© 2001 by Leona L. Gustafson
FORGOTTEN PAST OF ADAMS COUNTY, VOL. I
and Welby Road
Riverside Cemetery is partly in Adams County and partly in Denver, located where Brighton Boulevard meets Welby Road. It contains nearly 100 acres that range from an area leveled off, sodded and planted with large Shade trees to one that is unkept and overgrown with weeds. The green cemetery is quite a contrast to the dairy slaughterhouses, oil refineries, and electric generating station that surrounds it. Railroad tracks run along Riverside’s southeast boundary, and the dirty Platte runs along the northwest side.
Riverside Cemetery was started in 1876. A group of about twelve men thought Denver needed a maintained cemetery; there had never been anything more than a collection of private cemeteries. The cemetery was built on a site of land originally homesteaded by the leaders of the group, Dr. John H. Morrison. The Riverside Cemetery Association was created, and the cemetery was designed by a man named Lowrie, a civil engineer. It was a capital stock corporation with a total of 20 shares sold at $100 each.
Many of Riverside’s early burials were from two other cemeteries. These cemeteries were not well planned or kept up so the bodies were brought to Riverside which was Denver’s only maintained cemetery.
Riverside’s Board of Directors voted to discontinue their association in 1900. This allowed Fairmount Cemetery Association to but it and Fairmount has operated Riverside since then.
A crematory was built at Riverside Cemetery in 1908. It was the first one to be built between the Mississippi River and the West Coast. It is still in use today.
Riverside kept its serene setting until about World War I. Denver, along with its industry was growing. There was cheap land available around Riverside so businesses bought it and started building. As industry started to move in, Riverside started to decline. Vandalism had always taken its toll. As early as 1906,
vandals set fire to a pumphouse, causing considerable damage. Vandals have broken in to the cemetery grounds, stealing tombstones, breaking others, and breaking stained glass windows in the chapel.
Drunks have found Riverside a quiet place to be with their bottle or to sleep off a hangover.
There were other disrespectful acts at the cemetery, too. In 1920, Riverside was supposedly a meeting place for bootleggers, and they used it as a distribution center for moonshine. During the 1950’s Riverside was used as a storage place for bodies that needed an autopsy.
Riverside Cemetery was in such a mess during the 1960s that newspapers started writing articles to complain. It would take money to repair, and Riverside was losing money. When the cemetery first started, people paid a yearly fee for upkeep on their plot. Some people paid an endowment which paid for the plot completely, but this was not enough money. Not as many people were being buried there as in previous years. The price of a plot when Riverside started was only $8.00, compared to $155 now. Riverside also has a potter’s field, where unknown people without relatives are buried, or people who can’t afford a plot or funeral.
Despite all of the financial difficulty, Fairmount Cemetery Association started to improve Riverside in 1969. Trees struck with Dutch elm disease were cut down, some areas were re—seeded with grass, and broken tombstones were repaired or removed. Today, Riverside Cemetery is a very peaceful place.
There are many large, elaborate monuments in Riverside. There is a twenty foot statue of Colonel James Archer over his grave. Nathan Addison Baker has a stallion over his grave. It is the only full size horse monument in the United States, and there is only one other one in the world today. Lester Drake, a miner, had miniature replica of his cabin near Black Hawk put over his grave.
Many famous people of Colorado history are buried in Riverside. John L. Routt was Colorado’s last Territorial and first state governor. John Evans was a Denver mayor, U.S. senator, Territorial governor, and founder of the University of Denver. Augusta Tabor was the first wife of Colorado’s "Silver King", H. A. W. Tabor. Colonel James Archer helped establish Denver’s gas and water works. John Iliff was probably the biggest cattle rancher in Colorado.
Riverside Cemetery is still in use. In 1974, 259 people were added to the more than 61,000 people already there. The crematory is still in use as is the potter’s field. There are many families that have purchased plots, and members of the family are still alive. Riverside Cemetery will probably continue with business for many years, and become a monument to Colorado’s history.
Colorado, the Land and the People,
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