Skeletons From Old Cemetery Unearthed In Cheesman Park

Workers Digging New Irrigation System Discover 4 Skeletons In Past Week

Workers digging trenches for a Cheesman Park irrigation system have unearthed four skeletons in the past week from an abandoned 19th century cemetery, officials said. The latest set of bones were found on Monday.

Most of the remains have been found around the park's stately pavilion, said Doug Gibbs, project manager for Colorado Designscapes Inc.

Metal casket hinges found in the hole confirmed the skeletons were from the old cemetery, Gibbs said. The wood caskets had completely decomposed and were long gone.

Several history websites delight in portraying Cheesman Park as haunted, because it was originally Mount Prospect Cemetery, founded in 1858, and later known as City Cemetery, according to Cheesmanpark.net.

Better known for its beautiful landscaping, "Cheesman Park is a place that some say hides a legacy of horror," according to Prairieghosts.com.

In March 1860, slain Denver gambler Jack O'Neal and John Stoefel, the man who murdered O'Neal, became the first two people buried in the cemetery, according to Cheesmanpark.net.

"It began to fill with bodies quickly as typhoid and other diseases plagued the overcrowded new population of Denver, which still had no sanitary infrastructure," the website said.

The graveyard became sardonically known as "Jack O'Neal's Ranch."

In 1890, Congress authorized the city to vacate the cemetery, which had been federal land until it was sold to the city. The area was renamed "Congress Park" after the nation's legislature.

Here's where the park earned its spook reputation.

Workers removing graves to make way for the park were accused of grave robbing and hacking up bodies to avoid digging up most of the graves, the website said.

In March 1893, the Denver Republican newspaper exposed the "ghastly treatment of remains by workers exhuming bodies," CheesmanPark.net said. This included "ripping of clothing and walking on remains."

The park is named for Walter Scott Cheesman, a Denver real estate, railroad, and water baron and philanthropist who died in 1907.