symbols, etchings and finials. They have an eerie mysterious lure about them. When my sister spotted the 3 private family mausoleums at Riverside Cemetery I think we both let out an "oooooo."
The first mausoleum we came to was also the first one constructed in Riverside. It was built sometime between 1884 and 1890 for Hartsville F. Jones. It was made from red sandstone with detailed carved symbolism above the arched wooden door. But the mystery here is what we
|learned afterwards about the Jones Mausoleum...it is vacant.
My sister and I were not only intrigued by a potential real estate acquisition (dare we say All Us All the Time World Headquarters), but why anyone would create such an ornate monument and not be buried in it. In later reading Denver's Riverside Cemetery Where the History Lies by Annette L. Student (a HUGE thank you to Mom for my own personal copy) we do not find any answers, but definitely an interesting tale.
Accordingly, Jones married his first wife in 1859, whom he divorced in 1877. He married again but his second wife died in 1888. Then in 1892 he married yet a third time and left this wife a widow when he passed away in 1900 at the age of 74. However, before he was entomb the first Mrs. Jones shows back up on the scene and challenges that the divorce decree was invalid and that she was due
|his military pension. The case went to court but it is not clear what was the outcome of the ruling or what happened to poor Hartsville F. Jones' body. What we do know is he did not end up in his beautifully built mausoleum.
Oh, but the tale does not end there. The book goes on to say that in 1950 two teenage boys found a corpse in the mausoleum. They notified the police, who thought the man had been murdered. However, the cemetery superintendent arrived on the scene and explained that the coroner's office frequently used the empty crypt over the years for storage of dead bodies that had been pulled out of the river, badly burned, or otherwise unidentifiable.
Before my sister and I make an offer we would need to have in writing that this course of action is no longer in practice :).
Fall Foliage at Fairmount
|My sister and I paid a visit to the Fairmount Cemetery in Denver Colorado. It was a beautiful day, mid-seventies with a light autumn breeze. There were just a handful of visitors at gravesides and a few canines being walked along the peaceful roadways. A perfect day for a sister cemetery walk, well that is unless one sister has a nasty cold, then it is not quite as perfect. My sister is a trooper though and thus despite watering eyes, constant sneezing, and a tissue glued to her nose, she insisted that she was up for the adventure.
Fairmount Cemetery was founded in 1890 and the second oldest cemetery in the Denver area. Like Riverside, it was designed to emulate the cemetery parks back east and has sweeping vistas, rich green lawns
|and clusters of trees through out its 285 acres. It is home to the Ivy Chapel, a French Gothic Design that is 90 feet high, also built in 1890. I know from the monuments and crypts that we walked past (and peered into), Fairmount has a lot more to tell than the brochure version I gave you above. However, not even the finest of Italian and French architecture can take someone's mind off of being miserable, and besides, her tissue supply was running dangerously low.
Thus instead of seeking out those lost stories this cemetery has to tell, we got back in our car and searched out the nearest pharmacy for some heavy-duty cold meds (and more tissue).
Here are a few snap shots of the Fairmount tombs' foliage from our short stay. I am sure we will learn more about their tales when we return.
|Traveling around the bend on a two-lane highway through an industrial area thick with smokestacks, warehouses and railroad tracks, one might miss seeing the tombstones to the west of the road. All right, I did miss them, but luckily my sister did not. After finding a place to turn around and spotting the small gate entrance, we proceeded to wait 20 minutes as a freight train with coal strolled by in front of our vehicle. Once it past we were able to safely cross over the tracks and through the gate into the oldest cemetery in Denver that is still in existence. We read about the Riverside Cemetery in From the Grave by Linda Wommack, a book we had given our mother for her birthday a few years back. Despite questioning Google Maps about its location, we decided one Saturday to venture out to this National Historical District.|
|Founded in 1876, Riverside was the first landscaped cemetery of its kind in the Rocky Mountain West. Emulated after the East Coast cemetery parks, it started out as a peaceful oasis of luscious lawns, trees, shrubbery and flowers nestled in by the South Platte River providing a sanctuary for not only the souls buried there but also for the families who visited and cherished them. At one point Riverside had two greenhouses on site and its own crematory. Some of the most prominent figures in Denver's history are residing there including three territorial Colorado governors, numerous mayors and civic figures. It is also the home of pioneers, cattlemen, and, well, let's just say a few more colorful characters of Colorado's past.|
|The statuary above the ground, a lost and forgotten art itself, tells just as an intriguing story as the souls that lie beneath it. Riverside has provided a canvas for angels, goddesses, urns and other monuments for over 130 years. A common figure used during the Victorian era was that of a robed woman draping her arms around a cross or an angel without wings leaning against an anchor, an ancient symbol of hope. Draped and undraped urns were an 18th-century neoclassical mourning symbol signifying destiny and purity of life. Other notable monuments include a white, life-size horse on top of a 6-foot pedestal, a sandstone replica of a little boy's dog, a 10-foot bronze statue of a man on a granite base, a hand-carved replica of a pioneer's cabin, and a small white brick chapel of the Holy Archangel Michael. The cemetery is also adorned with Orthodox, Serbian, Christian, and Latin crosses. Then facing the river and the Rocky Mountains, there are three ornate private family mausoleums side by side.|
|Today the cemetery for the most part has been forgotten and ignored. The railroad gained right-a-way access along the southeast side and the surrounding lands slowly turned into an industrial park. Fairmount Cemetery Association eventually acquired Riverside, but they lacked the proper funding to maintain the grounds. In 2003 they could no longer afford to water and the green oasis became no more giving the cemetery a dead of winter appearance for all the seasons. Though a victim of neglect and vandalism, Riverside still has an alluring and mystic charm about it. Perhaps this is because those forgotten souls with lost art embellishing their graves, still have a tale to tell.|
This is a digital collage created by artist Pamela McCarville
|My sister took this photograph of a Woodmen of the World gravestone when she and my parents were visiting the Lynn Grove Cemetery in Greeley, Colorado to decorate our grandparents’ graves. That happened to be the same day a mile-wide tornado ripped through the town of Windsor only about 18 miles away. She was amazed at how well the photo turned out considering it was taken in 50 mph wind gust and threatening dark clouds looming above. But maybe that is just one more element of the mystic that shrouds the Woodmen of World stones.
