Where the dead get to tell their story
By Jaclyn Schrock
On Saturday, August 21, the Gilpin Historical Society held their annual Cemetery Crawl. Tickets allowed the shuttle of hundreds of guests from the Teller House parking lot to the Cemetery. Depending on volunteers, guides and spirits to help raise funds for the Gilpin Historical Society and Museum, this year’s Cemetery Crawl was primarily orchestrated by board members Suzanne Matthews and Coleen Stewart, with Deb Wray and David Forsyth encouragement.
Arriving at Bald Mountain Cemetery, tents with tables set to welcome folks into a group of about 15 to be led by one of 10 guides dressed in Victorian wear. These guides knew the path through the cemetery to lead their group to their designated starting point. The guides rotated their groups along the marked path with those who are resting in marked or even unmarked graves. Upon arriving at each grave with a “spirit” storyteller, appearing as the individual themselves, their tale was told in 7 minutes under shade of forest grown trees on the beautiful day before the full moon.
Many people able to join the crawl and show respect for those who made huge sacrifices to endure the early mining days in Gilpin County, found a humbled position taking in the stories told by spirit of 10 who are buried in Bald Mountain Cemetery above Nevadaville.
Over 600 Colorado pioneers and miners are resting in peace under many pine and aspen trees, many are children and/or unmarked graves. The oldest graves were from 1865.
1 – Agnes Gates was born May 29, 1900 Georgetown, Texas – and died May 16, 1967 in Central City, Colorado. Emma Berg spoke as the “spirit” of Gates.
Agnes Gates was heard to say, “Though I was born in Texas, my family moved to Colorado when I was very young. By the age of 9 I began playing the piano at the Swedish Methodist Church in Denver, which set me up for a lifelong career of playing music, though writing was my passion. I went to Denver University for 3 years, but dropped out to pursue writing. I wrote short stories; romance was my genre. I was married three times: first to Clifford Best, together 11 years, divorced with 5 children in 1934; Raymond Nafziger, who wrote westerns (he and I moved to Central in 1945 but he died shortly after); my third husband was Frank “Pancho” Gates who was the technical director and prop man for the Opera House Association. I met Emmy Wilson after Raymond died and she and I created the Gilpin County Historical Society. I was the secretary.”
2 – Fredreick S Bolsinger was born March 26, 1860 Chatfield, Minnesota – and died 1912 in Colorado. Chuck Webster was speaking as the “spirit” of Fred Bolsinger.
Fred’s father and mother came to Gilpin County right after Fred was born. His father, Maxwell Bolsinger, came to mine and took up the Herbert Mine in Nevada City. He became the owner of other mines. His four sons ran these mines and Hubert Milling operations successfully, following his death in 1892. Fred married Alice M in Black Hawk August 16,1894. In 1898 Fred served with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish American War. Fred is reported in the Weekly Register-Call of June 2, 1899 dissolving a partnership of a dry goods store, intending to continue the business in Central City. He served in the CO House of Representatives from 1901-1908, then as the Gilpin County Sheriff from 1910 until is his death. Children born to the couple were Dorothy, Emily, Alice, Champ, John, Etna, and Fred. Fred’s headstone indicated he passed in 1912.
His brother Henry is reported to have had health concerns treated in Chicago, then later in Pueblo’s Insane Asylum, 1896-1898.
Maxwell was noted as the founder of Nevadaville, and after the Hungate family massacre on June 11, 1864, he also volunteered for the 100-day volunteer cavalry known as Gov. Evans “100 dayers” 3rd Colorado Cavalry during the Civil War, also known as the “Bloodless Third” having engaged in no battles. The Third was established by Congress to assure protection for travelers from the Cheyanne Indians who did later make treaty for safe passage and moved to Sand Creek Reservation. Colonel John Chivington was put in command, and took the Third Cavalry to Sand Creek and attacked the Cheyenne and Arapahoe encampment called the Sand Creek massacre, even those loyal to the US. The Third was now bloody, so Maxwell was given membership into the Grand Army of the Republic, 1832-1892.
