History students, faculty to lead October cemetery tours
A group of UCCS history students will join with faculty in October to recreate local history and raise funds to protect a local cemetery.
For the third year, students in Barbara Headle’s “The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries, Memory and American History”course will team with former students and returning volunteers to lead tours of the Fountain Fairview Cemetery, 757 South Santa Fe Ave. After extensive research, students will don period dress and relate the stories of the people buried at the cemetery who settled and developed the Fountain Valley during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This year’s emphasis is on the children who lived in Fountain. UCCS students and volunteers will interpret the children’s life stories.
The tours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 18. The final tour begins at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students with identification and free for those less than 12 years old. Proceeds from the tour and a concurrent silent auction at the Fountain Public Library will fund the repair of damaged headstones in the cemetery and future installation of a video surveillance system.
“Children have always been full participants in the unfolding of human history,” Headle said recently. “However, sometimes the vacant chair or the empty child’s bed is all that remains after a child is gone. Their experiences are important. When we exclude them from the historical narrative, we leave a void in our history that is, at best, difficult to recover.”
For example, the students will research and tell the story of a 14-year-old girl buried at Fairview. While her life was short, her story tells the travails of a community ravished by Spanish Influenza, a pandemic of 1918-19. Her father also perished as a result of the illness. That child’s headstone, a 150-pound marble block shaped in the form of a tree stump with an inscription “a life cut short” was recently toppled by vandals.
“Some of the children may have passed away too early to have had a voice from themselves,” Kim Sweetwood, a history graduate student, said. “Students will portray their relatives, or their friends, talking about these children and the general context of history in Fountain when they were living and when they passed away.”
In addition to her history studies, Sweetwood is also a sign language interpreter at many UCCS events and works as a student assistant in the Department of History.
This week, Sweetwood presented invitations to the Oct. 18 cemetery tour to members of the Fountain City Council. The council recently authorized additional funding for a video surveillance system, an issue that Headle and her students brought forward when they began the project three years ago. In the past three years, the faculty and student-led project has raised about $5,500.
For Headle, the cemetery tours bring together the research and presentation skills necessary for academic and career success. Cemeteries offer a unique peek into a community’s past, she says, becoming mirrors of the living community by reflecting group cultural values. Making community history more realistic by focusing on an individual, and for the benefit of a near-to-campus community, are added benefits.