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Cemetery tour comes alive with the past

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Dressed in period clothing, Durango Mayor Doug Lyon practices his speech Saturday recounting part of the history of Durango during a tour of Greenmount Cemetery, part of the Durango Heritage Celebration.

By Robert Galin
Herald Staff Writer

Durango’s founding fathers – and mothers – recited short histories of their contributions to the creation and development of the city Saturday at Greenmount Cemetery as part of the fifth annual Durango Heritage Celebration.

Re-enactors included Durango Mayor Doug Lyon, Mayor Pro-tem Dick White, Councilor Sweetie Marbury, Duane A. Smith and others dressed in Victorian attire. They presented their characters to a group of about 50 people, some also dressed in costumes, as they moved to each of the character’s grave sites.

Much of what became Durango started two miles north in Animas City, which eventually lost its significance when the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad decided to create its own town, Durango.

One notable character of early Durango was Estelle Camp, wife of Durango’s first banker, Alfred P. Camp.

“I was known for myself, not just my husband,” said Suzanne Parker in the guise of Mrs. Camp.

Camp, a native of New York state, attended Cornell University (though she didn’t graduate) and was a strong force in the Durango community, Parker said.

Camp was one of the founders of the City Improvement Society, which spurred planting trees such as those in the median on East Third Avenue, Parker told the crowd in character.

Camp also was one of the women responsible for helping to get Mesa Verde a national park designation in 1906. She served on the board of directors of her husband’s bank, what now is First National Bank of Durango. Parker is chairwoman of the Durango Heritage Steering Committee.

Lyon portrayed Thomas Rockwood, a hotel manager who became a leader in area real estate and insurance, including founding the town of Rockwood, now a stop on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

“Rockwood” told the crowd that one of his ancestors beat Henry VIII at chess, was knighted by the temperamental king and then left for Massachusetts, just in case.

Kristi Nelson Cohen portrayed Belle Short, who married Alva Short, who farmed on Florida Mesa, among other activities.

The Shorts “loved the four seasons (and) the blue skies” of Durango. Mrs. Short died before her husband, who himself died in 1978 at age 99.

“Woodman” John Fiorini was represented by Duane Fiorini of Family Craft Monuments, formerly known as Durango Monument Works.

Sweetie Marbury was Amelia Weightman, and Miki Harder was Elly Chapman.

Historian Smith, also in character, led the group from monument to monument. He told the group that Durango actually has two cemeteries (the first one was in Animas City). But when Durango was founded in 1880, Greenmount was created.

Among the visitors were Michael and Barbara Donovan of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. The Donovans own a late Victorian/early Edwardian bed and breakfast and often have hosted period events. Barbara Donovan said she made the costumes they wore Saturday. This was their first Victorian event away from home, and “we’re enjoying ourselves thoroughly.”

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