3 – John Bartle was born 1821 in Camborne, Cornwall, England. Ron West spoke as the “spirit” of Bartle.
In the late 1850’s Bartle heard there was gold in the western US, so came out and found it. John was the son in law of Dick Williams, who set up a stage line between Nevadaville and Central City for passengers and goods. John’s brothers joined him here. Isaac and John made a frame building in Nevadaville, 1857. The downstairs had a grocery store and post office, with an upstairs residence. He bought an insurance policy for the residence from Bennett Seymour. When the town was burned in 1861, Bartle’s $400 insurance payout allowed him to level the lot and build a two-story brick home in the Bartle Block of Nevadaville. They rented to three businesses, two which had been destroyed in the same fire.
4 – Rev. John Stocks, born February 25, 1829 Yorkshire England – died September 19, 1886 in Black Hawk, Colorado. Jonas Schrock spoke as the “spirit” for Rev. John Stocks.
He was recruited by the Methodist Church in America to come to this country to spread the word of God and build churches in the mineral rich west, as a circuit riding preacher. “In 1872 my wife and two children traveled from England to Lawrence, Kansas. We continued to Georgetown in the Colorado Territory, where I was accepted as a member of the Colorado Conference of Methodist Episcopal Church.” There he was given a horse and began his circuit riding career in many Colorado Territory communities, spending over 11 years in the mountains, making many sacrifices and experiencing loss, with unwavering faith in the Lord. Stocks was one of three circuit riders who served the longest in these regions. He outlived many others, passing to the Promised Land at age 57, still preaching. Those with ears to hear told others they heard the spirit of truth being told by this trail dusty man with the collar.
5 – Elizabeth Warren was born 1862 in Cornwall, England – died 1930 in Nevadaville. Jennie Johnson spoke as the “spirit” of Elizabeth Warren.
Lizzie came to America in 1874 with her mother, father, and siblings. She would have been about 13 years old at the time. Her family settled in Nevadaville and her father joined the Masons. They were also members of the Methodist Church. Europeans displaced by the industrial revolution willingly accepted passage to the US in exchange for work. Francis Warren born in Cornwall, England accepted passage to come to Central City at age 18. In 1869 he began working hard, settled in the protestant Cornish end of Nevadaville. The Catholic Irish who came first lived on the east end of Nevadaville. Each brought their own culture and traditions, so seemed to clash more in this town than others in Gilpin County. Francis age 28 married Elizabeth age 18 in May 1879 in the Methodist Church. They lived with her parents until they were able to purchase a home in 1882. In 13 years of marriage, they had seven children with three dying before the age of 5. Francis was part of the Ancient Order of Foresters, established to help others when in need. Francis was in need to place his children in Bald Mountain, and then again when he was affected by complications from silicosis or miner’s disease, passing in 1892. Lizzie remained a widow and lived in Nevadaville until her death in 1930 at the age of 68. Much of the rest of this story revolved around what it was like to be a wife and mother living in Nevadaville, married to a hard rock miner.
6 – Thomas Leahy was born September 1879 in Colorado – died in 1940. Tom Matthews was speaking as the “spirit” of undertaker Ed Harris who prepared Leahy for burial.
Ed Harris told of the crazy activities involving Thomas’s mother, Hannah Leahy, when she passed, insisting she be sent back to Ireland. She and her husband came to Nevadaville from Ireland with their first son. Thomas was the last born with his twin sister. Edmond was responsible for her yet could not afford to send mother back to Ireland at the time, so rather than burying her in America, built the beehive mausoleum in the Catholic Cemetery to hold her until she could be sent to be in Irish soil. Well, Edmond passed before getting her sent. Other family and neighbors who passed when the ground was frozen and could not be dug were also placed in the beehive, but each time others were added, the caskets had to be moved around inside, with Mom Leahy always being on top. Finally, out of frustration with the caskets not staying where they belonged, funds were found to send Mrs. Leahy home to Ireland, and the others, in warm weather, were placed in the American soil of Gilpin County.
7 – Peggy Ann Trezise born April, 1854 in Madron, Cornwall, England – died in 1954 at Fort Lupton, Colorado. Jaclyn Schrock spoke as the “spirit” for Peggy Ann Trezise.
