Visiting The Winfield Cemetary
Visiting Winfield Colorado, the cemetery,a miner's cabin and schoolhouse, and the roads leading up to them and the people who lived and died there.
Following Highway 24 north out of the town of Buena Vista, Colorado, travel for approximately 15 miles until you come to County Road 390. Turn left and stay on the maintained gravel road all the way to the historic town of Winfield.
High in the San Isabel National Forest, Winfield, built in the years around 1880, was once a booming mining town built up around the search for silver. It contained all the common buildings associated with a town of its time. Three saloons, two hotels, a general store and post office, a blacksmith and as a sign there today proclaims, “a church where no service was ever held”. At some point in time, a schoolhouse was built, and stands in town today. If you step up on the porch you can peek into the past and see what the school looked like as it did back in the late 1800’s. Books and desks sit quietly, seeming to wait for students from long ago.
Across the road from the school stands an example of a typical house of an early day miner. Looking through the window of this cabin will reward you with another glimpse into some far away time. While these buildings are here for people to view, please respect their age and treat them kindly. Do not litter or leave your trash behind. These buildings, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, are maintained through the generosity of the Clear Creek Historical Society.
As you pass through Winfield, on past the schoolhouse, the road takes a sudden turn to the right. Be warned, as it is a ‘sudden turn’, right by a cabin that is private property. Please stay on the road itself and always respect the privacy of the people that live in and around these areas. Here, the road turns from a well-maintained gravel road to a rutted path. Follow this across a small wooden bridge. From here, the road turns rough. A four-wheel drive vehicle with a high clearance is recommended. On the other hand, if you choose, it makes a nice walk up the side of the mountain. If choosing this option, remember to be prepared with a pack, including water, and any other essentials that you would normally take with you while hiking in the any of the Colorado mountains. Be careful of traffic as both motor vehicles and motor bikes use this on a regular basis. Continue up this path until you come to a sign on your right. The sign reads:
25 members of an early-day mining community lie buried in the solitude of this tiny graveyard. Some died at birth, others of childhood diseases, and a few violently- by a gunfight, avalanche, explosion, fire and lightning. Frederick Aude was the first to be buried here in 1885. Only the markers of two Aude children remain.
Beyond, a small footpath leads into the cemetery itself. A bench sits just outside the fence for those wanting to take a rest, or to sit and reflect. The Clear Creek Canyon Historical Society has placed a marker nearby with all the names of those individuals buried within the cemetery. You will notice that even today, there are flowers placed on many of the graves. Maybe by a present day relative, maybe by someone who just thinks that is the right thing to do? You decide. The view from the cemetery is breathtaking, one very fitting an eternal resting-place.
Visiting the cemetery on a warm June morning with my seven-year-old son led to questions of “Why did people live up here?” “Why did they bring their families all the way to the top of the mountain?” to “Who buried them?” and the final one of “Why are some of the graves so tiny?”
We can only imagine what drew these people to this area long ago. Some will say they came for the silver. Others will surely say they came because it was a typical boomtown needing people to live in it, to run the saloons and general store. Others just were, born here as the town itself was being born. If you look around at the view, you will surely decide that this, and all the other reasons listed is why they came. If you are looking for a place to reflect on life, although a cemetery, this is an ideal place.
Today, you can occasionally glimpse someone panning the river that runs through Winfield, still seeking a fortune the old way. People come to trail ride or hike. Some live their daily lives here. Some come just to pay their respects at a cemetery that resides deep in the forest. A cemetery that is very old, but definitely not forgotten. If you find yourself near Winfield, take the time to travel a bit farther and take in the cemetery. You will never forget it.