George and David Griffith, originally farmers in Kentucky headed to Colorado in search of gold in 1859. Arriving in Central City and finding it and the Idaho Springs areas were almost completely claimed, they headed west up Clear Creek. After finding a spot of gold , they set up the Griffith Mining District. As others arrived, the area became known as Georgetown (after the older brother) and Elizabethtown (after their sister). The Griffith brothers were the only one to find significant gold in the area, however silver was abundant. By1864, silver was the primary industry. In 1868, Georgetown and Elizabethtown combined into one. By 1870, the population had grown to 300 and the Georgetown citizens provided the silver spike the connected the Union Pacific railroad between Cheyenne and Denver. By 1880, there were more than 3000 people. There were churches, schools, hotels, as well as a saloon (an average of one for every 150 citizens) and four fire stations. Then, in 1893, the government repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which had guaranteed 9 million ounces a month government business to the silver industry. Colorado was producing 58% of the nation’s silver at the time. Georgetown’s economy collapsed and stayed there until a tourism revival over 50 years later.
The Georgetown Loop, is a steam engine system, built in 1884 that runs 4.5 miles to cover the 2 miles between Silver Plume and Georgetown, gaining almost 700 feet in altitude. It crosses over Devil’s Gate High Bridge and still runs as a tourism spot.
The 1868 courthouse building is at 6th street and Argentine. Available at the old courthouse is a walking tour brochure and the chance to see the current display or historic photos. First floor was district court, second floor was county court, juryroom and restrooms. Currently it is a community center.
Sixth Street has several old commercial buildings including the Hotel de Paris. It’s founder, Adolphe Francois Gerard, immigrated to New York at age 22 in 1868. He headed west with the US Calvary only to desert in Cheyenne and change his name to Louis Dupuy a year later. In 1873, he worked as a miner until he was injured in a dynamite explosion. When he recovered, he opened a small bakery, which eventually grew to become the Hotel de Paris. When he died in 1900, he willed the whole estate to his housekeeper, Sophie Gally, who died 5 months later.
On Fourth Street just east of Taos is the Maxwell House built in 1870 as a private residence. It is considered one of the top ten Victorian homes in the country.
Two blocks west is the Hamill House built in 1867 and in 1874, after a fire, was purchased by wealthy mine owner William A. Hamill. The mansion has a schoolroom, gold-plated door knobs, six seated outhouse, solarium and central heating.
On Taos, you will find the 1969 wood framed Grace Episcopal Church, the 1918 brick Catholic Church and a stone Presbyterian Church built between 1872-1874. Across from the Presbyterian Church is the 1874 schoolhouse. Across from the city park is the Old Missouri Firehouse, built in 1875.
The Alvarado Cemetery is found 3.2 miles past I-70 on Alvarado Road, a noticeable gate will be on your right. The Alvarado Cemetery is divided into sections for religious and fraternal groups. One of the first graves is for David Griffith, who died in 1882. In the Catholic section, you will find Louis Dupuy buried with his housekeeper Sophie Gally. The headstone has two birds facing each other and is inscribed with “Deux Bon Amis”. The stone is located near a large obelisk for William Spruance and it is a bullet-shaped terra-cotta marker some six feet tall.
On the other side of the road, you will find old Georgetown Cemetery, which was actually relocated to that location in 1972 from the shores of Georgetown Lake.
Littleton Cemetery was officially established in 1872, although it’s first registered resident, Anna E. Lilley, was interred in November 1864. The cemetery has over 10,000 graves and older graves seem to be found on the north end. There are several children’s areas and a few military areas, including a circle around a flagpole..
Locally famous people buried there include R.S.Little, Littleton’s founder, and families of the Crockers (street), Bemis (library), Chatfield (dam) and Spotswood (street).
Littleton Cemetery’s most well-known resident is Alfred “Alferd” Packer, the infamous cannibal. His victims were Frank "Butcher" Miller, Israel Swann, James Humphreys, George Noon, and Shannon Wilson Bell.
Born is Pennsylvania on January 12th,1842 , Alfred Packer was a shoemaker for a short time, before the outbreak of the Civil War . He enlisted in Minnesota Company F, 16th U.S. Infantry in April of 1862, but his epilepsy resulted in a medical discharge the following December. Trying a second time, he soon enlisted in an Iowa regiment, only to be discharged for the same reason. He then headed west to try his luck in the gold fields and by 1873 he was working as a guide in the Utah and Colorado wilderness.
In November of 1873, he took a job leading 21 men from Bingham Canyon, Utah to Breckenridge, Colorado. After three months in unrelenting winter weather, they located the camp of Ute Indian Chief Ouray, near what is now known as Montrose, and were given food and shelter. Against the advice of Chief Ouray, Packer and five other men continued eastward, not waiting for a break in the weather.
Sixty -six days later, Packer alone emerged from the mountains, appearing in robust health. At first he claimed he was separated from the men in a blinding snowstorm and survived on small game he killed, but after being caught with several possessions belonging to the missing group, he unraveled a tale of cannibalism. He claimed four of the men had died due to the adverse conditions and were eaten by the fifth man and himself. Then the fifth men went crazy and Packer stated he had to kill him in self defense and eat him for survival. All five skeletons were found together, and Alferd was charged with the murder of Ismael Swan, whose remains showed signs of struggle. The same night he was charged Packer escaped.
Nine years of freedom later, he was captured in Ft. Fetterman Wyoming. At this time he made another confession, this time stating Shannon Belt (another of the men) had gone mad and killed the other four men, and when Packer had returned from hunting, found Belt boiling the skin from one of them. At this point, Packer stated Belt came after him and he shot him twice in the stomach. He only resorted then, to cannibalism to stay alive.
