On a little knoll east of Edwards and only a hundred steps from an active school, marble headstones and withered metal grave markers silently keep vigil over the cemetery’s residents. The serenity of the place gives one the sense of timelessness. Sagebrush rudely interrupts family plots. Fallen fences disappear into the ground.
To the north, cars zip along I-70. To the east, kids squeal as they swing on play sets or chase one another at recess from Eagle County Charter Academy. To the west of the school few trees partially hide the cemetery. Below the knoll sits another elementary school, middle school, sports fields and a college campus. So well hidden is the cemetery that it has long been abandoned to the wind and dirt and sagebrush. Many of those buried here died in the late 1800s, and based on inscriptions, only a few graves have been added since 1950.
Perhaps no place along the Eagle River is as majestic as where Lake Creek joins the Eagle River. Lush meadows butt against jagged peaks of the Sawatch Range. Wildlife called it home until the first frenzy of gold hit Leadville, then people trickled down Battle Mountain and into the lower Eagle River Valley. Few settlers were found in the area prior to 1882 when Harrison Berry located a ranch on the north side of the river. In 1887, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reached Berry’s Ranch. Later it was renamed Edwards after Melvin Edwards of Red Cliff and who later served as Secretary of State for Colorado.
With the arrival of the train, new settlers discovered the Eagle River Valley. Ranching, mining and logging were prime enterprises. Along with the influx of people came death, while certainly uninvited. Thus the early settlers needed a place to bury their dead.
The term cemetery derives from the Greek (koimeterion) and Latin (coemeterium) words for “sleeping place”. The location and organization of cemeteries, the way in which they are kept, and the inscriptions on, and shape and size of grave markers, reflect beliefs and notions about death and life and set the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.
The Edwards Cemetery tells its own story. Few boundaries mark the exact perimeters of the cemetery perimeter. People who were prominent in Minturn, Avon, Edwards, Eagle and other surrounding areas have been laid to rest in Edwards. Some headstones are large, few are elaborate, while other graves are marked by bent and rusted metal signs. A few graves hold the remains of people who lived a long life and other graves are a reminder that life can be cut short. It is obvious that this forgotten cemetery held loved ones who walked away and didn’t come back. Let’s go back a hundred or more years to see who lies beneath those lovingly placed headstones and markers.
A beautiful gray marble headstone marks the final resting place of William Booco. Born in Gallipolis, Ohio, in 1831, Booco and his descendants were some of the first to settle in Eagle County. His son George, built one of the first cabins in Minturn in 1882, homesteaded a chunk of land and in 1904 donated a large parcel of that land to the settlement. Originally the new town was called Booco, due to his contribution. After the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad arrived in 1887, the town was renamed Minturn for Robert B. Minturn, a railroad shipping millionaire who was vice president of the rail line. The headstone in the Edwards Cemetery is testament to the Booco family. An obituary informed readers that in 1904, “Mr. William Booco dropped dead at his home one- and-a-half miles north of Wolcott and was laid to rest overlooking the Eagle River.” Perhaps no other headstone in the run-down cemetery is more noteworthy than that of Charles Fenno, (1887-1940).
Fenno was born in Leadville in 1887 when the furious rush to find silver hit the town. Although he never married, he was the first in a long line of Fennos to travel over Battle Mountain and settle in Squaw Creek in Edwards. His brother, Louis, married Edith Nilson in Leadville. In 1910, the couple moved to Squaw Creek where, in 1912, Fenno filed a homestead and began a long and successful ranching and homesteading family venture. The couple had three children: Ida, Mary and Louis. Until 1946, when they retired to their ranch, Mary and her husband, Clifford, ran a store in Edwards that also housed the local post office. After their deaths in 1956, Louis continued ranching the homestead until the family sold the property, which became Cordillera. The old ranch barn can still be seen along with rusty farm equipment, while million-dollar homes line Fenno Drive where cattle once grazed. In a fenced-off section of the cemetery are several flat tombstones. One of those belongs to William “Duke” Henry Wellington, who was considered to be a real pioneer. Born in Illinois in 1852, Wellington eventually migrated to Howard County, Kansas, where in 1877 he married Martha Dutton. Next he surfaced in Oklahoma and finally landed in Edwards in 1895.
