Cheesman Park – Denver Graveyards

Family Picnic on a Hidden Grave?

Cheesman Park and Trees as Tombstones

Denver’s Cheesman park has an obscure history of hiding the deceased. Located just East and South of the Capitol building, the scenic park where families fly kites and frolic covers one of Denver’s most obscure graveyards.

Mount Prospect Cemetery was founded in 1858. It would have been the oldest of the graveyards of the city, had it not been mishandled and eventually shut down to create Cheesman Park. When plans were announced by the city government to convert the land into a park, the families of the deceased were given a 90 window to exhume, move, and bury the bodies in new locations. However, the majority of the residents of Mount Prospect Cemetery were a mix of victims of smallpox and yellow fever during the early pioneer days and criminals and the poor of later years; nearly 5,000 bodies were never recovered. This problem was compounded by government corruption as inflicted by one E.P. McGovern, who discovered that he could inflate the cost of reburials by dismembering corpses and burring them in 3-4 child sized caskets.
In addition to grave robbing and corpse stripping, the locals soon had enough of the situation and McGovern was fired from his post as City Undertaker.
1894 saw new ground broken on the creation of the now familiar public park. From time to time, city Parks Department workers will be required to dig for power lines, water conduits, or other such tasks and discover more skeletons. Denver Police Department officers are always contacted to ensure that the skeletons are not victims of new crimes, but the majority of these cases are just more lost souls, identities forgotten, with nothing but the trees remaining for their tombstones.
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