The Story Behind the Unknown Graves at Whitewater Cemetery
Should you visit the cemetery in Whitewater, Colorado, you'll notice a number of graves marked "UNKNOWN." While it is typical for a cemetery to have graves with unknown occupants, it seems as though in most cases these graves are left unmarked. Who lies in these graves?
Obviously, my question is somewhat silly. If it were known who was buried there, the headstone would show their name. Nevertheless, the cemetery made efforts to acknowledge that a person's remains are located there.
When you visit the cemetery in Whitewater, you'll instantly notice that many of the graves are well over a hundred years old. As a matter of fact, there are four Civil War veterans buried there.
I spoke with Sue Chapman, one of the volunteers who helps take care of the Whitewater cemetery and keep its records up to date. According to Sue, there was a period of time when no one looked after the cemetery. Over the years, several people were buried with no official record as to their identity.
So, who is responsible for making and donating the "UNKNOWN" markers? According to Sue, the headstones are made courtesy of a volunteer by the name of Bob Franklin.
Is this typical of most cemeteries? In my experience, no. There is an unmarked grave next to my grandmother at a different Grand Junction area cemetery. In this case, there is no official record of a grave being there, and certainly no marker. A survey of the area conducted in recent years provided evidence of a grave in that location. If it weren't for modern technology, the grave would have gone completely forgotten.
I, for one, greatly appreciate the Whitewater cemetery volunteers' efforts. Obviously, a considerable amount of effort has gone towards acknowledging the existence of the graves.
If you get a chance, head out to the Whitewater cemetery. While I have no real interest in cemeteries, I find this one extremely interesting. Next chance, set aside a few minutes to visit the graves of those who've no one to remember them. For those individuals, I've found this poem.
There is a little lonely grave
Which no one comes to see,
The foxglove and red orchis wave
Their welcome to the bee.
There never falls the morning sun,
It lies beneath the wall,
But there when weary day is done
The lights of sunset fall,
Flushing the warm and crimson air,
As life and hope were present there.
There sleepeth one who left his heart
Behind him in this song;
Breathing of that diviner part
Which must to heaven belong.
The language of those spirit chords,
But to the poet known,
Youth, love, and hope yet use his words,
They seem to be his own:
And yet he has not left a name,
The poet died without his fame.
How many are the lovely lays
That haunt our English tongue,
Defrauded of their poet's praise,
Forgotten he who sung.
Tradition only vaguely keeps
Sweet fancies round his tomb;
Its tears are what the wild flower weeps,
its record is that bloom;
Ah, surely Nature keeps with her
The memory of her worshipper.
One of her loveliest mysteries
Such spirits blends at last
With all the fairy fantasies
Which o'er some scenes are cast.
A softer beauty fills the grove,
A light is in the grass,
A deeper sense of truth and love
Comes o'er us as we pass;
While lingers in the heart one line,
The nameless poet hath a shrine." -