Wellington soon began carrying the mail between the post office in Edwards, and the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad station, also located in Edwards. He made 14 mail delivery trips per week traveling a distance of 2,264 feet in elevation gain per trip, using his buckboard pulled by Pete, the mule. Wellington carried the mail for 42 years and claimed it was the only mule mail route in the United States. In 1910, he even hauled freight for a company of doctors from Toledo, Ohio, to the East Lake Creek mines. Eventually, those mines did not prove as profitable as the those in the Fulford or Holy Cross districts.
The Wellingtons had 11 children. The youngest child, Ester was born in 1899 and, over the years taught school in Wolcott, Avon, Minturn and Pando. In 1928, she married Benjamin Klatt and continued to reside at the family ranch until tragedy struck. One day, while at the Edwards store, Klatt and his brother-in- law, William Wellington, began a heated argument over the cabin where Wellington lived, but was owned by Klatt. Whatever angered Wellington, we’ll never know but he left the store, returned with a rifle and shot Klatt, who was seated at the store counter – hitting him in the left cheek – and was arrested and accused of murder.
And then there was the Hyde family. Bert Hyde, the son of Andrew and Emmaline, was born May 2, 1875. His parents came to Eagle County in 1887 and settled on a ranch at the head of Lake Creek. Hyde began a ranching tradition in Edwards that lasted for decades. He and his wife ldie Powers, who he married in 1915, had five children, four of whom preceded him in death and are also buried in the Edwards Cemetery. Their daughter, Arduth, was born on the ranch in 1918, went to school in Edwards and married Con Ira Calhoun. Arduth and Con raised four boys.
Arduth lived at the ranch until her death in 2010. And to this day, the Calhoun family continues to ranch the property. In 1997 The Lazy Ranch, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was the winner of the Barn Again! Farm Heritage Award for the restoration of its 90-year-old barn The early years at Edwards and Lake Creek were difficult for pioneers and were considered one of the last frontiers. Of course, guns and arguments didn’t always get along. For John Pallister this was the case. Pallister came to Lake Creek with his wife, Ella, who was a caring wife and devoted mother of thirteen children.
However, Pallister had a temper and the entire community lived in fear and dread, never knowing when he might explode. There was always trouble in the Pallister’s neighborhood. Stock was shot and killed on the range; fires mysteriously started; property was stolen; machinery was somehow damaged and three men mysteriously disappeared. Pallister was never arrested for any of this but his neighbors thought he was responsible for all of it.
At one time, he was shot in the jaw by a neighbor after a night of drinking and an argument. So it’s no surprise that in 1902 he was killed when he claimed a man named L.A. Siddall still owed him $5 for a horse Pallister had sold to him. Eventually they, too, had an argument and guns were drawn by both men – a rifle and six shooter – and after the smoke cleared, Pallister lay dead. Siddall claimed self defense Keep in mind, that the early pioneer days were not easy. They were often turbulent and heart-wrenching, as evidenced by the burial markers that are testament to lives given and then snatched away too soon. Little Isaac Norman was born in 1890 and died 11 days later. Twin Nottingham boys born in the spring of 1908 did not live to see a winter. Dolly Ridgeway was 14 when she died. In 1913, while playing on the bank of a creek some 200 yards above the Eagle River at Avon, the two-year-old son of C.
H. Adams tumbled into the stream and drowned and was buried in the Edwards Cemetery. His parents, however, were inconsolable and left Colorado, leaving their beloved child behind. Little Olive Hyde, 12 years old, died after only a few hours of being diagnosed with pneumonia. Her two-year-old brother is buried beside her. Eula Wetherbell, daughter of H. and Lizzie Wetherbell died July 3, 1903, at the age of 6 years. Her headstone reads “A light is from our household gone / A voice we loved is stilled / A place is vacant in our home / Which never can be filled.”
Still, you won’t find a headstone or marker for every person buried at the Edwards Cemetery. Snow and decay have left the surfaces of many plots barren. Loved ones laid their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children to rest there, high on the windswept hill where sagebrush crowds the memorials. Across the valley, ski slopes are visible. The cemetery is a fine place to reflect about lives lived in an earlier time when taming the land or digging for gold lured new people into not-so-friendly territory.
If you visit the Edwards Cemetery, stroll through dried grass and sidestep the brush. Reflect on the pioneers who made this place their own. Some who lived long lives, and others who died too soon rest here. Feel a breeze on your cheek and then gaze to the vistas surrounding the cemetery. You then can understand why this resting place was chosen – on a hill overlooking a place called home.