The Story Behind this Riverside Cemetery Veterans’ Project
In late 2014, the Fairmount Heritage Foundation asked if I would develop a research project for the Riverside Veterans as I did for the babies and children buried in Block 12 (Riverside Block 12 Project). With excitement stirring in my heart I responded: “Yes, I would love to.” However, there was a caveat,… the Burial Books and the Block Books had been sent out for digitization, and, therefore not available for me to search through.
I am not easily daunted. The genealogist in me grabbed notebook, camera, umbrella, and hat and headed out to start walking through all of the blocks in Riverside, about 38 of them if I recall correctly. I’ve walked 20 blocks so far and have another 18 more to go. I also checked as many of the Riverside Index Cards on file as possible, looking for information on the individuals I had located during my walks and via www.findagrave.com.
I also searched on line for information from the Denver Public Library andwww.familysearch.org. I was looking for those ‘Military Records’ and ‘Headstone Application Records’ in order to prove questionable persons as veterans and to provide a little more insight on the veteran and any next-of-kin that he or she may have had.
It has taken me about a year to gather up and document all (I may have missed a handful along the way) the veterans at Riverside Cemetery. To date I have documented 1322 veterans ranging from the Crimean War to the present. Most of the veterans are Civil War era veterans, located in Block 27.
There are some notable veterans buried at Riverside. Most folks are familiar with Silas Soule, but how about John Long Routt, 1st and 7th Governor of Colorado; as well as, one time Mayor of Denver; how about Harry Mrachek for whom the Mrachek Middle School in Aurora was named. (Actually, the school was named after he and his wife Ellin, who is in the Aurora Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame). Harry was once the Principal at the school. Then there is Webster D. Anthony, who served as Arapahoe County Treasurer, as well as other official positions during his lifetime – including serving under Territorial Governor John Evans. There is also a one time resident of Riverside, who was later removed to Fairmount Cemetery, Dr. William Reddick Whitehead, who served in the Crimean War and the Civil War, and was “knighted into the Imperial Order of St. Stanislaus by the Russian Empire…” (www.findagrave.com).
It is interesting to note, there are a number of veterans who served this country well, who were not citizens of the United States. These veterans came from England, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and various other countries. What a debt of gratitude we owe to them as well.
In my research, here is a little information I have learned along the way:
Riverside Cemetery came into existence in 1876. Then in 1900, Fairmount Cemetery took over ownership of Riverside Cemetery.
Before Riverside Cemetery there was City Cemetery. City Cemetery was in operation until about 1890. About 75 to 100 Union Veterans were removed from City Cemetery to Riverside.
Riverside Cemetery has a number of military burials. It is said, unofficially, that Riverside Cemetery has the most Civil War vets of any cemetery in Colorado.
Soon after Riverside Cemetery came into existence, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Cemetery Association purchased about three-fourths of the lots, minus the walkways, within Block 27 for the purpose of burying their Union Civil War Veterans. Today, the Sons of the Union Veterans, who inherited the lots, have ownership.
There are about 900 to 1100 veterans buried in the GAR lots of Block 27. Some are in unmarked graves.
However, there are a few Confederate Veterans (about 10 to 15) buried at Riverside Cemetery in various locations.
And, yes, there are veterans of various other wars as well; they too are buried in various locations within Riverside Cemetery.
For those who may ask, what about Fort Logan? In the early days of Fort Logan, before it became a National Military Cemetery, it interred only those folks who were stationed and died at Fort Logan. It wouldn’t be until 1950, when Fort Logan became a National Military Cemetery, that other members of the military could be buried there as well.
I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy searching for our veterans and ‘digging’ up whatever information I can find – to fill in the ‘dash’ between their birth and death.
I salute all the Veterans of Riverside.
By Vickie Smejkal
P.S. As of October 2017, I have walked all 38 blocks of Riverside.