Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Highland Lake Pioneer Cemetery

Highland Lake Pioneer Cemetery is on County Road 36, in unincorporated Weld County, northeast of the town of Mead, CO.

I found this great little pioneer cemetery completely by accident while I was out on a ride. The area around the cemetery is filled with fantastic gravel and dirt roads and I was out on my 'cross bike when I turned a corner and found this site completely by accident. I couldn't have been happier since one of my favorite things to find out here in Colorado is pioneer and settler cemeteries.

The community of Highland Lake was created by Lorin Cassandre Mead and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1871. After arriving in Colorado from the east coast Lorin and Elizabeth toured several of Colorado's newly formed towns, including Longmont (at the time known as the Chicago-Colorado Colony), and Greeley, looking for land that they could purchase and homestead. Disappointed by the high price of land near the quickly developing towns of the Front Range, the Meads decided to stake their claim near a natural spring they had seen while touring the area. This "prairie pothole", called Highland Lake by Lorin Mead after the body of water in Sir Walter Scott's poem "The Lady of the Lake", became the center of an 80-acre plot that was claimed and homesteaded by the Mead family.

The community developed quickly and the number of families in the Highland Lake area increased rapidly. By 1877 the Highland Lake area had its own school district, Weld County School District Number 33, along with a church and a post office by 1883. Though you wouldn't know it these days Highland Lake was a well known vacation spot for Denverites looking to get away from the hustle of the big city. Today there are a number of farms and homes in the area, but nothing that would attract a vacationer. However, around the turn of the century Highland Lake and the Gately family's hotel and boarding house were filled with weekend visitors.

It couldn't last for the Highland Lake community though. City officials and farmers had been campaigning for a new railway to come through their town for a number of years. Rail surveyors had been through Highland Lake in 1887 but even after fourteen years there were no definite plans to develop a rail line. In a bid to encourage the development of a rail spur local farmers made a plan to turn Highland Lake into a sugar beet town, dedicating most of the farming land to Colorado's most recent cash crop. It all came to nothing in 1906 when a rail line was finally built two miles east of the center of Highland Lake. Not to be undone, city officials quickly filed for the platting of a new town, to be called Mead, that would be located directly on the new rail line. In 1908 the new town received its incorporation papers and by 1916 most of the city and public buildings of Highland Lake had been picked up and moved to new sites in Mead proper. Highland Lake became a ghost town almost overnight and was reduced to a name, marking the site of a formerly thriving community in Weld County.

Getting There By Bike...
It's easy enough to get to Highland Lake Pioneer Cemetery by bike, though it means that you might have a slightly longer ride ahead of you. The town site and cemetery are located on County Road 36, north of Longmont, CO. If you are riding out of Longmont you can take E. County Line Road north until you reach County Road 36. Turn right and head east for almost two miles. The cemetery will be on the right hand side.

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