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Jamestown is a mining town incorporated relatively late in the gold mining era of the region, in Boulder County, Colorado, named after a local gold miner, James Smith, and locally referred to as "Jimtown." A very small town now, a couple hundred residents, it lies nestled beside a creek (James Creek, of course) in a wide spot in the canyon. The Jamestown Mercantile is pretty much the place in town, the historic building decorated with fun old things. A nice bar and restaurant take up the inside. I've only eaten there once but the food was outstanding, as was the pineapple habanero margarita. They host live music on the weekends. I love our mountain music venues — small, historic buildings with happy people packed inside. There are a fair number in our greater area, the mountains west of Boulder.
Jamestown has a lovely cemetery that spreads up the hillside into the forest. We'd seen it on Google maps and it looked very straight-forward to find so I didn't print out any map or directions. In the canyon I had no cell reception, so we couldn't log into the maps from my phone and for some reason COTREX, which is our main source of trail info in the area, lost all my map data. So we had nothing to look at, just my memory of the map view on my PC. But come on ... it's a town in a small canyon beside a small creek, there just aren't a lot of places for a cemetery to be, there isn't a maze of roads. And yet, Erik and I couldn't find the silly thing and it became quite comical, us driving back and forth up and down the main street and the few side streets. People were sitting out on their porches and at the Mercantile just watching us. Finally we stopped and I got out and asked a grizzled old guy where to find the cemetery. We missed it because the road, behind a park, looks more like a bicycle path and we hadn't thought to follow it (especially because we were just in our little car, not a 4x4 vehicle).
What struck me about this cemetery over the other mountain cemeteries we've visited recently is how weathered the gravestones were and how many were actively being covered up and reclaimed by nature. Some of the ones in Gilpin County seem to have more conscientious and intentional upkeep. So there was something emotionally picturesque about this reclamation by nature. Maybe in some ways sad, but in other ways appealing, and let's face it, ultimately inevitable. So it's kind of like a window into that inevitability that is clearer here than at other places.
Therefore I have little to say about the graves and epitaphs, unlike in some of my other cemetery posts. This is primarily just a peaceful walk among the markers of anonymous lives.
Below, it's difficult to make out, but you can see ... J. (standing for John) Johns, born 1866 died 1913. I like how at the bottom of the headstone, around the word JOHNS grows the orange lichen, perfectly surrounding each letter that is left lichen-free. I wonder why the letters are spared while the stone immediately around them is so desirable to the lichen.
For hoots, a photo of Mr. Johns. I took it from Find-A-Grave, posted by John Hocking.
So there are stones that still stand obvious and prominent on the hillside atop the landscape, and those that are being digested right into it. I wonder how many have already succumbed. Ashes to ashes, and indeed dust to dust.
The thing I love most about the old mountain cemeteries is their organic layout (or perhaps they're spaces that have merely disintegrated from strict orderliness into a more peaceful-feeling layout like a creek lazily snaking through a flat valley) ... often there are no discernable neat columns and rows of graves spaced exactly so far from each other on either side. To walk through them now, it really is a meandering trail of lives lived and tears shed over their passing.
Griff Evans, born in Wales, became a well-known entrepreneur in the tourist industry in the 19th and early 20th century in Jamestown and particularly in Estes Park. His family built and then ran the Evans House Hotel from 1892 to 1905 in Jamestown. What I find so interesting about his gravestone (as I'm sure you can guess) is the well-defined strip of lichen, almost as if the tombstone was purposefully designed with this stripe. For some weird reason, it makes me think of wallpaper.
The Evans' were cherished members of Jamestown from the time they moved there from Estes Park in about 1890. Griff became the town's Father Christmas at its annual Christmas Eve parties as he fit the role both in spirit and appearance with the longest, whitest beard in town. Griff was also blessed with a musical talent and had studied to be a choir director back in Wales (why he left there for Colorado, I don't know). He played his accordian at church services and for entertainment at the family's hotel. The spread of regular entertainment at the Evans House was reputed to be quite excellent and widely attended. It included dancing, singing, speeches and debates, and literary society meetings (!). Many mountain mining camps were rough and unruly and rather base environments. The Evans family brought a significant degree of uncommon civilization to this community.
Winifred was his daughter-in-law.
The recipient of this gravestone — one of, if not *the* best-preserved of the 19th century stones within the cemetery — is the person about whom I found the most information and who is important as one of the founders of Jamestown in the sense that he and his buddy were the first to prospect in the area, in James Creek Gulch in 1864, while on a hunting trip from Blackhawk (a town right next to Central City of which I've written much in articles in my Colorado archive and Cemetery series).
Their initial prospect yielded a promising amount of silver and lead, so they then got a wagon and supplies back in Blackhawk, which included the ever-important group of pack mules — the unsung heroes in establishing many a mining camp and town in these Rockies — and came back to the area. They left the supply wagon as far as they could take it and then made their way with the pack mules upstream. It took three days and the work of five men with the mules to cut through a mere eight miles of brush and timber to where they would establish their camp. I am oft surprised in our explorations of this area how jungle-esque some places feel, more like a rainforest than our alpine forest.
Finally they sunk a shaft next to the creek to the required depth to survey: ten feet. They extracted a chunk of ore weighing nearly 20 pounds and had it assayed back at Blackhawk. It assayed high enough to spark a boom, and nearly 500 people rushed to the creek. Surprisingly, these people weren't rushing through the verdant forest of summer but the harsh snows of January. They rushed so impulsively and frantically that most didn't even carry adequate supplies, and they could get a wagon no further than the Knoop party, having to trek miles on foot. Most miners did not see the winter through at the camp, "starved out" for lack of supplies. Mr. Knoop, however, and a few others stuck it out.
Come spring, a couple men who had stayed discovered a rich vein of lead and silver. Somehow without mail service or a newspaper or telephones or radio or the internet, word spread like wildfire and another wave of people rushed to the area. Then snow arrived in the fall, and this time most of them just skedaddled right away. It reminds me of the elk I watched in Rocky Mountain NP running one direction, stopping to graze, then abruptly sprinting the other direction, stopping, then back the other direction.....
So the following spring, hardy and well-financed people determined to form a camp arrived. A stamp mill was constructed, and a steam-powered sawmill so that men could axe down hillsides of ponderosa and mill it into lumber for cabins and stores. Now a real camp could be established. In 1866 its citizens petitioned for a post office to be called Camp Jimtown. The U.S. government granted the post office but bestowed the title of Jamestown. I guess Jimtown seemed to informal to the starched white collar men at their big oak office desks! But locals have always, and still, call it that.
I guess we can surmise that our current word "pharmacy" is a shortened version of "pharmaceutist." I have to tell you, when I visit period museums or antique shops in the area, I'm always most amused by the variety of pharmaceutical bottles and tins on display — their ingredients and what they are claimed to cure, and the wording of the advertising. I don't know the exact year of this photo, but I would imagine sometime in the 1860s or possibly 1870s.
This is my favorite marker in the cemetery. So humble, yet clearly a marker, not a random stone. Decorated in lichen. I would be very happy to have any marker that might be left to signal, for a time, the fact of my existence, look just like this. But with a plethora of wildflowers surrounding it.