Passed But Not Forgotten

A glimpse at the area’s colorful history by way of a visit to the Park City Cemetery

By Gordon Wright June 1, 2016 Published in the Summer/Fall 2016 issue of Park City Magazine

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George Snyder, benefactor of the land occupied by the Park City Cemetery

Park City’s most widely touted cemetery is, of course, Glenwood. This private burial ground, tucked away on Silver King Drive, has served as the final resting place for several of the area’s first families and their descendants since 1885. My own family tree is rooted for generations in Park City, but most of my forebears—including my grandparents and many aunts and uncles—are not in Glenwood but among the more than 2,000 individuals buried in our town’s second interment ground, the Park City Cemetery. And while this cemetery may not have the cachet of Glenwood—it’s on the National Register of Historic Places—a visit here reveals an even wider swath of Park City’s days gone by. 

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One of Snyder’s plural wives, Rhoda

In the winter of 1879, Pearle Snyder became the first person laid to rest in the Park City Cemetery. Her father, George Snyder, was one of the area’s first full-time inhabitants and one of those responsible for, in 1872, christening our former silver mining camp Parley’s Park City (later shortened to Park City). When his daughter died, George attempted to take her body to Salt Lake to be buried but failed to make the trip due to snow. He chose instead to bury her in a patch of south-facing ground in what was then Park City’s outskirts. The following spring, Snyder donated the land where Pearle was buried to the city to be used as a cemetery, which was sometimes interchangeably referred to as Mountain View Cemetery.

Snyder himself was later buried on the property’s west side. His granite obelisk is inscribed with his birth and death dates: June 15, 1819, and March 11, 1887, respectively. The north side of the marker is dedicated to his wife Caroline, born May 3, 1839, and died December 11, 1889. The two are buried here side-by-side, facing east. “In 1871, George took up his residence in Park City and has been closely identified with its growth and prosperity ever since,” reads Snyder’s obituary, which appeared in The Park Record on March 12, 1887. “He was among the first to engage in mining here and shipped the first ore from the camp from the old Green Monster claim.”

As an early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons), Snyder had practiced polygamy. Climbing north from Snyder’s headstone up the small hill is, under a lilac tree, the headstone of one of his plural wives, Rhoda D. Snyder, who lived from July 5, 1842, to February 13, 1926.

Snyder’s obituary continues, “When in 1882 the [Edmunds-Tucker Act] became law he at once severed all polygamous relations and applied to the President [of the United States Chester A. Arthur] for amnesty which was granted. At the time of his death he was in heart and spirit as well as in fact bearer of that proudest of all titles an American citizen.”

One of the cemetery’s most opulent headstones belongs to Emma Louisa Kescel, marked with a Greek temple resting on four columns. A carving of delicate roses clings to a branch above Kescel’s name. The headstone reads, “Emma Louisa; beloved wife of James T. Kescel; died May 12, 1899 in her 46th year.”

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The Main Street funeral procession for the 34 killed in the 1902 Daly West Mine disaster.

Next to Kescel’s headstone are two markers for children: Louisa Kescel, born February 20, 1884, and died on July 20 that same year; and a boy, named William, born on August 22, 1882, and died exactly 18 months later. Both then and now, lambs often mark the graves of young children in cemeteries, and at the foot of one of the Kescel children’s graves is a lamb made of granite, one of its ears lost with the passage of time. One can only speculate the cause of death and the sadness felt by Kescel and her husband at the loss of their two young children and the eventual untimely death of Kescel herself.

South of the Kescel family grave is one of the most solemn locations in the cemetery: seven headstones standing in a row like soldiers at attention. All are engraved with County Down, Ireland, as the birthplace, and all of the men buried here died on the same day and in the same way, indicated on each headstone. “Died in Daly West Disaster, July 15, 1902, Rest in Peace.” The only variation on the headstones is the names, which include John Devlin, Harry Devlin, Mike Conloa, James Murnin, Richard Dillon, John Carney, and Charles McAlindon. 

Headlines in The Park Record from July 19, 1902, tried to capture the magnitude of that horrible day. “Most Appalling / Thirty-Four Lives Lost Through Explosion of Powder Magazine / Occurred on Daly West 1200.” The accompanying article’s first paragraphs read, “The most appalling disaster in the history of Park City was that of Tuesday night when the powder magazine on the 1,200 level of the Daly West exploded and from its deadly gases thirty-four brave men are summoned without warning to the great beyond.

“The twelve were taken from the Catholic Church and were followed by at least 600 miners and members of the Order of Hibernians. Every vehicle in town was pressed into service, ten of them serving as improvised hearses. Hundreds unable to get horses or conveyances walked to the cemeteries and with credit may be said the whole city turned out.”

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Park City Cemetery headstones mark the graves of miners killed in the Daly West Mine disaster.

A headstone located up the hill from the miners marks a more recent burial. The grave, carved in the shape of a snowboard, reads: “Gregory Andrew Dres, born February 2, 1961, died December 26, 1996.” The inscription describes Gregory as an “Outdoorsman, Philosopher, Tile Artisan, Kind and Gentle Man and Friend to All.” The word “Avalanche” is inscribed before his date of death. According to a story about Dres’s death that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, on December 30, 1996, “the body of Greg Dres, 36, of Deer Valley was recovered Saturday above Alta Ski Resort, east of Salt Lake City. Search and rescue crews had begun their search Thursday. Authorities said Dres was alone when he somehow started an avalanche as he snowboarded down Flagstaff Mountain.”

Nearby Dres’s distinctive headstone lies my grandmother’s aunt, Effie Melina Johnson Sweat, and, along with her, one of the sadder chapters in my Park City ancestors’ lives. Great Aunt Effie is buried under a grave marker simply inscribed with “Mother” and “Wife of J.L. [John Lewis] Sweat,” born February 10, 1883, and died December 10, 1915. Effie and her husband John were married June 15, 1900. She gave birth to four children, but none survived. At the time of Effie’s sudden and unexpected death, she and John were raising Effie’s sister’s son, John Charles Mackie. John died 22 years later when he was, according to his death certificate, “killed by a gunshot” fired by his stepson after a family disagreement. John’s death certificate also states he was buried in the Park City Cemetery, but the exact location of his grave is unknown.

The Park City Cemetery (1300 Kearns Blvd) is Park City’s only public interment ground. But burial here comes with some requirements. Plots are available for purchase by residents living within the city limits, those born in Miner’s Hospital, and those who can show proof of living in Park City for at least 10 years at some point in their lives. For more information and to search cemetery records, visit parkcity.org/departments/cemetery.

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