135 Year Old Cemetery Celebration in Florissant

Florissant, Teller County, Colorado, April 27, 2009
cemetery gateThe small mountain community of Florissant, 35 miles west of Colorado Springs, is celebrating its 135-year-old cemetery with the publication of a new book, Florissant, Colorado Pioneer Cemetery–The Stories Behind the Tombstones, and the dedication of a new cemetery entrance on Monday, May 25.

Florissant was established in June, 1870, when Judge James Castello built a Trading Post adjacent to a Ute Indian fort. In 1872, Judge Castello applied for an official post office which he named “Florissant” for his hometown in Missouri. Gold seekers and pioneers flooded into the area, but were unable to file legal title to homesteads until a survey of the Pikes Peak region was published in 1876. Later, when the Colorado Midland Railroad arrived 1886, scores of new families moved into the area. These early pioneers lost loved ones in the ebb and flow of life, and an informal cemetery sprang up among the aspens and pines. Many of the graves were marked by a simple wooden stake. The earliest burial was probably that of a child who died in 1874, but the cemetery is filled with dozens of un-marked graves (with unknown dates) as the wooden markers deteriorated and disappeared. There may very well be earlier burials.

On August 27, 1886, Frank F. Castello (son of James) and his neighbors John Wilson and Valentine Hamman applied to El Paso County (Teller County was carved out of El Paso County 1899) for a “Florissant Cemetery Association.” Frank Castello and John Wilson were named as the Trustees. In November 1900, Frank Castello applied to have only himself named Trustee of the Florissant Cemetery Association. The record is vague after this date, and the cemetery fell into disrepair. The Pikes Peak Historical Society began voluntary maintenance in 1988. In March, 1992, the District Court in Teller County named the Pikes Peak Historical Society as Trustee of the Cemetery. (Florissant Heritage Foundation was renamed Pikes Peak Historical Society in 2001.)

Authors Laura L. Moncrief and Nancy M. Boyd open the graves of 109 of these early pioneers buried in the cemetery in their comprehensive new book, Florissant, Colorado Pioneer Cemetery–The Stories Behind the Tombstones. This book is 220 pages, and includes family genealogies, photos of each pioneer tombstone, and a complete index of over 500 surnames