Bald Mountain is the name of the cemetery established for Nevadaville's residents -- earlier we explored some of the larger abandoned mining ruins around Nevadaville. The other cemeteries I've shown you from next-door Central City are in a more open valley or among aspen groves. Bald Mountain Cemetery is really tucked into the forest. We used to drive past it on a 4x4 road we often use without even noticing it! When we finally took the time one day to stop at it and go inside the gate, we were very surprised at how extensive the site is. Even though most graves are unmarked, there are still a lot with standing headstones.
It's a beautifully maintained cemetery in the middle of the forest. It almost feels like a secret, so tucked away. The typical gamut of gravestones fills the space -- from tiny nubs of rock or wood barely sticking above the ground, to lichen-digested rock, to rather majestic stones and crisp metal fences. But many of them, whatever the state of their graves, shared lives of similar hardship and fortitude as pioneers and miners in a very harsh climate, and similar dreams of fortune. Further, in this cemetery, a lot of its residents share a common homeland, particularly in Cornwall, or elsewhere in England and some from Ireland.
Mrs. Elizabeth Williams, below, lived to a particularly ripe old age for someone born in the mid-19th century — 97 years. An excerpt from an 1898 publication reprinted on Find a Grave says she is mother to five children and "She is a zealous worker in the Episcopal Church and in the Guild, a member of the Woman's Relief Corps, and Pocahontas Lodge, of which she is keeper of Wampon." Amusing but nothing particularly notable. Then I saw another clipping from a newspaper: "Of Elizabeth's 13 children only 5 lived to adulthood. She died exactly 53 years to the day after her husband was murdered." Murdered?
Photo of Elizabeth on Find a Grave. I guess the physical distress of bearing 13 children and the emotional distress of losing most of them and being widowed are not inhibitors to longevity! The first clip suggests she was a very active lady, perhaps this contributed to her robust health.
Well obviously now I want to know how, why, and by whom her husband was murdered! A quick Google search brought up an article about the incident, and dang it if it didn't turn out to be rather interesting. So here I am at midnight — when I thought I would be in bed by now, as I had just wanted to throw up some photos of graves I liked the look of and maybe a tidbit of info on somebody — reading about Elizabeth's husband who died 53 years to the day before she did. Well, he, Richard Broad Williams, was the son of a "Pikes Peak or Bust" miner. His dad is on the far left in the photo (Denver Public Library).
Richard Williams had been the sheriff of Gilpin County and met his untimely death in 1896. I guess the story is interesting to me because it's such a perfect illustration of life in the iconic "wild west." Could be straight out of a Western movie the way the author of the article describes it. I'm reprinting here from Lovewell History: A miner named Sam Covington had forced an attorney to write a receipt at gunpoint for an attachment placed on his wages over a debt of $60. When the attorney knocked away the gun that was pointed at him, it discharged harmlessly into the card room of the saloon downstairs. His law partner scurried away to find the marshal, who ascended the staircase only to be shot the moment he opened the door to the law office. Hearing gunfire inside, Richard Williams ducked into the saloon, borrowed a pistol, and was about to climb to the second floor when Sam Covington appeared at the top of the stairs, brandishing a gun in each hand. The two exchanged shots and Williams slumped to the floor with a slug in his side. When the gunman walked into the street and began firing into the crowd that tried to follow him, a rifle-wielding cattleman ended his shooting spree. Covington died in the city jail before a doctor could arrive. The marshal eventually recovered, but Richard Broad Williams died four days after being wounded. ... He was so popular his funeral had to be held in the Central City Opera House to accommodate the crowd — and then hundreds stood outside.
I saw a photograph of the funeral, and the street coming down from the opera house was full of lines of people as far back as the camera could see. His epitaph reads, "Death loves a shining mark." Richard and Elizabeth's son, Oscar, eventually became the Gilpin County sheriff in his father's footsteps. Richard's brother was also murdered in Nevadaville in another wild west scene, again reprinted from Lovewell History: Jonathan was killed near Nevadaville in 1877 while attending a horse race. There was bad blood between a group of Irish spectators and some of the Cornish lads, a feud that may have started simmering back in the old country. According to a history of Gilpin County, when an altercation blew up into a fistfight, "A man shot John at short range, mortally wounding him, but of such strength and hardihood was he that he attacked his murderer and killed him with no weapon other than his two hands, but he expired within twenty-four hours afterward."
I didn't find anything interesting on Benjamin Watters but I sure found his gravestone interesting. His, like Mrs. Williams and many others I've photographed in the various mountain cemeteries, is a Woodsmen of the World creation (explained more in this post about Leadville's Evergreen Cemetery). But his does seem particularly detailed.
I thought surely I'd find some info on Estal, with the unusual feature of having his portrait included on his gravestone and being so well preserved, but I didn't except that he was born in America, which kind of stands out here.
It's not uncommon to find graves of men who were soldiers in the Civil War, and a number of the soldiers were immigrants. But I think I've only seen Union soldiers. Born in Derbyshire, England, Mr. Heselwood is the exception — the only one I've seen who served on the Confederate side. I only learned this from info on Find A Grave, it is not advertised on his headstone. All the Union solider graves I've seen state their veteran status on their grave marker. Doesn't it kind of look like the shadow of a cat along the bottom of the smooth upper slate?
I didn't find information on Thomas Cringle, but I sure do like his name and it seems a perfect match for his place of birth, the Isle of Man.
James Walls died a true miner's death -- by a dynamite blast inside a mine. One of the many dangers in this extremely hazardous line of work. Although a danger signal was given before the blast, Walls was already too close to ground zero and didn't have enough time to retrace his steps back out of the blast zone. The only mercy is that he was killed instantly.
I liked Lucretia's bold and lichen-spotted tombstone, but you can see the marker of Elizabeth Williams' father is in the background, J.P. Bartle.
And I wrote an extended piece last year on one of the people buried here in Bald Mountain Cemetery in a Tuesday Tale, Lives From Gilpin County Cemeteries.