Around Halloween, cemeteries become a popular backdrop for scary tales. But cemeteries are more than a place to remember our loved ones or be a setting for spooky stories. That’s because there’s history in those headstones.
“Cemeteries tell the history of an area because generally they start out very small and then, as the area grows, more and more people are buried there,” said Erin Schmitz, the curator of collections and archives for the Museums of Western Colorado.
Schmitz is an expert on the whose who of whose buried in area cemeteries, and she is leading historical tours through the Grand Valley’s burial grounds.
“The cemetery history tours started last year. We bring people out and we take them through the various parts of the cemetery to show them the historical figures who lived in town, give them a little bit of a background. Tell them how they lived, how they died.”
The history in the Orchard Mesa Cemetery is rich, from the graves of those who founded Grand Junction, to the final resting place of Civil War soldiers whose names were unknown.
And there is the haunting story of a boy, the son of a general, who died during a freak windstorm in 1913.
“It happened at the old YMCA Building. There was a young man named Alfred Gallupe, who is actually buried in the cemetery. He was 13 years old when he passed away. He was coming home from school with some of his friends and the upper part of the roof had fallen. He had stopped to pick up a hat for a gentleman, and it fell on top of him and crushed him, and 2 days later he died.”
If you want to get up close to our valley’s history and hear some fascinating and strange tales, check out the museum’s cemetery tours.
“Everybody gets buried eventually, so it’s sort of the great equalizer in history,” said Schmitz.
The tour includes trips to both the Orchard Mesa Cemetery, and the Whitewater Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in the area.
The next tour is on October 27th. For information on the tour and how to register to go on it, click here.