Hygiene Cemetery

Hygiene Cemetery History

By Ann Miller

This is a story of last things, of a graveyard for a town that no longer exits, at least not in the way it once flourished — Pella, a farming settlement between Longmont and the high mountains. We first learned of Pella from a placard at the Lohr/McIntosh Farm which informed us that McIntosh had donated some land a mile southwest of the farm for the Pella Cemetery. Subsequently, Erik Mason, at the Longmont Museum, told us that Pella was the old name for Hygiene and that Pella had been originally named after a town in Iowa.

From Diane Goode Benedict, historian and author of Refuge in the Valley: 1800s Pella, Colorado, we learned that the word, “pella,” means “refuge” in Hebrew. The town Pella, she said, had been founded in a large part by members of the Dunkard Church migrating from Iowa. The Pella graveyard was divided in two parts with the Dunkard Church(Church of the Brethren) Cemetery on the North side of the road and the McIntosh Cemetery on the South.

On a day when the leaves were turning color, we took Seventeenth Street straight towards the mountains and stopped where the road bisected the graveyard. A light breeze soughed through the lilacs and trees as we walked respectfully among the stones. We had a list of the plots that Mary Pearson of the St.Vrain Historical Society had thoughtfully given us, but we didn’t look at it. Instead we traced with our fingers the carved lettering on the stones and whispered the inscriptions to ourselves: “Emma C. Bird, Neighbors of Woodcraft, Courage, Hope, Remembrance; W.M.D. Perkins, Died Nov. 3 1890, Aged 19 Years, 8 mos., 24 days; Baby Woodward….”

We saw numerous markers for babies in that small graveyard, testimony to a harsh existence in a hard, hard land. And we saw headstones for those who had died a sudden and lonely death far from friends and family. But there was also a sense of community in that fence-encircled field, as if the survivors had banded together for help to make it through….

That sense of community, we know, extends to those whose relatives are buried there, descendents like Ken Cinnamon, President of the Hygiene Cemetery Association, who knows the names belonging to every plot by heart; descendants like Mary Feldmeir whose progenitor, Aquilla Cook, went hunting when he was deathly ill because his family needed food, and whose remains were found three years later in a desolate patch of the mountains; and descendants like Rhonda Ferris whose great, great grandfather Vandaver McCory lay in the snow, trapped under a fallen wagon, for three days before managing to dig himself out.

As we wandered among the markers, feeling the rough sandstone of some and the polished granite of others, we thought about how the stories of these pioneers worked on us, how like layered strata they informed our lives, imparting “courage, hope, remembrance….”