Local historians continue to seek help from local families
DEL NORTE — The Town of Del Norte was established in 1872 but prior to that time, Hispanic families settled in the area and a cemetery was established to bury the dead.
In 1883, Candelarrio DeJesus Martinez, who lived in Del Norte from 1849 to 1895 donated 40 acres of land to the Town of Del Norte to be used as a cemetery. Five more acres were donated by Jean McFadzean Bond, Dr. Witt, and the Bureau of Land Management adjacent to the new cemetery site. When Martinez donated the land for the new cemetery, bodies from an earlier burial ground, about a mile from the current cemetery, were exhumed and moved to the new site.
By law, the clerk was to keep records of the births and deaths within his or her area. Since there were no hospitals in the early days of Del Norte, most of the births and deaths occurred at home. Citizens had to report these events to the clerk for them to be recorded. Doctors or mid-wives who may have attended a death or birth were often the reporting party regarding these events.
It is unknown whether these records were kept regularly by the clerks, and if so, what may have happened to them as the years passed. The Rio Grande County Clerk’s Office has two books showing births and deaths that occurred in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. However, these records do not have any information regarding the burial place within a cemetery where the decedents bodies may have been buried.
Research shows that various organizations were responsible for keeping the burial records for the Del Norte Cemetery. There were sextons hired and paid to keep the cemetery in good order, but it is unclear as to whether it was also their duty to record the burials that took place. At various times, there were committees comprised of volunteers from the area who served on a board overseeing the cemetery's operation. The Knights of Pythias organization had this duty for many years, then, when the Knights disbanded, the records were turned over to the Town of Del Norte.
The lack of formal and consistent record keeping of burials at the Del Norte Cemetery resulted in incomplete records, and the names and burial places of many persons who are buried in the cemetery are unknown or are not shown on the current records available.
Through the work done to create www.findagrave.com Pauline Weaver Cox and Rosalind Weaver decided to research the burials in the Del Norte Cemetery and see if the unknown shown on the current records could be identified. The research, which included obtaining obituaries and church records of deaths, researching county records, and records through the Town of Del Norte while verifying information has identified approximately 500 persons who are buried in the Del Norte Cemetery but whose actual burial locations are unknown.
In May of 2022, Weaver decided to make crosses and hand them out to people at the cemetery on Memorial Day weekend with the hopes of identifying some of the unknown graves. During that weekend, Paul “Butch” Weaver handed out 15 crosses and it was at this stage that Deborah Romero began helping with the project.
Romero rented a machine to chop down brush throughout the cemetery and crosses were placed near Potter’s Field based on what the current map of the cemetery showed. With the help of Val Alto, Aaron Woodke and his shop class, Paul Weaver, and Romero, 132 crosses were made and installed in May of 2023.
Weaver continues to contrast crosses to represent the other 362 unknow burials at the cemetery and Cynthis Wojciechowlcz has been photographing the crosses to include on the Find A Grave website.
Now, Weaver is asking family, friends or anyone who may have more information to contact her and help her place the crosses on unknown burial locations. If you would like to help provide information or knowledge about any of the unknown sites, please contact Weaver at 719-657-3730 or Polly Cox by email at [email protected].