Storytellers: Saving the Winfield Cemetery

9NEWS @ 9. 10/30/2016

CHAFFEE COUNTY - When Stacey Rehbein discovered her own family's ties to a historic cemetery in an abandoned mountain town, she felt like it was her duty to help restore it.

"I don't know. I really can't explain it. I felt like I needed to do it," Rehbein said.

Tucked away in the mountains southwest of Leadville, the town of Winfield started as a silver mining town in 1889. While searching through her own genealogy, Rehbein found out that her great, great grandfather lived in Winfield.

"It's kind of a little ghost town," Rehbein said. "There's not a lot here. It's kinda remote."

The area is now a hidden gem for hikers and campers like Pat Mielkus.

"We come up. We like to go four-wheeling and go hiking," Mielkus said. "Everywhere you can turn there's just a beautiful peak and a beautiful scene to look at."

There is also a little cemetery that fell into disrepair. When Rehbein found it, it was overgrown with poorly marked graves, many of them unknown. So, Rehbein and the Clear Creek Canyon Historical Society decided to restore the cemetery.

"They needed to be remembered even if we didn't know all their names," Rehbein said.

She used family accounts from her Great Aunt Effie who was there when some were laid to rest. Rehbein looked up court records and found old newspaper articles and obituaries to determined where the graves were buried and who might be buried there.

 "We do everything we can to preserve all that we have here," Rehbein said.

She and historical society members placed white crosses over the graves and outlined each of them with rocks while cleaning out the weeds and overgrown grasses.

"Just look and try to remember the things that happened here and those lives, all of those lives mattered," Rehbein said. "I can't even put myself in their place thinking about living here and how hard it must've been."

Beth and Bruce Miller are hikers who come through this area often. They appreciate the work done to make the historic cemetery presentable again.

"It's nice when people take the time to pay attention, you know, and not lose history," Beth Miller said. "And, it's respectful -- the stones and white crosses. It's really nice."

Rehbein hopes it helps these long departed souls finally rest in peace.

"It's just a way of remembering," Rehbein said.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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