GJ founder looks over city from tomb on Orchard Mesa
When you travel south toward Orchard Mesa, you might see a small but imposing stone structure overlooking the city of Grand Junction as you top the Fifth Street Bridge.
This structure is the tomb of our city’s founder, George A. Crawford.
I am working with a group of people doing restoration work on George A. Crawford’s tomb. I knew that during my research for other columns I had seen a picture of the tomb that showed spheres on the front columns.
I phoned David Bailey, curator of history at the Museum of Western Colorado, to ask him about that picture. Dave said he would look in the archives to see what he could find. A few days later he phoned me back to say that he had found a photo given to the museum by Crawford family members. The picture running with the column today is that photo.
Because of how clean the stone and mortar appear and how the ground around the tomb looks to be freshly raked, this picture most likely was taken shortly after the completion of the tomb.
Crawford was born July 27, 1827, in Clinton County, Pa.
He had been a schoolteacher, studied law and was owner/editor of the Clinton Democrat.
In 1861 he was elected governor of Kansas on the Democratic ticket, but the election was declared illegal. The title of Gov. Crawford stuck, and his admirers called him Governor Crawford the rest of his life.
In addition to Grand Junction, Crawford help found, Fort Scott, Kan., and Delta. George Crawford died in 1891, but his mausoleum was not built until 1898.
Crawford was buried in the Masonic Cemetery at the Orchard Mesa Cemetery until his tomb was complete in 1898. A story in The Daily Sentinel July 7, 1898, said that the Crawford remains were going to be moved from the Masonic vault to Crawford’s tomb on the hill overlooking the city.
Monroe Allison and Charles Rich, executors of Crawford’s estate, purchased the property on top of the hill overlooking Grand Junction and had Crawford’s tomb built there. The Mesa County treasurer and public trustee conveyed Crawford’s tomb to the city in 1956.
The move to have the city of Grand Junction take over and preserve the tomb as a reminder of the history of this area was started by Grand Junction City Councilman Frank A. Hoisington.
The tomb came into the care of the treasurer and public trustee offices because the trustees appointed for Gov. Crawford’s estates died without designating other trustees. The deed to the city was prepared by Assistant Dist. Attorney Amos Raso.
The stone that was used for Crawford’s tomb is Dakota Sandstone. The quarry for the stone is on the north side of the Gunnison River, within six miles of the gravesite and adjacent to the railroad. The stone from the quarry was also used for the culverts and bridges for the railroad from Whitewater to Cisco, Utah.
Through research done by avocational historian Marie Tipping of Grand Junction, it has been determined that sections of land were sold by “grave sellers.” A grave seller would buy one or more sections, then divide the property in blocks and lots. Marie was able to determine who purchased the burial lots for George Crawford through deeds for the property that she found by reading legal descriptions, getting the reference number, then finding the book and page where the deed is recorded.
To reach Crawford’s tomb you must park by the Orchard Mesa Municipal Cemetery and hike up the hill to the tomb.