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:
Howdy, Jai! The short answer is that the western half was pretty much the size of Cheesman today, and the Eastern half was the same size but arranged in a different way. This map lists the different areas - if you can locate the general area Cheesman is in now, you'll see its "Old City Cemetery" and surrounding areas.
Where were the remains moved to?
I'm from Denver -lived there since the 40's street cars on the street then---there was no hi-25...no 225- ...no hi -70...Federal Blvd was a 2 lane road to Boulder..downtown was where folks shopped on Sat. there were no malls,very little crime...when hippies began the stock show cowboys gave the hippies a hair cut with sheep sheers. winter were cold..always a beautiful city...down town was a place to ice skate..go to family events..nativity was in front of civic center. REALLY LOVED LIVING THERE ---IT IS MISSED.. ttraffic got bad and we retired and our kids grew up and every one moved away. we have gret memories there..THANK YOU DENVER.
I miss my daily Denver post..we had 6 channels on tv..one for kids...one for education..one for entertainment,soap operas...nightly news..kimn,koa WE DID NOT PAY FOR TV..RELIGIOUS STATION.-WE PREAYED IN SCHOOL-SALUTED OUR FLAG.SERVED OUR COUNTRY..RESPECTED OUR POLICE..NO GUNS IN SCHOOL...HAD A DRESS CODE. MUCH MORE..
Raised in the Denver area. Wadsworth ended at Hampden, then a dirt road. Played in the Waterton Canyon. We shopped downtown Denver with your sunday best cloths, white gloves and hats. Larimer St. was pawn shops and a place to be out of by dark. I-25 was the valley highway and the Boulder turnpike was a toll road. At Halloween you were given homemade goodie with no worries. Ohhh the good old days!!
Thanks for taking us down memory lane, Munich!
I lived at 11th & Vine St. as a child in the 50's adjacent to the current Botanic Gardens site. We played as kids in that whole abandon cemetary, and if you think everyone got moved ... well, we used to find and trip over bones and other "trinkets" all the time. Never got scared or felt haunted though.
Unfortunately, the link above is a dead end now. Could you please tell me if Silas Soule was originally buried in what is now cheesman park?
According to Silas Soule : a short, eventful life of moral courage by Tom Bensing, he was buried at Mount Prospect, which is now Cheesman. His current grave can still be visited at Riverside.
With equipment that can show under ground as they make passes over an area of ground, why can't they still look for bodies buried under Cheeseman Park? Seems wrong and disrespectful to leave the bodies there.