It is easy to see why this stone caught my sister’s eye. The intricacy of the carving is remarkable with the detail of the tree bark, the vines of ivy and the tools resting at the bottom of the trunk. Engraved on the stone was the wording “erected by the Woodmen of the World.” Of course, we had to do a Google Search, and found that this organization has a very interesting history.
The origin of the name “Woodmen” was never clearly documented according to the history and facts of the organization. In 1883, a man by the name of Joseph Cullen Root organized a fraternal society in Omaha, Nebraska, called Modern Woodmen of America. It was said that the woodcutter theme may have come from a sermon Root attended where the minister compared the community’s need to work together to "pioneer woodsmen coming together and clearing forests to provide for their families.” One of the benefits of being a member was that upon death, the other members would pass around a hat and donate money to the widow. Later when passing around the hat became more frequent and costly, Root decided to sell life insurance to members. Modern Woodmen of America became a fraternal benefit society. Membership was limited to white males aged 18 to 45 in good health that lead a high moral life, lived in small communities, did not have hazardous employment and exemplified good habits. Surprisingly, religion was not a characteristic that decided membership.
In 1890 members of the organization had a falling out and Root was evicted from the society. He then formed the Woodmen of the World. For the most part this organization was similar to its predecessor. A few differences were now men between the ages of 16 and 52 were eligible for membership and were offered a burial benefit as well as death and disability benefits. One source I found also said that the new organization "took extra steps to maintain the secrecy and mystery associated with its ceremonies." Fred A Falkenburg, a leader in the society, moved to Denver in 1899 and formed the Woodmen of the World Pacific Jurisdiction. The Woodmen of the World society still remains today, as an insurance company, providing service to over 800,000 members across the nation.
One of the objectives of Root when he founded the Woodmen more than a 100 years ago was to provide a decent burial for all members. At the beginning gravestones were furnished to members free of charge. Woodmen gravestones were originally intended to be all the same from a design that was sent from the home office to the local stonecutters. However, not all cutters followed the design and the result was a wide range of designs, shapes, and sizes that reflected members' personal tastes and included elements that were symbolic of Woodmen ceremonies or rituals. A tree stump, part of the society's logo, is the most common symbol used on gravestone designs, and many have the society’s motto engraved, Dum, Tacet Clamat (though silent, he speaks), and the stones can stand anywhere from a foot to ten feet high.
During the 1920’s the society stopped providing the stone markers to members because of their cost as well as cemeteries began prohibiting above ground markers for maintenance reasons. However, these older stones can be found in several cemeteries through out the United States. In Colorado, besides at the Lynn Grove cemetery in Greeley, they can also be found at the cemeteries in Alma, Durango, Cortez and Salida. There is one cemetery in Grand Rivers, Kentucky that only has Woodmen gravestones and another cemetery in Laredo, Texas has a Woodmen only section. In fact, it is not uncommon to find at least one Woodmen stone in most old cemeteries across the United States.
|Woodmen of the World tombstone photos from the Riverside Cemetery in Denver CO.|
|During our first short visit to Fairmount Cemetery in Denver CO, My sister and I stumbled upon Fred A Falkenburg, who formed the Woodmen of the World Pacific Jurisdiction. We did not know Fairmount was his final resting place and may have overlooked it if the plague on the back of his monument did not catch our eye. We both found it interesting that despite him being a top figure in the organization, his stone did not resemble the traditional Woodmen of the World markers.|