Red Cliff cemetery comes alive
Red Cliff, CO Colorado
RED CLIFF – Old cemeteries have a creepy vibe – overgrown shrubs with old, beat-up headstones poking through make you feel like a ghost could come alive at any moment.
The Greenwood Cemetery in Red Cliff is one of those cemeteries. When members of the Eagle County Historical Society checked out the cemetery in June, they didn’t think they’d be able to get it ready in time for Saturday’s tour, said Kathy Heicher, president of the Historical Society.
“When we came here, it was so overgrown, we couldn’t find a lot of the gravestones,” she said.
The town of Red Cliff and Eagle County partnered up to remove some beetle-killed pine trees and clean up the cemetery, which is perched atop a steep hill overlooking Red Cliff. They prepared it in time for the tour, which was the first official tour through the cemetery in 10 years.
The cemetery is still an active cemetery, meaning people are still buried there, but the majority of the graves are old, and they all tell their own stories about the area’s history.
The tour drew in big crowds Saturday – by noon at least 50 people had been through the tour.
There’s not much going on in Red Cliff most days – the small town has one restaurant, a general store and motel, and art studios. But the history of the town is full of activity, and the people buried at Greenwood were a part of it.
Red Cliff is Eagle County’s oldest town, and served as the county seat from 1883 until 1921, Heicher said. The town’s early residents were mostly miners, but some of the county’s most famous pioneers are also buried here.
The Porchlight Players theater group actors and actresses played the roles of some of the buried, giving tour groups an intimate glimpse into the lives of some of the dead.
“My Name is Olivia Graham Meyer, but people around here know me as Ollie,” said actress Ann Olin. “I was born in 1890 in Red Cliff.”
Meyer was superintendent of Eagle County Schools from 1915 to 1923, Olin said. She died a few days after getting dental work done from complications after the procedures.
Some deaths were untimely and unfortunate, and others in the cemetery had lived long and healthy lives. Several children’s grave sites were covered in flowers, and some looked unnoticed and unkempt.
The groups listened silently to each of the actors tell the stories of the dead – for the Miller couple, the tour was fascinating.
“I’ve just always been fascinated by old cemeteries,” Marty Miller said.
The Millers live in Nebraska and have a condominium in Vail. They read about the tour in the paper and said they wouldn’t have missed it. Marty Miller worked at a mortuary in college and has been intrigued by the history revealed through old graves.
“It’s fascinating – there’s so much history in this,” he said. “I’m just happy somebody is fixing (the cemetery) up.”
Cheryl Miller, Marty’s wife, said the couple even visited an old cemetery while on their honeymoon in Virginia. She remembered someone telling her once that “people who don’t care for their dead must not take care of the living.”
Not the case in Red Cliff anymore.
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com
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