Eagle County Historical Society hosts tour of Red Cliff’s Greenwood Cemetery
RED CLIFF — The ghosts of its residents haunted Eagle County’s oldest cemetery over the weekend.
The Eagle County Historical Society put on a tour of the historic Greenwood Cemetery on Saturday, Aug. 18, with volunteers dressed up as some of the people buried in the cemetery, sharing stories and answering questions about their lives.
The first reported funeral to take place at Greenwood Cemetery occurred in 1880, and many Civil War veterans are buried there including JT Hart, who served in the 9th Iowa Infantry.
Hart’s son Benjamin, played by local Mark Vodopich, described his father to the crowds gathered near their graves on Saturday.
“JT was a successful insurance man, but after several failed investments, reduced his fortunes and — having some health issues — heard of the restorative properties of the hot springs in the Colorado mountains,” Vodopich said.
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JT Hart moved his family to the area, where his son Benjamin became successful in mining.
“The mines operated by the Harts became top producers on Battle Mountain for many years,” Vodopich said. “They recovered assets exceeding six figures, but Ben was never really a rich man because anything that came out of his mines, went right back in … he was a big supporter of developing the local economy.”
Ben Hart was remembered as one of the last of the early day prospectors and mining men on Battle Mountain. Vodopich read from his obituary on Saturday.
“No old timer had more faith in this district than Ben Hart,” Vodopich read. “He put his all into it, he developed the region so others might benefit from it.”
Another Civil War veteran who was well known in the region was Doctor Joseph Gilpin.
Gilpin was played by local James “Coot” Overcash on Saturday, who told crowds about Gilpin’s adventures in the region.
“When you’re a doctor in county like this — and understand that our county has more square miles than the state of Rhode Island — house call has an entirely different meaning,” Overcash said.
Gilpin invested in a horse-drawn sleigh after years of hiking from one end of the county to the other. Recognizable for his long white beard, an obvious nickname soon surrounded the doctor.
“I pulled into town one day and some wise cracking miner looked at me and said ‘well, here comes Doc Santa,’” Overcash told the crowd. “And the name stuck.”
Gilpin was also known in Colorado for his excellence in treating pneumonia.
“The locals said I ought to go down to Denver and show off to the big doctors and tell them how well we were treating pneumonia up here in this county,” Overcash said. “So I went down there, and they were expecting me.”
Gilpin was also well remembered for his generosity.
“A guy with a broken leg wanted to know how much to pay and I said 5 bucks,” Overcash said. “Treated a guy with rheumatism for an entire year over at French Mountain. He wanted to know how much, I said 10 bucks. He said that’s awful expensive. I said ‘5 bucks?’ He turned around and gave me a 50, most money I’d seen in a year.”