I have a confession to make: I’m a sucker for cemeteries.
There’s nothing better than strolling the cemetery paths on a sunlit spring day, listening to the birds chirp, and exploring headstone décor. It’s a peaceful reminder of the fragility of life that keeps one grounded and focused in the present.
A walk through the cemetery can be made better by one thing, and that’s a cute date. What better way to get to know someone than to experience all these sensations together? Skip the boring small talk and head right to the big stuff—mortality.
Either the idea of being interred together will entice or repel you as you venture into your budding romance. Plus, it’s free to visit! The folks listed are buried at Fairmount Cemetery, one of the oldest and most history-packed cemeteries in Denver, founded in 1890.
1. John & Mary Elitch (Block 5)
Considered in the late 1800s as the golden couple of Denver, these two popular characters met at church. Sixteen-year old Mary fell for the dashing charisma of aspiring vaudeville actor John, who at the time was six years her senior. The pair eloped, developing a whirlwind adoration for theater and each other, befriending many of Denver’s elite like Horace Tabor.
John built successful businesses in the restaurant industry only to then lose his money via recurring investments into failed theatrical ventures. Undeterred, the couple purchased a farm in north Denver. They originally itended to use it as a source of fresh produce for their restaurant, but the plan soon blossomed into Elitch Gardens, a natural paradise complete with theater, minstrels, flowers, and music.
Mary was grief-stricken at the sudden death of her husband from pneumonia following the park’s first season in 1891. She dedicated the rest of her life to memorializing John through the success of their creative venture, lovingly adopting strays and taking in circus animals. She was even known to be pulled around the park by her pet ostrich, a creature purported to be buried at Riverside Cemetery in Denver.
2. Lizzie & John Iliff (Block 63)
Elizabeth got her start as a representative of the Singer Sewing Machine Company sent west to peddle sewing machines; John Wesley was a savvy cattle baron with the gruff allure of John Wayne. The pair married in 1870 and lived in Cheyenne for a brief stint until Lizzie decided she didn’t want to be sequestered for jury duty, a fact of life in Wyoming following implementation of women’s voting rights the year prior.
The family returned south to Colorado where women’s suffrage would not be granted for several more years. John died in 1878 from gallbladder issues leaving Lizzie a widow at the age of 34. Armed with her sharp business sense, she trailblazed their cattle empire into making her the richest woman in Colorado.
Her numerous philanthropic efforts throughout life culminated in the foundation of the Iliff School of Theology when she gifted a whopping $100k to the University of Denver in her husband’s honor.
3. Mattie Silks & Cort Thompson (Block 12)
The poster children for dysfunctional relationships, Mattie and Cort drifted together for a lifetime of booze, gambling, philandering, and antagonism. Mattie opened her first bordello at the tender age of nineteen and grew into Denver’s queen of the soiled doves, operating bordellos in the red-light district on Market Street.
Cort caught the famous madam’s eye in a foot race benefitting the Georgetown fire department as his chiseled figure dashed past the other competitors. He abandoned his family to set up shop with Mattie though his infidelity would continue. It escalated to the point that Mattie got involved in a duel with another madam, Kate Fulton, when she caught Cort flirting heavily with her. The two fired their pistols at each other; a stray bullet grazed Cort in the neck but he survived with the pampering attentions of his lover.
The pair separated and reconciled many times. When Cort died of drug and alcohol abuse shortly after his 53rd birthday, Mattie buried him at Fairmount in an unmarked grave and married again, never one to pass up a handsome face. Her last husband was laid to rest about a block away, but Mattie is interred under her real name, Martha Ready, right beside her beloved Cort.
4. Harry & Agnes Tammen (Block 26)
Agnes literally stole Harry’s heart—and his lumber. He caught her lifting pieces of wood from the lumber pile outside his house one night and chased her down the street. She later recounted that she’d done so on a dare, but the incident led to a first date, where Harry took Agnes to see the mummified Indian corpse on display at his curio shop.
The scheme, like many of Harry’s future endeavors, worked wonders and the pair coupled for life.
Agnes dedicated herself to charitable work. She poured her heart into the Children’s Hospital, trading her opportunity for a $100,000 pearl necklace from Harry into a new wing for the facility, and later traveling the world to visit clinics that specialized in adolescent care.
Harry was an entertainer and opportunist with a flamboyant sense of humor. He paired with the nefarious Fred Bonfils to take over a dying newspaper brand and transform it into one of the city’s premier newspapers, the now Denver Post. He created a public alter ego, portraying himself as a con man, but generously gave away much of the money he made in his private life.
Harry was also responsible for many of the Post’s antics, such as the purchase of the Sells-Floto circus (which used animals for publicity stunts), the campaign to free Alferd Packer, and the publication of fictional news articles to shock and entertain readers as a joke.
5. Aesthetic Bonus: Frank & Babette Kaub (Block 5)
One of the most intriguing graves at Fairmount Cemetery is that of Frank & Babette, German immigrants who died in the 1911 and 1910, respectively. Their tomb is marked by a bi-level monument, with busts of the couple on top and bronze urns of their kin on the bottom. Catch the eerie sculptures at sunset and you’ll see light filter through the smoky glass outlining the lovebirds’ heads for eternity!
Want to learn more about Fairmount’s legendary lovers? The Fairmount Heritage Foundation offers a “Romancing the Stone” tour exclusively for couples, delivered by a couple, and available through private arrangement. Check out the FHF’s schedule here, packed with exciting events and themed walking tours featuring stories of their most famous residents.
Colorado’s Legendary Lovers. By Rosemary Fetter. 2004.
Visit to Fairmount Cemetery. Mar 7, 2018.