Mead area cemetery gets new bench to help continue tribute to unknown children – Longmont Times-Call
Down a dusty dirt road and tucked between farm fields, the Highlandlake Pioneer Cemetery lies behind a black wrought iron fence just west of Highland Lake.
Buried alongside Mead family members and early leaders of the Highlandlake area are roughly 120 children laid to rest in a potter’s field. For years, the area was uncared for and overgrown. If not for the efforts of local history lovers, the stories of those buried there would likely have remained hidden in the shadows of the tall grass and weeds.
The cemetery in 2001 was donated by a great-grandson of L.C. Mead, the Highlandlake community’s founder, to the nonprofit Historic Highlandlake Church Inc.
Its members wanted to make sure those laid to rest in the cemetery were paid proper tribute. Since then, the efforts to care for the cemetery and find the identities of those buried there have continued, inspiring other community groups to share in the passion to see its history remembered.
The Carbon Valley Chapter of National Society Daughters of the American Revolution will be donating a bench at 10 a.m. Saturday at the cemetery, which is about a mile and a half down County Road 36. Refreshments will be served at the Historic Highlandlake Church at 16896 County Road 5 in Mead.
Connie Masson, the chapter’s second vice regent, said Trex Company provided the bench. The chapter collected plastic over the course of six months to give to the wood alternatives manufacturer based in Virginia. The company has a community service program that offers to donate a free bench in exchange for a 500-pound plastic donation.
“We’ve always had a heart for the Highlandlake area,” Masson said. “The children’s area was an interesting story, too. There weren’t any headstones.”
The effort is one of many to continue to care for a preserve the cemetery, which was established in 1878.
Pauli Smith, a local historian and former member of the nonprofit, said that during and before the Great Depression, which started in 1929, if people couldn’t afford a $1 cemetery plot, they were given the option to use the potter’s field.
“Most of the children buried there … were the children of migrant workers or field workers who were too poor to afford a spot in a better location,” Smith wrote in an email. “Many died of malnutrition at only a few days old, or other problems that can usually be dealt with today.”
A brick path, known as the Children’s Memorial pathway, lists the names of roughly 90 children who have been identified. The path sits on the west side of the cemetery. Smith said Peggy Brossman came up with the idea to sell bricks to put in the path. The bricks bear the names of those who died and were buried there. The group raised about $8,000 for the effort. Volunteers from Mead High School, the University of Northern Colorado and Cub Scouts in 2019 helped to complete the path and spruce up the cemetery.
Brossman is president of the Historic Highlandlake Church Inc. and like Smith, she shares a passion for caring for the cemetery. Those who visit the cemetery’s north side, will find a sign with Brossman’s name and phone number to call for information or report any issues.
On Thursday afternoon as she strolled among the graves Brossman described the volunteer-led effort that goes into maintaining the cemetery. Her husband, Allen Brossman, mows and weeds the cemetery regularly. Allen’s parents are among those buried there.
The nonprofit’s members have also rallied community members to help. The spot continues to be a source of education for elementary students who take field trips to the cemetery.
Brossman said the nonprofit’s search to identify and learn more about who was buried there continue.
“Everybody deserves to have a head stone, even if it’s unknown (who they were),” she said. “If anybody knows of anybody, we would love stories, because we just don’t know (everyone who is here).”
Records from the cemetery, some of which were preserved by L.C. Mead, were also donated to the nonprofit. This information, alongside obituaries and testimony from families have helped to identify roughly 90 of the people buried in unmarked graves there, Smith said.
The cemetery also contains the markers for several of the Mead family members, such as Helen Mead, a 6-year-old who died from diabetes, and Bertha Belle Kerr, who died from appendicitis at 17. The first minister of the Highlandlake Church, Mary Bumsted, is buried there.
The property is run solely by volunteers. Brossman said she hopes community efforts to keep the cemetery cared for and visible inspire the next generation to carry on the work. The Historic Highlandlake Church Inc., formerly Historic Highlandlake group, has a perpetual maintenance fund with the Longmont Community Foundation, which is always accepting donations. Brossman commended the efforts of the DAR for helping to care for the cemetery.
“The DAR ladies come out every October and do fall cleanup,” Brossman said. “They take care of all the dead leaves and the flower beds. They’re very helpful to us because we can’t do it all ourselves. It takes a village sometimes.”