Resting places of pioneers
VAIL – The Celts believed Halloween was the time when the line between the living and dead blurred, the time to solicit advice from the spirits about what the upcoming winter would be like. Here in Eagle County, perhaps the best place for such a prognostication on the winter is high up Gore Creek, where a metal sign and some rocks mark the graves of Andrew and Dan Recen.The Recens’ spirits might know best about the vicissitudes of a Vail winter – powder days or sheets of ice, generous tips or empty tables, rollicking apres ski or regretted hangovers?
The Swedish-born Recens came to Colorado in 1876 and soon struck in rich in the heyday of Colorado’s silver boom, according to Mary Ellen Gilliland’s “The Vail Hiker.” They then traveled, partied, ate and drank extravagantly until the 1893 silver crash, when they lost almost everything. For the next couple of decades until their deaths, they lived in a cabin near where their graves are, hunting and trapping to find enough food. The graves are at the intersection of the Gore Creek and the Gore Lake trails.Hidden around the Gore Valley and the upper Eagle Valley are several small graveyards, some of them family cemeteries, that hold early settlers.The Ruder family cemetery sits among ski chalets in West Vail on the land that Jacob and Mary Ruder homesteaded in the late 1800s. The Ruder family still cares for the cemetery, which has about 10 graves, includes those of Jacob and Mary. Vail resident Bob Ruder said he visits his family cemetery a few times a year.
“Being so close to Halloween, I brought my fly broom in case we need to make a quick exit from ghosts and goblins and all,” Ruder said when showing the cemetery to some visitors. Instead, he used it to dust the snow off the headstones. The cemetery is mostly filled with Ruders, but it also holds the unmarked graves of members of a family that intended to be the original homesteaders. In the late 1800s, a husband and wife started the homesteading process for the land, but the wife and her daughter died in childbirth, Bob Ruder said. The wife and newborn were buried under a giant tree that still stands in the cemetery, he said. The grief-stricken father left the Gore Valley, transferring the homestead rights to the Ruders, he said. That piece of land under the tree became the family cemetery.Ruder said he plans to be buried in the family cemetery.
“I say, ‘Get a coffee can and find a spot, and it’s all OK,'” he said.Near Miller Ranch in Edwards is another small cemetery. Its graves are among pinyon trees and sagebrush on a hill overlooking the Eagle River. Many of those buried there died in the late 1800s, and only a few graves have been added since 1950, based on the inscriptions.There’s another small hill cemetery that holds members of the Brett family on the west side of Edwards. The cemetery has two neat rows of graves and continues to be used by the Brett family. Nearby sit the remains of the original Brett homestead.
It’s hard to get more ghostly than a cemetery in a ghost town. There’s a cemetery near the Gold Park campground up Homestake Creek. Gold Park was a short-lived mining town that boomed in the 1880s when gold was discovered up Homestake Creek, but quickly busted. At its apex, Gold Park had a processing mill, along with hundreds of residents, a post office and hotels. Cairns mark the graves in the cemetery, according Gilliland’s book. There are larger cemeteries in eastern Eagle County in Red Cliff and Minturn. There’s also a new memorial park in East Vail.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado