Montrose, CO — A noninvasive study of a section of Cedar Creek Cemetery using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) has been completed, giving City of Montrose administrators a better understanding of burial record keeping and future availability of grave plots within the cemetery.
The study was focused on a small area of Section F, one of the oldest areas of Cedar Cemetery, located on the eastern side of the city. Grave markers and cemetery records indicate most burials in the study area date back to the late 1800s, and into the early 1900s.
Over a period of three days in late March, archaeologists with ERO Resources Corp., with offices in Durango and Hotchkiss, conducted the study using GPR in a 3,525-square-meter, or 11,565-square-foot grid survey of Section F.
The purpose of the survey was to assess gaps within the cemetery records to determine the availability of lots in blocks 15,16,17,23, 24, 25,31,32,33,43,44,45,52,53, and 54.
The technology uses a 400-megahertz antenna that is moved across the surface of the ground in a tight grid pattern to detect the presence or absence of burials. Energy reflected from the ground back to the antennae creates a profile of the geology and archaeology of that specific transect. This non-invasive and non-destructive tool allows researchers to gather data from about three meters beneath the ground without disrupting the soil.
The property that would become the Cedar Creek Cemetery was deeded to the City of Montrose from landowner Whilhelm Newman on September 14, 1886. According to city records, Newman specifically asked that the land “be used for and as a cemetery.”
Discrepancies in record-keeping over the past 133 years have lead to several mysteries, some of which have been rectified, but others remain unsolved.
For example, in block 45, the headstone of John and Rose Owens provides information conflicting with burial records. Headstone 13 is located just east of lot 3 of the southeast quarter of block 45 and gives the names “John W. Owens and Rose A. Owens,” both with a death date of 1899. However, the existing cemetery records indicate that Mr. and Mrs. Owens was buried in 1895 in lot 8 of the southeast quarter of block 45, about five meters or, 16-feet northwest of the headstone’s location.
Additionally, grave reflections were identified in the lots closer to the headstones, but not in the lots that are recorded to be occupied. This result may represent one or more offsetting effects, i.e. an error in record keeping, headstone placement, or placement of the graves at the time of burial.
Nearby, headstone 14 appears to indicate the burial of an infant, “Cecil Owens,” with a death date of 1891; however, no burial is recorded under that name in this location or block. This example again may result from off-setting effects,” according to the report.
Despite limitations and constraints, ERO successfully identified a total of 225 digital signatures that indicate burials. From that total, 177 were previously recorded burials otherwise known as "recorded-confirmed burials" or RCBs.
Sixty-nine burials were indicated by cemetery records but were not visible with GPR data. These are identified as "recorded-unconfirmed burials."
Approximately 41 signatures indicate a burial is present, but no burial was recorded in that location. These are identified as "unmarked burials."
Twenty-six lots in the cemetery records indicate possible or unknown burials. The GPR data showed an additional 10 lots having grave reflections with possible or unknown burials in them. These are identified as "possible-confirmed." Locations with possible burials not confirmed with GPR data are identified as "possible-unconfirmed."
Some of the report data supports a widely known theory that the land was used for burials before it was deeded to the city in 1886.
A comprehensive map of the GPR grid was produced to help guide the city with decisions related to the management and protection of existing graves within the survey area.
“We are very interested in reviewing the report findings to aid in our reconciliation of Cedar Creek Cemetery documentation,” said Deputy City Clerk and cemetery record-keeper Carolyn Bellavance. "This GPR study will be most helpful in determining if future GPR studies in the cemetery are worth pursuing."
The project was funded through a grant provided by History Colorado through the State Historical Fund.
“The State Historical Fund is a key partner in the city’s historic preservation efforts. We are grateful for their support in helping us better understand Cedar Creek Cemetery,” said City of Montrose Grant Coordinator Kendall Cramer.
Other note-worthy information from the study is the mention of 58 Civil War veterans that are interred at the cemetery. O.D. Loutzenhizer, a founding father of the city is interred in Section F, although just outside the GPR grid.
The earliest recorded burial within the survey grid took place in 1888, and the majority of burials date to the early 1900s. Early citizens important to the history of the city buried within the GPR grid include the first vice president of the Montrose County Bank, C.B. Akard; one of the town’s earliest business proprietors, A.E. Buddecke; pioneers, Emma and J.V. Lathrop; and the first white woman settler of the city, Alvilda Willerup (Cox, n.d.).
The full report is available on the city's website here: www.cityofmontrose.org/Cemetery
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