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Lake City Cemeteries

City Cemetery

The City Cemetery, sometimes known as the Lower or Old Cemetery, came into existence in 1876. It is located on Cemetery Hill to the north of Lake City and just east of Colorado Highway 149 as it enters the town.

In February 1876, it was decided that a committee be appointed to select a site for a city cemetery.  T the Silver World newspaper observed: “ [The City Fathers] hope there will be no undue rivalry as to who shall be the first occupant, but if a certain party does not refrain from standing and reading copy on the case, this office will enjoy the honor of furnishing the first denizen of the ‘City of Dead.’”

The City Cemetery was started on several acres of hilly, pine covered ground north of Lake City which had originally been patented for a ranch. The land was never publicly owned and passed through several private ownerships, most recently the Carol White estate, before Hinsdale County acquired it in 1985.

There were apparently never any formal organization or records for the City Cemetery and burials took place on a haphazard basis and to this day, the majority of graves are unmarked. 

 

The City Cemetery, as a common burial ground, reflects the widest spectrum of life in the late 19th century. All classes and professions of the people ended up on this quite hillside; the butcher, the baker, the Bluff Street prostitute, laundrymen and teachers, attorneys, leaders of the church and society, actors, gamblers and musicians, and of course, the ever present miners and prospectors. Immigrant burials make up a large portion of the City Cemetery, and there are identifiable sections for Catholics, Italians and paupers. “Paupers Row”, a stark row of side by side unmarked graves, runs the length of the entrance gate. There is also an area which was apparently reserved for gamblers and prostitutes. The marker of Benjamin House, a Bluff Street faro dealer, who died in October 1876, is the oldest tombstone in the City Cemetery.

 

IOOF Cemetery

Silver Star Lodge, No. 27, International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), decided to create their own private burial ground on the northern outskirts of Lake City in 1877. The first burial to take place in this new cemetery, which is located on Cemetery Jill approximately a quarter mile west of Colorado Highway 149, was Andrew T. Hopkins, who died in April 1877.

John F. Dodds completed the first formal survey of the IOOF Cemetery on November 21, 1877. The original cemetery consisted of 3.82 acres on the Peter A. Simmons ranch. Burial in the IOOF Cemetery was intended to be very restrictive. In the early years of its existence, only members of the Odd Fellows Lodge or their immediate families were permitted to purchase burial plots. Restrictions had loosened somewhat by 1900, however, and members of other fraternities and sororities were allowed to be buried in the cemetery. The cemetery was later opened to the general public and finally taken over by Hinsdale County after the Odd Fellows Lodge was dissolved. The IOOF Cemetery remains the principal burial location for the area at this time. 

There are subtle differences between the City and IOOF Cemeteries. Due to its burial restrictions, the IOOF Cemetery contains fewer burials and it reflects a greater percentage of Lake City’s business and professional people. The memorials and fences of the IOOF Cemetery are in general more elaborate and costly than those in the City Cemetery. Where unmarked graves and wooden markers predominate in the City burial ground, the IOOF Cemetery features more stylish and permanent markers. Immigrant burials and a majority of the miners and prospectors are noticeably absent from the IOOF Cemetery.