Editor’s Note: It doesn’t usually take nearly 30 days on Amtrak to get from Salt Lake City to Denver. A funny thing happened on our virtual tour: real life, i.e., work, family, health. But we expect t continue the tour, with interspersed other stuff. We’ll make it to our next stop, Kansas City, a bit quicker!
The California Zephyr rolls into the mile-high city of Denver at 7:18 pm on our second day out of Sacramento.
Like a number of other Western cities, Denver owes its existence to the discovery of gold. The shiny metal was found in 1858, at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. Soon a town sprung up, which was named after the Governor of Kansas Territory, which is where Denver was then located. As the population of Denver exploded with every new discovery of gold, and with the admission of Kansas as as state in 1861, Colorado Territory was established. Soon Denver became biggest city in the Rocky Mountain west. It was and is important hub for agriculture and transportation. Denver is the center of a metropolitan area of 2.5 million people.
We’ve come here on the Grand Genealogical Journey for several reasons. First, and most importantly, we have cousins here. My grandfather’s brother, Henry William Gines (1903-1980) and his wife Ora Wilkerson, had three children: twins Frank William Gines (1935-1999) and Henry Edward Gines (1935-1993); and a still-living daughter. Although all the children were born in Kansas City, at some point Frank and Henry moved to Denver. Their children and grandchildren remain there today. So we’ll spend a few days here getting to know them and learning about them.
But there are genealogical resources here also. The Denver Public Library hosts the Western History and Genealogy collection. Additionally, the public library is the site of the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library named for Omar Blair, first black president of the Denver School Board, and Elvin Caldwell, Denver’s first black city council president.
Separate from the library, there is the Black American West Museum, “dedicated to collecting,preserving, and disseminating the contributions of Blacks in the Old West.”
Denver is also home to the Colorado State Archives, located at 1313 Sherman Street. The Archives contain a number of valuable records; some are available online. The one quarrel I have with the Colorado Archives is that they advertise that they have an index marriage records from 1975 to the present, but this no longer true. The state has put extreme restrictions on public access to birth, marriage and death records. If you click on the link for marriage records on the Family History page, you end up at the site for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. And there you find Colorado’s silly restrictions on vital records. At the time the new regulations were put into place, I called it a “stupid” move.
Now if the state’s website is correct, it’s even dumber than I first thought. Look for example for who’s eligible to receive a certified copy of a death certificate. There’s a lengthy list, but each category has particular restrictions. A genealogist must submit a notarized release from an “immediate family member” as well as proof of that family member’s relationship. There is no time when the record becomes open to the public, so eventually, when there are no more “immediate family members,” the records become inaccessible. But, wait . . . ! Just beneath “Genealogists” is the category for “Inlaws/aunts/uncles/nephews/nieces/cousins.” A person in that category must present proof of a “direct and tangible interest” whatever that is, if the death certificate is less than 25 years old. But, if the death occurred more than 25 years ago, an inlaw/aunt/uncle/etc., may receive a certified copy by showing proof of the relationship. Incredibly, the table parenthetically states that “a family tree would be acceptable” proof! For a state that’s worried about identity theft, Colorado clearly has not done its homework. A “family tree” as acceptable proof for a distant relative to prove a relationship, while close relatives like children must produce a birth certificate!
I don’t mean to spend most of our time here in Denver bashing the state government over public records access (as important as that is).
We need to head out to Fort Logan National Cemetery, where the twin cousins Frank and Henry Gines are buried.
The cemetery is in the at 4400 West Kenyon Avenue, in the western portion of the Denver urban area, completely surrounded by development. The cemetery was originally the post cemetery of Fort Logan, the history of which begins in 1887, when General Sheridan selected the site for a garrison. In 1889, the site was named for Sheridan’s Civil War colleague, General John A. Logan. Logan, a lawyer, had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives when the Civil War broke out. He resigned his seat in Congress to command a volunteer unit from his home state of Illinois. An extremely effective commander. Logan was eventually made a Federal general and commanded, among other units, the Army of the Tennessee, and served as military governor at Vicksburg. After the war, he returned to Congress, eventually winning a seat in the Senate.
Dwight Eisenhower served at Fort Logan from 1924 to 1925. Fort Logan was an active military post until about 1946. Its hospital was then used by the Veterans Administration from 1950 to 1960 as a new VA hospital was constructed in Denver. In 1960, the Army gave most of the post to the State of Colorado. It is now one of the campuses of the Colorado Mental Health Institute.
We’ll find the Rev. Frank Gines at rest in section 6, site 530. He served in the Army as a paratrooper and then worked for the federal government as a civilian. He also served in the security office of the Colorado Rockies major league baseball team. Like his father, Henry William Gines, Frank was a Baptist preacher.
Frank’s twin brother, Henry Edward Gines lies in repose in section 10, site 587. He had a lengthy Army career, serving in Vietnam and eventually reaching the rank of Sergeant Major.
And on that solemn note, our visit to Denver ends. Denver also marks the end of our trip on the California Zephyr. The train itself goes on to Galesburg, Illinois, through Nebraska and Iowa bypassing our next stop, which is Kansas City. So after a good night’s rest, it’s off to Denver International Airport to board a comfortable 90 minute flight to Kansas City.
August 8, 2010 Sunday at 7:10 pm