The beautiful mountain property that would become Evergreen Memorial Park was originally purchased as a private park in 1965 by Ron and Carol Lewis. Ron and Carol committed the 100-acre site as a tribute to the pioneers of Evergreen and the Old West.
Most of the land is used as a private animal ranch. Coyotes, owls, foxes, horses, elk, buffalo, fallow deer, ducks, geese, muskrats and one particularly faithful migrant heron occupy the property.
The pride of the preserve is the Lewises’ buffalo herd. The animals have a direct bloodline to the original Great Plains Bison, the American “buffalo.” Spring is a particularly exciting time at Evergreen Memorial Park as calves are born. Onlookers often come by the bus load to see the newborns and to albeit, briefly step back in time, to watch these great animals as they would have seen them more than 100 years ago.
The white buffalo is the spirit of the emerging West. While there have been accounts of the white buffalo in the continental United States dating back to at least 1754, the fact is the white buffalo is the product of genetic mutation that probably occurred from the longhorn cattle in Southwestern United States. It occurs as a rarity and was held in awe by the Native American as being great medicine because its spirit brought blessings to all who saw or possessed some of its being. The Native American legend was that all animals that benefited them had come to them from a large hole in the ground, but they had been let out of the ground by the leader, the great spirit of the White Buffalo, and that in the end times when this ground gave up its greenery and its trees the animals would return to the ground, led there by the spirit of the White Buffalo.
As well as protecting wildlife, the Lewises strive to preserve the pioneer heritage of the Old West at Evergreen Memorial Park. Antique buffs, the Lewises have collected historically important artifacts of the Old West for many years. The main building and property display native American arrowheads, stone implements and tools from local farming, mining and timbering industries of the past. Wagons, tractors and plows, discovered on neighboring ranches, now act to remind visitors of the era when Jefferson County was once considered the potato capital of Colorado.
The Lewises established several large garden areas on the high plains meadows where restored stone and timber cabins have been preserved. Buildings slated for destruction have been refurbished into a functioning chapel and columbarium (an above ground mausoleum with niches) in The Garden of the Pioneers.
The Barn Chapel is an historic assembly of five old barns ranging from seventy to one hundred years old. The barn features beautiful antique stained glass windows as well as large picture windows overlooking the mountains and 48 acre-feet working reservoir.
The four distinct and separate garden areas now serve as a cemetery and the final resting place for many Colorado natives. Edward Steele, a mule skinner in his youth, was buried on this memorial site. In keeping with the wishes of the Steele family, the man was buried in a simple, old fashioned manner. With a horse-drawn hearse and a pine coffin decorated with a hand-carved wooden gun on the lid, history was indeed relived the day he was laid to rest. On a cold, blustery January morning Edward Steele and his procession of family members and lifelong friends made their way through the Garden of the Pioneers. Curiously, so significant was Edward Steele’s passing in its historical simplicity, a Channel 9 TV news team respectfully documented the event.