Cemetery in Ghost Town Yields Treasure

In the late 1800s, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad set up shop in a tiny outpost known as Lower Crossing, Utah. The town, later named Woodside, reached its peak population of 300 after the turn of the century. It was a water station for steam engines making the trip across the desert to Grand Junction, Colorado.

Woodside was famous for two things: In 1897, following a train robbery at Castle Gate, locals helped Butch Cassidy escape authorities when he hid out in a network of tunnels under a house in town. Second, a well dug by the railroad erupted in a 75-foot geyser after naturally occurring carbon dioxide built up. The geyser became a roadside tourist attraction and brought visitors to Woodside for decades.

GBA2016.08-Woodside-9607However, within a generation, the railroad moved out and the geyser slowed to a gurgle. Woodside became a ghost town.

Today, an old shuttered gas station is the only thing visible as cars speed by on Highway 6 across a barren and remote stretch of ground between Price and Moab, Utah. Several years ago, the town’s owner put the whole thing on the market. For a cool $3.9 million, Woodside and 700 acres surrounding it can be yours.

GBA2016.08-Woodside-9604The one piece of property not included in the town’s sale is Woodside Cemetery. For Kym Merrill, the cemetery is what draws her here. “It’s the final resting place of my 2nd great-grandparents and five of their eight children,” she said. “In fact, I’m related to about half of those buried in this tiny plot of ground.”

screen shot 2019-01-28 at 2.57.55 pm“A few years ago, I became interested in my family history,” Merrill said. “I found photos of the graves of Scott Marshall Miller and Mary Ann Curtis Miller on Findagrave.com. I learned Scott was born in Pennsylvania and came west with railroad expansion in the 1860s. Mary was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa and followed the Mormon Trail west in a covered wagon. According to family records, the two met at the Golden Spike Ceremony in 1869. Scott worked for the Railroad and was Woodside’s postmaster and Justice of the Peace. I’ve wanted to visit this cemetery for some time. I can’t imagine living someplace as remote as this, but I feel strangely connected at the same time,” Merrill said.

GBA2016.08-Woodside-9596Some of the headstones in the cemetery are wooden and cracked, the names long since eroded away. After visiting the cemetery, Merrill was thankful to volunteers that had taken the time to photograph the graves at Woodside before it was too late.

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