Pioneer Cemeteries: Sculpture Gardens of the Old West

October 23, 2008 – 2:22 pm

Congratulations to Annette Stott, Friends of Historic Riverside Cemetery Board member and co-chair of our history and research committee, on the publication of her new book, “Pioneer Cemeteries: Sculpture Gardens of the Old West.”

This extraordinary book traces the development of the cemetery in five western states from 1860-1890, from the time of the ‘boot hill’ graveyard to the designed and manicured ‘fair mount.’ As Annette says in her description:

Before the advent of art museums, public libraries or civic sculpture, the Rocky Mountain cemetery functioned as a repository of art and history… The emerging sepulchral garden functioned as an open-air gallery of public sculpture, at once a site for relaxation, learning and social ritual.

As one of the first park-like designed resting places in the Rocky Mountain West, Riverside offers a premier example of the role that the cemetery played in daily life. The statuary is a memorial both those whose “life had ceased” and also to the way of life in an environment that was often harsh and unforgiving.

Death was highly visible in the old west, where public hangings and burials created public spectacles. Indian wars, disease, lack of law enforcement, the dangers of childbirth, accidents and unpredictable mountain weather contributed to high mortality rates. Society coped with death by incorporating into daily life the rituals of burial, mourning, monument unveilings and grave decorating, often involving public parades, music and speeches.

In addition to writing this book and working with our history and research committee, Dr. Scott somehow finds time to chair the Art and Art History Department at the University of Denver.

Pioneer Cemeteries: Sculpture Gardens of the Old West is published by University of Nebraska Press. The book can be purchased via their website, as well as at The Tattered Cover in Denver or from