Photo of gravestone decorated for Memorial Day prompts museum research
May 29, 2010
When Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, found an old photo of a gravestone located at the Craig Cemetery in January, he knew he had something unique.
"We didn't have anything early on from Craig Cemetery as far as photographs," he said. "Those are really rare. There is nothing else that we have that predates the 1920s or 1930s."
The photo isn't just unique because of its age, however.
The gravestone pictured, a heavy cement or sandstone tree trunk located at the southwest corner of Craig Cemetery, is elaborate for the time in which it was made, Davidson said.
The picture also shows the gravestone surrounded by a white fence and decorated for Memorial Day, something that also interested Davidson.
The combination of the three unique elements of the photo spurred Davidson to investigate who the man was buried six feet beneath it.
Over the next few months, Davidson along with museum assistant director Jan Gerber began to comb through newspaper articles looking for any information relating to the name on the gravestone — C.C. Brazil.
Also printed on the gravestone are the words, "Gone but not forgotten."
Eventually, research revealed his full name was Christopher C. Brazil, and a picture of his life began to form.
According to his obituary printed in the April 6, 1894 issue of Craig's first newspaper, The Pantograph, Brazil was born June 30, 1850 in Arkansas. He moved to Colorado when he was 19 and opened a merchandise store in Castle Rock in 1882.
In 1888, Brazil moved to the Craig area, which was then incorporated into Routt County, to raise livestock.
In November 1893, Brazil, a Democrat, was elected Routt County commissioner.
According to his obituary, Brazil won the commissioner's seat "receiving the largest majority ever given to a candidate in Routt County."
Brazil died April 5, 1894.
He "made every man his friend and built up a reputation for honest dealings, courteous manners, generosity and good fellowship that cannot be surpassed," his obituary reads.
Davidson thinks Craig-based photographer Dan W. Diamond took the photo in May 1896 at the request of Brazil's wife, Susan M. Brazil.
"The reason the photo was unique to me was that I had done a lot of research on the photographer and he is buried in an unmarked grave in the Craig Cemetery," Davidson said.
Davidson thinks the decorations placed on Brazil's gravestone weren't anything out of the ordinary.
During that time, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and most graves were decorated as a matter of routine, Davidson said.
But, there is one object in the photo however that keeps Davidson wondering — an American flag.
The flag could indicate that Brazil was a Civil War veteran, Davidson said.
But, the gravestone is not located in the same area of the cemetery as other veterans from the time, leading Davidson to wonder.
"Does that mean there is more to be learned?" Davidson said. "Maybe. That is just the fun part of history, I think, is that you always … come in with a certain perception and if you keep an open mind, you learn a lot."
Davidson's investigation into Brazil's life is part of the ongoing research the museum does at Craig Cemetery.
The museum researches graves and tries to locate the histories of people buried there in hopes of better understanding local history.
"Usually the graveyard is not anything that you reflect on," Davidson said. "But, you can tell a lot about a community just by looking at its cemetery.
"It's about the community … and what made it unique."