Echoes of a buried past carry from the pauper’s section of a Leadville cemetery all the way to Ireland’s shores | SummitDaily.com
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Echoes of a buried past carry from the pauper’s section of a Leadville cemetery all the way to Ireland’s shores

Denver history professor Jim Walsh sees his “life’s work,” with help from both sides of the Atlantic, lead to both memorial and reconnection

Kevin Simpson
The Colorado Sun
Irish Miners’ Memorial at the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville.
Steve Peterson/Special to The Sun

LEADVILLE — As Jim Walsh strolls through the pine forest that envelopes Evergreen Cemetery on a brilliant late autumn morning, he flashes back to the day 18 years earlier, when he first set foot on what he has come to regard as sacred ground.

Then, as now, gentle ridges in the landscape outline the mostly unmarked pauper’s graves of people — overwhelmingly Irish immigrants and their children — who perished in the late 19th century while struggling to carve a new life from the hardrock mines where the promise of silver beckoned.

As a graduate student exploring Irish-American history, he acknowledged an intense personal connection born of what he’d learned about the tragic demise of his own forebears, many in industrial accidents. Two killed by trains. Another, a brakeman, maimed in a rail accident. Another dead from an industrial fire.



Here, he felt kinship.

“That really changed the way I see my own identity and my own roots,” Walsh says, passing a green, white and orange Irish flag tacked to a tree by a previous visitor. “It was the perfect time in my life to see the value of this place. I felt like I was seeing my own ancestors, famine refugees, a chapter in Irish America that’s not been told fully. And this space tells it in a very profound way.”



Read more on ColoradoSun.com.


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