Mount Olivet events to tour graves, share stories of colorful historic figures
By Nissa LaPoint
Mount Olivet Cemetery Tours
Both tours will be at the cemetery located at 12801 W. 44th Ave. in Wheat Ridge.
Denver Archdiocese’s “Walking Tour”
When: 9 a.m.-noon Sept. 22
RSVP: 303-715-3221 or firstname.lastname@example.org
History Colorado’s “Mount Olivet Tour”
When: 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 27
Cost: $26 for History Colorado members; $31 for non-members
This fall, Mount Olivet Cemetery will be brought back to life.
The many entombed famous and infamous figures at the Wheat Ridge cemetery, with ties to Colorado’s Catholic community, will be resurrected by storytellers and actors who will share their life story.
“We’re trying to bring history to life,” said Tom Noel, professor at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Two tours will be hosted by the Catholic cemetery: one sponsored by the Denver Archdiocese’s Office of Liturgy and Archives Sept. 22 and another sponsored by the nonprofit History Colorado Oct. 27.
Volunteers and staff will lead the annual Mount Olivet Cemetery Walking Tour Sept. 22 and take people on a 2-mile walk from tombstone to mausoleum to talk about the many contributions and colorful tales of the deceased buried below. The tour is free.
“This place is full of the history of the Archdiocese of Denver,” said Lloyd Swint, assistant director of Mount Olivet and St. Simeon cemeteries. “Every grave in this cemetery is a story. There are chapters and chapters to be written here. We’ve picked out those who are most recognizable and will tell their story.”
From the crypts of former shepherds, like pioneer Bishop Joseph Machebeuf and Bishop Urban Vehr, to history-making Catholics, like J.K. Mullen and astronaut Leonard “Jack” Swigert, participants will learn about more than 20 important figures that shaped Colorado’s past.
Photo James Baca/DCR
Photo provided courtesy History Colorado
This year the tour will also include more local, perhaps lesser-known names buried at the cemetery, Swint said.
It will begin 9 a.m. in the cemetery chapel at 12801 W. 44th Ave. After an introduction, participants will take the interactive tour. Golf cart rides are available to those who can’t walk the distance. The tour will end with refreshments at noon.
“We hope folks will take advantage of the opportunity of this gem of a place we have here,” Swint said.
History Colorado’s tour
On a separate tour Oct. 27, professor Tom Noel, Denver city auditor Dennis Gallagher and students from Colorado University-Denver will educate about Colorado’s past at the cemetery through live impersonations. Cost is $26-$31.
“We’re going to focus on the personalities as well as the art and architecture,” Noel said.
Tour guides will talk about the carvings in the tombstones and about the statues of the angels and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Gallagher will sing a Gregorian chant and the tour will pass the scenic spots of the cemetery, including one of its several lakes.
As the tour winds through the cemetery, guides impersonating past figures will tell their life story and take questions from the tour group, Noel said.
One tale that will be told is that of Horace Tabor and his second wife Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor. Tabor’s rags-to-riches story during the booming days of silver mining will be recounted as well as the Tabors’ marriage and Baby Doe’s subsequent remorse. Baby Doe, Noel said, an Irish Catholic, did penance for her affair with Tabor. She was found frozen to death in the shape of a cross in Leadville. She is buried next to Tabor, who converted to Catholicism before his death.
For 25 years, Noel and Gallagher have hosted tours at cemeteries in Colorado. This year the tour at Mount Olivet is open to the public. The Model A Ford Club of Colorado will give rides with vintage Fords to the handicap and elderly who are unable to walk the tour.
An RSVP is requested for this tour.
“These cemeteries are a great way to study history,” Noel said.