COBWEB CORNERS: The Westside’s burying ground(s)
By Mel McFarland
I was reminded of this subject after meeting an old friend at the museum recently. Where was Colorado City's cemetery? Opened in 1895, Fairview is a fairly recent development, and the earlier ones are interesting.
The first known burying ground was up in Red Rock Canyon, west of the entrance to Bear Creek Canyon. It was not the easiest place to go even in the summer, but the winter was the most difficult. The ground froze, and during the winter the weather made it unpleasant to even travel there.
After about three years, the cemetery was moved down closer to town. A site on the hillside above Colorado City was picked out, but had to be abandoned. The top of the hill north of Colorado Avenue, now cut through by West Pikes Peak Avenue, had a commanding view of the area. The site proved unpopular for two reasons: too close to town and people used it as a gravel pit.
The residents selected another location, farther up the mesa. It was near the road to Denver (now 30th Street) and the branch road toward the east (later called Mesa Road). The spot commanded a view from Cheyenne Mountain to the Garden of the Gods. The plains to the east could also be seen, as well as the early-morning sunrise, all year round. Called Pioneer Cemetery, the site was used into the 20th century, but with the development of the larger Evergreen Cemetery (started in 1875) and later Fairview, it was abandoned and almost forgotten.
In the 1920s, there was an attempt to clean up Pioneer Cemetery. Many of the graves had wooden markers, and none of them could be read. In the 1930s, some of the graves were moved to other cemeteries. In the 1940s, people were starting to build houses on the mesa, and an effort was made to move more of the graves. In the 1950s, with a housing development around the former cemetery, the last of the surviving markers were removed and placed as riprap along Fountain Creek. In the 1970s, the city restudied the area in an effort to commemorate its previous use. The cemetery was renamed Pioneer Park. A metal detector club helped map the land, which resulted in more graves being found.
I was part of that project and well remember mapping the land. A plaque at the park explains some of the history.
Few people know that the area south of the Antlers Hotel, where a sports center is being proposed, was the site of Colorado Springs' first cemetery, before Evergreen was started.