Hayden cemetery tells century-old tale

Homesteader's family buried there after contracting diphtheria

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— To find the Pioneer Cemetery, you have to go looking for it.

Unpaved Routt County Road 69 wraps around the place locals call Bowling Alley Hill and follows a chain-link fence. Behind the fence, in a plot no bigger than most people's living rooms, lie the bodies of the Stanton family.

Henry Stanton was an early homesteader in the Hayden area, an expatriate from Cornwall, England. In 1882, Henry and his wife built a two-room log cabin, cleared the land and started growing hay.

Less than one year later, all five Stanton children came down with diphtheria. Two of the girls died.

Because diphtheria is a contagious disease, no public funeral was held and the girls were buried at night, far from the town of Hayden.

The small cemetery holds the bodies of five Stantons, including Henry.

Adrian Marshall is also buried there. Marshall was hired by the town of Hayden to take care of the poor and indigent. The other people buried there, like baby Thomas Hindman, buried in 1903, or 31-year-old James Ingrum, buried in 1897, may have been the poor that Marshall took helped, or such is the theory of Hayden resident Roger Cusick, president of the National Association for Cemetery/Gravesite Preservation.

When Cusick found the Pioneer Cemetery, sagebrush and prairie weeds had all but buried the stone markers.

Wind and snow were slowly erasing the names and dates and with them the memory of those buried there.

Since then, the Pioneer Cemetery has been cleared and an official marker put up on the surrounding fence. Upkeep is done by Hayden's Goodtimes 4-H club, Cusick said.

Since they started looking in the early '90s, Cusick and his wife. Joyce, have found 43 cemeteries and burials in Routt County, varied in size from the large town cemeteries to a lone marker lost to prairie grass on someone's ranch. Once a burial was discovered, the Cusicks gathered information on the cemetery, the history of the land and the family of the deceased.

All that information has been recorded in a hard copy database, now at the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs.

The Cusicks also do similar research for anyone who asks, free of charge or for voluntary donations to the Association for Cemetery Preservation.

Roger Cusick believes interest in local cemeteries opens doors to the area's past.

"I think people should visit cemeteries and bring their children," Cusick said.

In the past, parents and children went together to clean family plots, he said.

"It's not morbid," Cusick said. "It's about showing respect for the gravesite and for the dead buried there. It's also a way for people to learn a little history."

Cusick's interest in cemeteries started with a passionate curiosity for genealogy.

He has traced his own family back to a John Cusick, who came to the United States in 1742.

"My wife and I get really excited about his stuff," he said.

They take yearly trips to the genealogy library in Salt Lake City and research from the moment it opens to closing time at 11 p.m.

This week, the Cusicks are heading to Trier, Germany, to research the family origins. It's the couple's first trip abroad and the next of an every widening ripple started by Roger Cusick's initial curiosity about his own family's past.

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