In 1859 the area now known as Cheesman Park was
to the people of Denver for use as a cemetery by an act of Congress
(this location was located on an old Arapaho Indian burial
Larimer, who founded and laid out the first streets in Denver, named
place Mt. Prospect.
The first person buried in the cemetery was possibly
Mr. John Stoefel who was hanged on a Cottonwood tree at the
intersection of 10th and Cherry Creek. He was executed for killing his
brother in law. another famous burial was on March 30 1859. It
Mr. Jack O'Neill, he was ggunned down at a local Saloon a man by the
name of "Rooker" because of a previous argument. The rocky Mountain
News printed the story and because of the story the park became known
as "Jack O'Neils ranch"
The Jewish section
was known as the "Hebrew Burying
and Prayer Ground" was purchased by the Hebrew Burial Society in 1875.
The bodies from this section were removed in 1923, then it was leased
back to the city "forever" and has been the location of a reservoir up
to this time.
The Chinese section of the cemetery was given to a
large population of Chinese who lived in the "Hop Alley" section of
Denver. When the bodies were removed from this section it was
used as a shrub nursery until 1930. Then it was annexed into being part
of Congress park.
The present day Cheesman park was mostly the Protestant portion of the cemetery.
While all of this was taking place, the ownership of
the land changed to John J Walley (A cabinet maker). He did not do
anything to help the condition of the property. Meanwhile the public
was attempting to shut down the cemetery because the area was not the
beautiful garden/cemetery that the city wanted. It
was discovered that the property was part of a land treaty that
predated 1860, so the current owner had no legal right to the property.
The U.S. sold the land to the city of Denver and Mayor Bates had the
city pay a total of $200.00.
By another Act of Congress dated January 25th, 1890
city was authorized to vacate this parcel of property known as Mt.
Cemetery from a place of burial to a public park. In recognition of
Congress doing this for the city, Senator Teller changed the parks name
to Congress park. It was the
of the living relatives to relocate the bodies of these dearly
However those interned at Potters field generally had no family or
the course of their lives participated in activities that guaranteed
none of the living would claim them as relatives. The city contracted
E. P. McGovern to remove these bodies at a cost of $1.90 each and for
to be transported to Riverside Cemetery. This gruesome work began on
Mr. McGovern was using caskets that were 1
foot wide by 3 1/2 feet long (Children's caskets). This was the only
size casket available because of a Mining accident in Utah that had
caused a shortage of Adult caskets. Because of this he could not
fit one body into a single casket, so he broke up most of the bodies to
fit into the small caskets. This was a good deal for Mr. McGovern
because he was being paid by the body moved. However there were
discrepancies in the record keeping because of this and the records
themselves being in such disorder. The health commissioner an
investigation into the matter done and it was one of the final
decisions to halt the removal of the bodies and seal the land.
On March 19,
1893 the Denver Republican
proclaimed "The Work of Ghouls". The article revealed that workman in
of removing the bodies were breaking them into fragments and
the remains into "two and sometimes three of the boxes in which they
conveyed to the new burial site." The boxes provided by the undertaker
were three feet six inches long. Due to the dry soil many of the bodies
exhumed were rather well preserved. It must have been a gruesome site
witness intact remains being shattered and stuffed into these
boxes. The newsman described the scene; "The line of desecrated graves
at the southern boundary of the cemetery sickened and horrified
by the appearance they presented. Around their edges were piled broken
coffins, rent and tattered shrouds and fragments of clothing that had
torn from the dead bodies...All were trampled into the ground by the
of the gravediggers like rejected junk."
This horrible site was augmented by the exhumations
the Chinese graves. Work on these graves was funded and carried out by
the local Chinese community. These were not professional undertakers.
were removed from the ground, the bones were cleaned and wrapped for
to China. The fresher bodies were stripped of their tattered clothing
the decaying flesh scrapped from the bones.
As the Chinese
bundled the bones for shipment to
for a proper burial in their native country, the unfortunate former
of potters field were not to be treated with the same respect. These
souls were shipped to Riverside Cemetery. The plot of land purchased by
the city for the reinternment was a plot of land located down by the
River. This was bottom land over the hill from the main cemetery known
that time as Poverty Flat. The March 20, 1893 article from the Denver
stated It (the new burial site) was not fit for anything. When the
is flooded the whole place is under water.
This was later denied by the caretaker of the cemetery. They now state
that the bodies were buried in a field to the south side of the land
and that they still remain there today.
This caused quite a controversy at the time. Mayor
ordered all removal stopped. The city built a temporary wood fence
the park and it remained incomplete until 1902. Finally shrubs were
and the holes filled in where coffins were removed and those that
had collapsed. In her article Cemetery to conservatory, Louisa Ward
stated that this is a problem that still occasionally occurs. When the
city was installing an automatic sprinkler system, bones and artifacts
In 1898 the architect
and Civil Engineer, Reinhard
Scheutze completed the plan for the layout of what is now Cheesman
park. However he died before the park was completed. The final parts of
the plan were added by S.R. DeBoer after Mr. Scheutzes' death.
The Catholic church kept their section of the land in great condition until 1950 when it was finally used as part of the park.
In 1907 the work was finished and the new park was opened. It was named in honor of Walter S. Cheesman (one of Denver's leaders)
In 1909 Gladys Cheesman-Evans, and her mother Mrs. Walter
S Cheesman Donated the pavilion in memory of Mr. Cheesman ( A Denver
Pioneer and Water Tycoon ). The Donation was dependent on the condition
that the park be named after Mr. Cheesman, so the west section was
named Cheesman Park.
the Catholic church removed the bodies that they had
remaining in their section and sold the land that is now the Botanical
I t is rumored that somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000
bodies still remain on the property to this day.
During the 1980's
the Botanic Gardens was given a home on
the property to use as their main office. This home is on the South
East corner of the property.
It was discovered that the foundation of the house ws shifting so they called in an engineering firm to see what could be done to stabilize the building. When the company came in and took core samples of the support dirt under the foundation they discovered that they had found a casket about 12 feet below in what appeared to be a vertical position. They decided that this was probably due to the bentonite in the area. A very porous clay. the slightest bit of water and it can make things glide around.
If ever a story existed that would excite paranormal activity this is surely at the top of the list. It has been reported that if one goes to the park on certain moonlit nights that all the grave outlines can be identified. Some people have claimed that while reclining on the lawn they have found it very difficult to get up, as if some unseen forces are restraining them.
Following the discovery of the remains at the construction site we contacted the Denver Coroners office and recieved the following response;
"We have assisted in the excavation of the graves and
removal of the skeletons/bones. Once we are sure there are no more (at
least where they are doing construction), they will be released for
burial at Mt. Olivet. There is no report being generated per se. We
have documented in our system that we did an "assist" for the Botanic
Gardens, there is no actual investigative report or autopsy report (our
only document that is public records, but we did no autopsy, therefore,
The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society,
would like to hear from anyone who may have experienced or seen
strange while at the park. Send us e-mail describing the event and any
feelings you had.
some of the submitted stories
Cheesman Park Story
in the Park
You" (Cheesman Park)
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