By Freda Carley Peterson Visit the Hillside Cemetery Website
Hillside Cemetery lies a little north of Silverton, past the courthouse, on the steep lower slope of Boulder Mountain. There are no winding paths between the graves and the plots are not laid out in neat and orderly rows. This venerable old burying ground, a place of wild grandeur and rare beauty, is sprawled over twenty acres on the side of the rugged mountain. At an altitude of more than 9,300 feet, the cemetery is constantly struggling against the harsh elements of nature which endlessly threaten to damage tombstones, rock walls and fences.
The landscaping, designed by nature, is beautiful and natural, with numerous aspen, spruce and pine trees. In the summer, masses of daisies interspersed with red, blue, purple and yellow wildflowers, decorate the graveyard. In winter, deep snows blanket the graves of those who sleep eternally at Hillside. Above, the magnificent mountains stand as eternal, silent sentinels encircling the cemetery and little town below.
Wandering through the cemetery (or the cemetery book), you begin to absorb the human history of the area. The tombstone inscriptions reveal bits and pieces of individual personalities, religious preferences, places of birth, causes of death, and the difficulties of frontier life. Here is evidence of the scourges of pneumonia, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and the devastating flu epidemic of 1918. Childhood diseases carried to an early death an alarming number of babies and young children.
The cemetery also bears grim witness to the special hazards of childbirth in a primitive and hostile environment, as well as the extreme and deadly dangers encountered in the early days of hard rock mining in the high country.
Experience for yourself a visit to this historic cemetery, in person or through the cemetery books, available soon in our online store (proceeds from book sales goes into a Cemetery Fund set up by Freda Carley Peterson).
In 1990, Freda received a prestigious award from the American Association for State and Local History for her research and compilation of burial records in San Juan County, Colorado. This research resulted in the two volumes of The Story of Hillside Cemetery. There had previously been no record of burials in San Juan County.