By Mark Esper
It was two years ago at the annual Hillside Cemetery Cleanup Day. Silverton Youth Center volunteers were taking part.
They were cleaning the area around the large tombstone for Brice Patterson, who had died in 1908 at age 2.
“We saw Brice’s marker and we kind of took a liking to him,” said Julie Danjou, coordinator for the Silverton Youth Center. “All that winter all Martin (Torres) could talk about was Brice Patterson.”
Torres, now a freshman at Silverton School, said he was curious about how the young boy had died. He got others interested in the lonely grave, including seventh-grader Luis Castro.
“Then last year Bowen tripped over Robert,” Danjou said.
What 9th grader Bowen Coates actually tripped over was a small metal grave marker for Brice’s younger brother, Robert, who died in 1910 as an infant.
“We didn’t realize Robert was there,” Danjou said.
The children decided that Robert deserved a tombstone of his own, so they raised money to purchase one.
It was placed on the grave at this year’s Cemetery Cleanup Day, last Saturday, June 16.
“But this was more than just getting a headstone,” Danjou said. “We made it a project to find out about the family.”
The youths started doing some research.
They determined that Brice Patterson died on a Tuesday, May 5, 1908, at the age of 2 years and 2 months. Cause of death was scarlet fever.
Brice was the son of Alva and Anna Patterson, and the grandson of pioneers. The family lived on Empire Street.
But the death of their young son was not the only sadness to afflict the home of Alva and Anna Patterson.
As Freda Peterson put it in her book “The Story of Hillside Cemetery,” on Aug. 24, 1910, “the angel of death again invaded the home of Alva and Anna Patterson and bore away in his relentless arms the pure soul of their bright baby boy, Robert.”
This time the cause of death was pneumonia. He was but four months old.
The youths learned that Alva and Anna Patterson later moved to Pagosa Springs. There the children were able to track down some living relatives.
“We got in touch with one of the nephews and one of the cousins of the babies,” Danjou said.
This year volunteers placed some 22 headstones on graves during the Cemetery Cleanup Day. And that’s not counting the one for Robert Patterson.
But hundreds more graves in the vast cemetery remain unmarked.
“We’re going to adopt a grave of a child every year,” Danjou said.