by Nancy Christofferson
EAST SPANISH PEAK— Of all of Huerfano County’s 50-plus cemeteries, there is one, and only one, named for a single individual. Holding this singular and dubious distinction is Thomas Rogers.
The Thomas Rogers Cemetery is located near the foot of the East Spanish Peak and beside South Santa Clara Creek, in as picturesque little grove as one can imagine.
Rogers was not a politician or a rich businessman. He was a community minded landowner who, in July 1895, donated an acre of his ranch land for a cemetery, which his neighbors pledged to fence. At the time there were already 16 graves at the site, several of which may have been those of Rogers’s children, but only three of which are known today because of their inscriptions. Perhaps they were marked in the 1890s. The three were two Angel children who died in 1893 and Mary Gribble Wayman who died in 1882. Nothing is known about the Angel family and all that was written about Mrs. Wayman was that she was the sister of John Gribble, the wife of Charles Wayman and she left six children. It seems that the cemetery was used to bury those from the Santa Clara coal mines and the later new Rouse mine.
Ironically, the Walsenburg World carried less information about Rogers when he died in April 1898 than it did about the donation of the acre three years before. He died at age 66. Not much else is known about him except he served on the Scissors School District No.28 Board of Education. Scissors has also been known as the Santa Clara, Capps and Quebec school and post office.
Thomas and his wife Francis were both natives of Wales who married in Kansas before moving to the Santa Clara about 1874. The 1885 census includes them with six children. Richard, the oldest and only son, was then 11 years old and born in Kansas while the girls, Jennie, 11, Anna, 9, Francis, 6, Marguerite, 4 and Mary, 2, were all born on the Santa Clara.
Most of the graves in the Thomas Rogers Cemetery belong to his neighbors and relatives. The daughters had married into the Read, Smith, Wells and Herlyck families.
Richard married Matilda Morris, the daughter of David and Hannah Lavina. The Morrises had come from England and Wales in 1871 with five children and had two more in the United States. They arrived in Walsenburg in 1880 when there were only three stores, according to Hannah’s memory: Levy’s, Unfug’s and Baxter Hardware. She recalled West 7th Street covered with scrub brush and chokecherries all the way west to the Walsen mine. David had been raised in Wales and was a veteran coal miner who helped to open several Huerfano County mines. Their seven kids included Belle (who married John J. Ferrick), Joshua and Lincoln. In 1905 when the family celebrated their 25th anniversary in the U.S., along with David’s 67th birthday and Lincoln’s 33rd, all seven children were living with their spouses and children in the area.
Joshua Morris was known for his fine grain and vegetable crops. Lincoln also was a farmer but sold out and in 1907 built a two-story, 40-room rooming house at 6th and Albert streets in Walsenburg. It later became a hotel but burned and was razed in 1941 [the site is now that of the Community Bank’s drive-up facility]. Both sons left the county around 1910. David died in 1919, leaving 65 descendants, and Hannah in 1937 at 93 years old. Both are buried in the Rogers Cemetery. Nearby are buried in unmarked graves many of their grandchildren, including three little Ferricks, the children of their daughter Belle, and John J. Ferrick’s father.
The Rogers family has no fewer than 10 marked graves, and is only exceeded in number by the Read family with 12.
Two of Thomas Rogers’s daughters married Read brothers; Fannie who became Mrs. James L. “Lew” Read in 1897 and Katherine “Katie” who was Mrs. George F. Read. These brothers were the sons of Henry W. Read, a veteran of the Civil War from Missouri. H.W. and his wife Nannie moved to the Santa Clara area about 1881 in a covered wagon. Nannie died in 1882 and is probably buried in the Rogers Cemetery. H.W. remarried and left the area in 1913, though several of his children remained. Fannie and J.L. had at least five children, the last of whom to be interred in the Rogers Cemetery being Nancy, who never married, in 1979 and Fred in 1984.
Richard Rogers may be remembered by many of the county ranching community. If not, he should be remembered as the father of Earl, who did much to populate the county. Earl and his wife Elizabeth Kay had 10 children, George, Jeff, Tom, Milo, Will, Richard, Ethel (later Furphy), Elizabeth (Bowdino), Edith (Major) and Ruth (Zellar). There are many, many descendents of Richard and Matilda still living in this area. In fact, Richard no doubt surpassed his father-in-law by leaving more than 65 descendants.
The Southeastern Colorado Genealogical Society “read” this cemetery in 1979, meaning members walked the grounds and copied the information from the monuments. One enigmatic listing from these members, as published in the society’s magazine, Pinon Whispers, is that for “Thomas Louis Rick, 1920-1931 U.S. Navy.” Eleven being rather young for a sailor, further research reveals Thomas Louis Rik, machinist mate 2-c, actually died in 1947 in the Marshall Islands and his remains were returned to Huerfano County for burial.
Anyone who is interested in local history might well take a stroll through any cemetery. The tragedies of epidemics that claimed so many children as well as the familiarity of certain surnames gives an excellent peek into the past.