Where pioneers are buried: La Plata County’s historic cemeteries

Southwest Life

Where pioneers are buried: La Plata County’s historic cemeteries

At the Oxford Cemetery, southeast of Oxford, some graves are marked by stones on the bare earth. Historic La Plata County cemeteries represent a variety of folk burial motifs from different ethnic groups.
Both Union and Confederate Civil War veterans are buried in La Plata County. This stone at the Florida Cemetery marks a Union burial with a curved marble top. Confederate burials have pointed marble tops. Folklore says that Confederate families demanded a sharp marble top on their deceased’s grave “so that no damn Yankee would ever sit on it.”
Americans commonly have duplicated expensive materials with cheaper substitutes, and gravemarkers are no exception. This gravemarker from 1907 in the Florida Cemetery looks like marble but actually is pressed tin.
Wrought-iron fence detail from the historic Florida Cemetery on Florida Mesa.
The Florida Cemetery preceded the white clapboard 1912 Florida Baptist-Presbyterian Church, which is listed on the La Plata County Register of Historic Places.
At the Pine River Cemetery in Bayfield, the oldest burial is of Susan Dunham, who died Sept. 15, 1882. Her family later donated the land, on a slight rise overlooking the Pine River, for a community burial ground.
At the Florida Cemetery, Edith Morrison is buried beneath this Order of the Eastern Star marble headstone complete with engraved floral designs and an engraved arrow on the headstone’s top. The Eastern Star is the women’s auxiliary of the Masonic Order.
An unusual grave at the Pine River Cemetery from 2008 is Karl J. Curtis’ cowboy burial. The grave consists of a wooden cross, a wire lariat and a stylized metal horse head hidden in the grass. Cemeteries tell us a great deal about loved ones and how they wanted to be remembered.
The Klusman family long has fenced, watered, weeded and helped with upkeep at the historic Oxford Cemetery. Ralph Klusman was part of a tour of cemeteries in May with Ruth Lambert, archaeologist for the San Juan Mountains Association, who is working to document and record burials at 22 rural La Plata County historic cemeteries.
The Florida Cemetery, started in the 1880s, is one of the oldest in La Plata County.
Archaeologist for the San Juan Mountains Association, Ruth Lambert records and documents historic La Plata County cemeteries with SJMA volunteers and public-history student-interns from Fort Lewis College.
During the La Plata County Historic Driving Tour, rural rancher Ralph Klusman told visitors about the historic Oxford Cemetery and how it began with a death attributed to the 1918 Spanish flu and a desperate wagon ride from Ignacio toward Durango.

Where pioneers are buried: La Plata County’s historic cemeteries

At the Oxford Cemetery, southeast of Oxford, some graves are marked by stones on the bare earth. Historic La Plata County cemeteries represent a variety of folk burial motifs from different ethnic groups.
Both Union and Confederate Civil War veterans are buried in La Plata County. This stone at the Florida Cemetery marks a Union burial with a curved marble top. Confederate burials have pointed marble tops. Folklore says that Confederate families demanded a sharp marble top on their deceased’s grave “so that no damn Yankee would ever sit on it.”
Americans commonly have duplicated expensive materials with cheaper substitutes, and gravemarkers are no exception. This gravemarker from 1907 in the Florida Cemetery looks like marble but actually is pressed tin.
Wrought-iron fence detail from the historic Florida Cemetery on Florida Mesa.
The Florida Cemetery preceded the white clapboard 1912 Florida Baptist-Presbyterian Church, which is listed on the La Plata County Register of Historic Places.
At the Pine River Cemetery in Bayfield, the oldest burial is of Susan Dunham, who died Sept. 15, 1882. Her family later donated the land, on a slight rise overlooking the Pine River, for a community burial ground.
At the Florida Cemetery, Edith Morrison is buried beneath this Order of the Eastern Star marble headstone complete with engraved floral designs and an engraved arrow on the headstone’s top. The Eastern Star is the women’s auxiliary of the Masonic Order.
An unusual grave at the Pine River Cemetery from 2008 is Karl J. Curtis’ cowboy burial. The grave consists of a wooden cross, a wire lariat and a stylized metal horse head hidden in the grass. Cemeteries tell us a great deal about loved ones and how they wanted to be remembered.
The Klusman family long has fenced, watered, weeded and helped with upkeep at the historic Oxford Cemetery. Ralph Klusman was part of a tour of cemeteries in May with Ruth Lambert, archaeologist for the San Juan Mountains Association, who is working to document and record burials at 22 rural La Plata County historic cemeteries.
The Florida Cemetery, started in the 1880s, is one of the oldest in La Plata County.
Archaeologist for the San Juan Mountains Association, Ruth Lambert records and documents historic La Plata County cemeteries with SJMA volunteers and public-history student-interns from Fort Lewis College.
During the La Plata County Historic Driving Tour, rural rancher Ralph Klusman told visitors about the historic Oxford Cemetery and how it began with a death attributed to the 1918 Spanish flu and a desperate wagon ride from Ignacio toward Durango.
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