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On Walkabout At: The Alpine Cemetery, Colorado

Basic Information

  • Name: Alpine
  • Where: Colorado, USA
  • Population: Ghost Town
  • More Information: GhostTowns.com

Picture from the Alpine, Colorado Cemetery

Narrative

After visiting the historic ghost town of St. Elmo, Colorado I also made a stop to check out the old Alpine Cemetery.  This cemetery is all that remains of the old mining settlement of Alpine.  The below Google Map shows the location of Alpine and its cemetery:


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Much like St. Elmo, Alpine rose up along the banks of Chalk Creek around 1874 due to the silver and gold finds in the area.  At this time the settlement was nothing more than prospectors and railroad workers living in tents.  By 1877 Alpine was registered as an official town and a number of buildings were constructed as more people moved in.  An 1880 census showed that Alpine had 503 residents with 419 of the being males and the other 94 females.  The vast majority of the residents listed their occupation as miners and prospectors.  However, the construction of the rail line to nearby St. Elmo caused many of Alpine’s residents to move further up the valley to the more lucrative mines and the growing town.  By 1885 Alpine was largely a ghost town.  Unlike St. Elmo which had a few hearty people stay on to maintain the buildings over the years Alpine was left to decay to where the town is now gone, but its cemetery still remains:

Picture from the Alpine, Colorado Cemetery

It is believed that the cemetery began in 1877 and had bodies buried here until 1883 when burials were all moved to St. Elmo.  It is believed that 39 people were buried here, however there is evidence that a few more people were buried here passed this date.  Study of the site is complicated by the fact that about a century ago a major mud and rock slide off the slopes of Mt. Princeton washed out most of the cemetery.  A repeat even happened in 2007.  Since then what grave site researchers have been able to find have had various wood tombstone markers put in place of the lost headstones:

Picture from the Alpine, Colorado Cemetery

Even the markers that were not washed away are still highly eroded and difficult to read such as this one for a Joe Hudson who it looks like the marker says was born in 1837 and died in 1879:

Picture from the Alpine, Colorado Cemetery

 

 

According to the Colorado Directory of Mines, the Hayes Mine in Alpine was owned by Benjamin Riggins and a Joseph Hudson.  Their silver claim was 300 by 1500 feet and filed in 1877 three miles outside of Alpine.  Is this the same Joe Hudson buried in the cemetery?  I think it is a reasonable assumption that it probably is the same person.  According to this website Hudson was also an original settler of Alpine who was killed by an avalanche.  This just shows what a danger avalanches as well as rock slides would have been long ago for these early pioneers in the Colorado Rockies.

There were few gravestones in very good condition such as this one for John Peck who was born in 1812 in England and died in 1881:

 

Picture from the Alpine, Colorado Cemetery

Probably the saddest sight at the cemetery is the grave to the 3-year old Mattie who was the daughter of T.A. and S.C. Pitts:

Picture from the Alpine, Colorado Cemetery

According to this website Mattie was the daughter of a local miner.  The information board near the cemetery did not say how Mattie died, but that her parents moved out of Alpine to Mesa, Colorado after the girl’s death.  The locals that live in various cabins in the area have apparently taken a liking to the little girl since they have decorated her grave with number of decorations, toys, and candy.  Unfortunately tombstones like this are a common sight in historic cemeteries like this.  It really brings home how different the mortality rate for young children back then was compared to what it is now due to sickness.  When I hear people complain about flu shots and other features of modern medicine I can’t help, but think that the people in these historic settlements would have loved to have access to such medicine to save the lives of their kids.

Conclusion

If visiting St. Elmo it may be worth a stop to check out the Alpine Cemetery if you are someone with a deep interest in history like I do.  However, even those who have a deep interest in history may not find this cemetery all that interesting simply because so few of the graves can be read and the ones that are readable feature no one of particular interest in the region’s history.  Anyway I found the cemetery of interest and spent about 30 minutes reading the information board and wandering around the cemetery.  The next time I am in the area I will definitely stop by again and leave something for Mattie as well.

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