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Dawson Cemetery

Jenny, Will, and I all had an afternoon off recently, so we decided to go for another grand adventure. We headed north toward Raton, but made a quick detour to visit the Dawson Cemetery.

Dawson was a mining town founded in 1901 about 17 miles northeast of Cimarron, NM. It grew quickly, and was once home to around 9,000 people. Says the Dawson Matron, a character in our weekly History of New Mexico program,

I’ve heard a lot of bad things about mining towns, but let me tell you: they’ve got it all wrong. We’ve got a good school and a market, and everybody we know goes to church regular–just like big city folk.

The mines were shut down in 1950, and the town was sold off in pieces until all that remains is the cemetery and a few ruined buildings.

As we were driving down the long dirt road that leads to the cemetery, we discovered an enormous herd of elk. These pictures don’t really do it justice, but there were easily 200 elk–and quite possibly closer to 300. They were bugling more than I’ve ever heard elk bugle, and they were very, very aware of us.

The cemetery itself is an incredibly beautiful place. Most of the graves are for the 383 men who lost their lives in two mine explosions, one in 1913 and the other in 1923. It is dry and dusty place and many of the graves are in disrepair, but there is something surreal and reverent about hundreds of white crosses standing in straight rows. Some of them had names. Some didn’t.

I definitely want to go back sometime at night. I think it would make some stunning night photos, don’t you think? (I’ll just have to make sure to have friends stand guard while I have my face stuck to my viewfinder, since it is cat country. I would probably get eaten without even noticing…)

From there, we continued up to Raton. When we got off the freeway, we spotted an American Black Bear running up a service road parallel to our exit ramp! It stopped to look at us, then ran off into a field before I could fish my camera out of its bag to get a better picture. Oh well!

Black Bear

We ran some errands, and then drove up to the top of Goat Hill for a fantastic view of the city.

After a quick jaunt up to Trinidad, Colorado, to eat the world’s best Chinese food at Wonderful House, we headed home. With the sun setting over the Spanish Peaks behind us, it was a fitting end to a beautiful day.

Sunset over the Spanish Peaks

Find Your JoyCemeteries are a wonderful place to do family history work for your own families, or to help other families with their own. On, you can volunteer to find and photograph headstones to help those who are searching for their deceased relatives.

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Jess Friedman
Jess is a Canadian-American who’s always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about helping families make and preserve treasured memories that strengthen bonds across generations. You can read more posts by Jess here.

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