By Silvia Pettem
In 1980, when Denver resident Gerald Armstrong acted as an agent for his employer in purchasing a property in Mead, northeast of Longmont, a barn came with the land. Inside the barn was a gravestone. Still legible was “Frederick Richardson, Died Feb. 11 1876, Aged 73 Yrs. 19 Ds.”
Armstrong called me a few months ago, setting into motion a small group of people intent on returning the vandalized stone to its rightful location on Richardson’s grave. But, figuring out where the stone belonged and getting it there became a challenge.
On a still-summery day in mid-September, local genealogists, along with Armstrong and two of Richardson’s descendants, accomplished their goal. The site was a little-known plot near Lyons, in northern Boulder County.
This half-acre burial ground, called the Weisner Cemetery, was first brought to Armstrong’s attention when he contacted a reference librarian at the Denver Public Library. Further research in the Carnegie Library, in Boulder, led to cemetery records published in 1949 by the late author and historian Harold M. Dunning.
The Weisner Cemetery is located on private property now owned and preserved by the CEMEX cement company. Not surprisingly, however, the 160-acre parcel that contains the handful of graves had been homesteaded, in 1865, by none other than Frederick Richardson.
Richardson and his neighbors were farmers. In 1864, neighbors Jim and Mary Ellen Weisner had buried their young son, Hubert/Herbert, on the land. His young sister, as well as their mother (who died of tuberculosis), were laid next to him a few years later.
Prior to Richardson’s own death, he had been widowed and lived with one of his married daughters, Martha Chapman, a resident of the nearby town of Hygiene. The Weisner Cemetery and the homestead around it remained for several years in the Chapman family.
Then came a series of property owners who farmed the surrounding land but left the graves unattended, leaving them open to vandalism and decay.
Dunning recorded the cemetery’s burials in 1946 and 1965. On his first site visit, he noted that the Richardson stone was one of only five that were legible. When Dunning returned in 1965 he wrote, “Only a very few stones are left and probably one or so in place.”
Most likely, Richardson’s stone had been in Armstrong’s barn longer than he or anyone realized. While the stone was in his possession, Armstrong spent years inquiring in communities in eastern Boulder County, as well as Weld County, but no one could shed any light on where Richardson’s stone belonged. Armstrong, meanwhile, worked in a Denver office building and had a colleague named Michael Richardson. Michael was no relation to Frederick, but he was intrigued with the stone and kept it in his office. After
Michael passed away, his son continued to display the stone.
Thanks to Armstrong’s preservation of the stone and his perseverance in getting it returned, as well as the CEMEX company’s current stewardship of the land, Richardson is (hopefully) again, resting in peace.
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