Packer was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. Three years later, his sentence was overturned due to legislative changes made when Colorado changed from a territory to a state in 1876 (during his escape period). Packer was re-tried, this time with 5 counts of manslaughter, convicted and sentenced to 40 years. He served most of his time in the Canon City State Prison. He was paroled in 1901 and even worked as a guard at the Denver Post.
He spent the final years of his life living in and around Littleton (as a strict vegetarian, no less)-- on Harrison Avenue and on west Hampden. His last address was the Van Alstine ranch in Deer Creek Canyon. He died April 24, 1907, evidently of liver and stomach troubles. Because he was a Civil War veteran, the military paid for the funeral and provided the tombstone, which reads: "Alfred Packer, Co. F, 16 U.S. Inf." His dying words, according to the Littleton Independent, were "I’m not guilty of the charge."
Finally, what about the name "Alferd", whose spelling in itself has become a legend? It seems that during his army days he got a tattoo on his arm in which the artist misspelled his name. Taking a liking to the error, he oftentimes went by "Alferd" as something of a joke.
He is buried under a tree near the 2nd most northern entrance. His body and headstone have been stolen so much, that they are both now encased on cement.
Red Rocks, of course is a world famous amphitheatre. The amphitheatre itself is set between two three hundred foot sandstone monoliths Ship Rock (North) and Creation Rock (South). It was once listed one of the seven wonders of the world.
The park’s sandstone monoliths are a history book of the life of plants and animals in the area for the past 300 million years. The sandstone is remnants of ocean bottom. Laid down 250 million years ago, in and out of the sea many times, here lies an incredible tale of prehistoric times. Nearby dinosaur tracks tell of the Jurassic period of 160 million years ago. Fossil fragments of the giant 40-foot sea serpent, Plerisosaur, the marine reptile Mossaur, and flying reptiles were also discovered throughout the area and reported as early as 1877. The natural red color of the towering rocks is caused by the iron oxide content due to the lack of organic matter in the water from which the rocks were originally formed.
The Ute and Arapaho Tribes, used the area as a spiritual campground. They found the area ideal for protection on the high ground, with a great view of the Plains below. The natural depression in the center of the rock formations provided the arena for the ceremonial dances. Drums and other musical instruments resounded amidst the rocks, adding a mystical sound to their spiritual music. The area was also considered spiritually sacred and tribal meetings were held here.
The first recording of the white man bearing witness to the wonderful Red Rock formations, was during the Hayden Survey of 1869. As word of mouth spread of the natural beauty of the Red Rocks, tourists began to visit the area, including William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody. Shortly thereafter, a road was built for tourists to drive through the natural wonder. In 1906, the area was opened as the "Garden of the Titans," so named for one of the towering red rock peaks near the natural amphitheater.
The park surrounding the Amphitheatre was also known as the Garden of Angels and attracted performers since before the turn of the century. There is an unauthenticated, story of the christening of the area which surrounds the Red Rocks Theatre. On July 4, 1870, a group of pioneers from the town of Mt. Morrison, nestled in Bear Creek Canyon, undertook a "Champagne March" to the Red Rocks. There, Judge Luther of Mt. Morrison delivered the christening address which ended on this note: "We, the assembled citizens of Bear Creek and vicinity, hereby christen thee the "GARDEN OF THE ANGELS" and accursed be he or they that changeth thy name." This pronouncement did not have any great effect. People from that day forward called the area the Park of the Red Rocks, or as it is known the world over now: RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE. A producer of several concert events at Red Rocks from 1906-1910 set out and eventually convinced the city of Denver a more permanent structure was warranted. Designed in 1936, the current amphitheatre was dedicated in 1941 but not entirely completed until 1948. In 1947 the first Easter service was held.
In more recent years, the magnificent rocks have brought rock climbers (the rocks are illegal to climb) and climbers who have fallen to their death. Drug overdoses and after concert violence have said to have taken a few lives also.
Morrison Cemetery is located in the park.
Cheesman Park History
Cheesman Park began as a cemetery. In November of 1858 William Larimer founded the area as Mount Prospect Cemetery. The first burials to take place here were the victims of crime and violence. A Hungarian immigrant named John Stoefel had come to Denver to settle a dispute with his brother-in-law and ended up murdering him in March of 1860. After a short trial, Stoefel was dragged away by a mob and hanged from a cottonwood tree. He and his brother-in-law were then taken to Mount Prospect and their bodies were unceremoniously dumped into the same grave. Murder victims and those killed in accidents continued to be buried in the lower sections of the cemetery and the name Mount Prospect began to fall out of use. Most people simply referred to the place as the "Old Boneyard" or "Boot Hill". The cemetery failed to gain the respect and reverence that William Larimer intended for it to have. Because ownership of the land was not clear the cemetery developed slowly. Larimer, undertaker John J. Walley, and the city claimed ownership as did the people who attempted to homestead the land. In 1870 the U.S. Land Office declared the land federal property then sold it to the city two years later at $1.25 per acre, stipulating that it was to be used as a burial ground. The cemetery was segregated--there were areas for the wealthy, Catholics, the Chinese, and a potter's field. The name was changed to City Cemetery. When a new cemetery was built off the banks of the Platte River many of the bodies were moved there and Denver lobbied Congress to allow the land to be used for a park. The request was approved and the park was changed to Congress Park in 1890. In 1893, 5,000 bodies remained in the cemetery and undertaker Edward McGovern was hired to move them. When the local newspapers learned that his cost-effective measures included packing two to three bodies per coffin or simply filling coffins with rocks instead of exhuming the bodies, he was fired and the city announced that any body which remained unmoved in ninety days would stay there permanently. Between two and three thousand bodies remain there today.