Full Disclosure: As a redhead, St. Patrick’s Day is my favorite holiday. While my grandmother, who had several redheaded sisters, always claimed to be Dutch, my dad took an Anscestory.com test a few years ago. He’s Scottish and Irish (basically, he burns easily). He is zero percent Dutch. So, now I can celebrate the holiday from an honest place, although I would have celebrated either way!
We spent this last St. Patrick’s Day in Leadville, Colorado, once the most Irish town in the state. In fact, it was the most Irish place west of St. Louis and east of San Francisco.
This little town, the highest incorporated in North America, is also home to not one but two St. Patrick’s Day parades. One takes place on March 17, while the other takes place six months after this yearly event.
This year, the halfway to St. Patrick’s Day parade will be held on September 17, also the day they will unveil the Irish Miners’ Memorial at Evergreen Cemetery. The memorial will have historical significance for not only this western town and state but also for Ireland.
Today, the cemetery acts as a community gathering place, is used respectfully as a park by many locals, and plays a central role in the story of Leadville’s colorful past.
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Under construction currently, the memorial recognizes the people buried in unmarked, sunken graves in the Catholic Pauper section of the cemetery, most of whom were Irish immigrants.
While in town, we toured the memorial, covered in deep snow, with Luke Finken. Luke, along with his wife, author, and historian Kathleen Fitzsimmons, have played an important role in raising this memorial in Leadville.
When I heard about it, I visualized something akin to a tombstone but it’s a much bigger project. It’s taken a handful of years to get this idea funded and today, it is a reality, albeit not complete.
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The Irish Network Colorado is spearheading the making of this memorial which includes a sculpture of an Irish miner currently being bronzed in my town of Loveland, Colorado. Although mines around Colorado’s Rocky Mountain bear Irish names, I didn’t realize how many Irish came and died here.
In fact, often, a young man would leave his home in Ireland in the 1800s, heading to the United States to find work. It was not uncommon for this young man’s family to never hear from him again. In fact, the ground around this memorial is likely where those young men ended up. We tend to romanticize Colorado’s mining town history but the reality was grim. It’s sobering to consider this while standing in the quiet of the snowy cemetery.
Leadville also has a “twin” city in Ireland called Allihies. The Twinning Proclamation was made this March at the National Mining Museum in Leadville. Allihies, located in County Cork, looks like a wonderful place to visit and of course, was once a mining town. Go to the Irish Network Colorado’s Facebook page for more information about the twinning. By the way, the mining museum in Leadville is worth a visit. We’ve been several times.
Join the memorial’s unveiling and parade on September 17. Keep an eye on the Irish Network Colorado for more information, and plan your trip with the resources found at HeidiTown.com and LeadvilleTwinLakes.com.
The Irish Miners’ Memorial in Leadville represents a new tribute to the past in this historic town.
Thank you to Visit Leadville for hosting us on this visit.