It's no secret in Denver that Cheesman Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens sit on land that once served as cemetery grounds.
Mount Prospect Cemetery opened on the 160-acre site in 1858. In 1865, 40 acres of the cemetery became Mount Calvary, a burial place for Catholics. In 1872, Congress decreed that the site of Mount Prospect was technically federal land. The land was sold to the City of Denver with the provision that it always serve as a cemetery. In 1873, the cemetery became known as Denver City Cemetery.
By the 1880s, the City of Denver was pleading with Congress to change the status of the land from cemetery to park land. On January 25, 1890, Congress acceded to their demands, and Denver City Cemetery became Congress Park.
In 1893, the task of moving 5,000 graves began under the management of undertaker E. P. McGovern. Due to mishandling of the project (including allegations of dismembering corpses so they could be placed in child-sized coffins), McGovern was famously dismissed before all of the graves could be relocated.
Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer, a proponent of the City Beautiful movement of the early 1900s, looked to beautify Congress Park, but claimed the City did not have the funds to do so. He encouraged benefactors to donate, but didn't have any success until the widow and children of Walter Scott Cheesman (1838-1907) came forward with $100,000 for a park pavilion. Hence, the park became known as Cheesman Park.
In 1950, the City of Denver successfully persuaded the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver to deed the Mount Calvary land back to the City. While a city botanic garden was originally planned for construction in City Park, it was relocated on the Mount Calvary site. The Denver Botanic Garden was dedicated in 1966.
Want to learn more? May we suggest the following from DPL's Western History/Genealogy Department:
who were the folks buried here are there a list of names of these folks?
were all of them removed from this site before it became a park?
There is a ledger available for view in DPL's Western History/Genealogy department that contains information on the deceased buried in Mount Calvary: http://catalog.denverlibrary.org/view.aspx?cn=287603
Hi, the link to the cemetery burial register doesn’t work now. Is there a new link?
No, I am actually finishing up a vlog on this but there is between 2000-3000 bodies that still remain.
I think it's sad that often times a person's "final resting place" really isn't.
Sad indeed. Thanks for reading and commenting, Phinnius.
Many places in Europe have rented burial spots and if rent is not paid then you lose the spot. Interesting cultural differences surrounding death and the handling of the deceased.
Yes, but I for one would rather be buried under a bunch of people playing volleyball or having dogs run over me. Far better then dead people!
Thank you for the wonderful article.FYI, Empire Magazine had an outstanding article on Cheesman, Mt. Prospect, and its nickname Jack O'Neills Ranch. The site of the current Congress Park was the Jewish cemetery