“My husband Henry left our 2-month-old baby John and I in England where he had been an underground miner, to seek a new life for us. He settled in Nevadaville, CO in 1874 working the California Mine. We came two years behind him to live in the house he had for us on Bennett Street near Main Street, the Episcopal and Methodist churches, the school, and mills. We worked for three mines, and held some political offices. Henry was a leader in the Fraternal Order of Red Men. When he passed in 1911 he had the longest tenure of any Nevadaville resident. I must emphasize how precious family love is to endure together the hard and difficult life and to enjoy the love I fell into so long ago. We lost five infants buried in our plot, while we were able to raise seven other children.”
8 – Richard Broad Williams, aka Dick or “Mr. Central City” was born 1847 in Cornwall, England, died April 19, 1896. Mike Keeler was speaking as the “spirit” of Dick Williams.
The Williams family migrated first to a Wisconsin copper mining town, then in 1870 they moved to Nevadaville. He excelled at boxing, wrestling and horseracing – all important to the Cornish culture thriving in Nevadaville. He married a teen widow, then after her son from her first marriage passed, she bore him 11 more children, five of which lived to be adults. Williams held many political offices. A few businesses he owned included the Williams Stables across from the Teller House, a meat market, a stage line, and more. A dispute by Sam Covington, an ore hauler, requesting a receipt for a debt erupted with City Marshal Mike Kelleher and x-Mayor Dick Williams being shot by Covington, who attempted to escape. Covington died from wounds in jail the next day. Community funds were raised for a doctor, who thought Kelleher would not recover, and Williams would. In a twist of fate Kelleher recovered, and Williams died from the gunshot wound through his abdomen. The well-loved former Sheriff Williams had his funeral service at the Teller House to accommodate the many mourners who filled the building to capacity and the overflow crowd stood outside. They all then walked the 2.5 miles to the Bald Mountain Cemetery for interment.
9 – James Stevens born 1954 in Cornwall, England – died 1906 in Nevadaville. Gary Huffman spoke as the “spirit” of James Stevens.
James began telling of driving his brother Abraham and wife to a steamer in Liverpool to go to America, 1867, yet 40 years later they were still writing to each other regularly. Four brothers immigrated to America – William, Abraham, Isaac, and James. In 1880 they moved to Gilpin County from New Jersey. Abraham, Isaac, and James stayed in Nevadaville, while William stayed in Central City. Abraham moved on to a rich gold strike in California, still mining at age 70, in 1900. James left Nevadaville intending to go to Goldfield, Arizona northeast of Apache Junction, planning to return to Colorado. In 1897 a local AZ paper carried the news that James survived 13 days of a mining cave-in. Hard working crews did finally rescue him, dehydrated but still alert and able to dig out several feet from his side as they drew near hearing his tapping. He lost 90 pounds and stayed in the dark mine until night to avoid the harsh morning light. He regained his weight and some strength, so returned to Nevadaville in two weeks with great celebrations and welcoming.
10 – Bennett E Seymour born 1853 in Ashtabula, OH – died November 1940 in Nevadaville. Chuck Roberts was speaking and singing as the “spirit” of Bennett Seymour.
At age 8 his family traveled by oxen drawn wagon to Iowa, staying there two years. They came to Colorado, his father died, and they returned to Iowa. Coming back in 1866 and settling in Nevadaville, he attended school a few years. Bennett worked as a miner until 1874, when the fire destroyed much in Central City. He helped Hawley and Manville Mercantile salvage goods from the fire, so they hired him, working with them 54 years as secretary. He also sold insurance recognizing the value of such after the fire. He served the community as Gilpin County Commissioner from 1865-1891. He also was Central City Mayor from 1900-1903. He served on the school board, was a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, sang in the choir, and was on the Bishop’s Committee. He was also a member of the fraternal organization Ancient Order of United Workmen. He was also an avid supporter of the opera. He and his wife had five children, although none lived beyond 9 months.
We all look forward to the Creepy Crawl in Central City this fall, where more spirits tell stories in the old buildings in the dark of night…