Preserving Idaho City's Pioneer Cemetery

Preserving Idaho City's Pioneer Cemetery

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by Dee Sarton

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 2:01 AM

IDAHO CITY -- Locals know that perhaps the most historic part of Idaho City lies just west of the old downtown and up into the hills.

That's where about 2,000 souls are buried six-feet under.  It's a place called the Idaho City Pioneer Cemetery.

Cemetery caretaker Trudy Jackson works with the Idaho City Historical Foundation. Jackson says while thousands of pioneers are buried here, only about 300 headstones are scattered among the pines and bushes that dot the landscape.

According to Jackson, that's because many of the early settlers were too poor to afford gravestones. Jackson also explains that only the most wealthy of Idaho City's early pioneers were able to afford the beautifully carved, custom stones and iron gates the cemetery is famous for.

Those included the town's Catholic families, and Free Mason members.

Jackson says many working Chinese laborers and other ethnic minorities were forced into unmarked graves without any of the rich decoration you can find in other plots.

"What we've found is that you can actually order some of these gates from the companies that made them 100 years ago," Jackson told KTVB.

Jackson should know because one of her many goals is to keep the cemetery historically accurate. To do so, she's been working with volunteers to restore many of the location's crumbling headstones and plots.

However, she's also got one factor going against her.

"There's been a lot of vandalism over the years," Jackson adds, saying that often she gets phone calls from various people in Boise who find headstones in garages, as well as parts of old iron gates swiped from the cemetery by thieves.

Jackson says keeping vandalism down is obviously a top priority in restoring this historic place.

To prevent the theft, the historical foundation is even considering installing cameras in the future.

However, the foundation's immediate goals are to publicize and conserve the unique graves here, in order to keep the memory of those who have passed alive.

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