by Rick Langenberg:
Woodland Park may not rival the Civil War legacy associated with such sites as Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville and Petersburg. But as part of a growing desire to honor the unsung heroes of a war that still stirs many memories, an emotional ceremony was held Saturday morning at the Woodland Park Cemetery that paid tribute to George N. McBay.
The ceremony, which featured representatives of the Ute Pass Historical Society, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, brought Woodland Park a little closer to the 19th century hallow grounds that have generated more books and movies than any national conflict. Mayor Dave Turley, a member of the local American Legion post, lauded the efforts to trace the town’s historic roots, and to bring the associated family members together in the process. He noted that Woodland Park has always had a strong veteran and military family heritage, which now extends back to the Civil War. “This is really amazing,” said Turley, in describing the town’s Civil War connection with some former veterans.
New research regarding the founding fathers of Woodland Park has come across more direct ties to the Civil War. McBay was a member of the Colorado Cavalry and Infantry, who even once reportedly served under Kit Carson. His military involvement with the Union was capped by a lengthy 400-mile march and participation in the three-day Glorieta Pass battle in New Mexico that halted the Confederates from invading the West in 1862. Many historians refer to the conflict as the “Gettysburg of the West.” In addition, McBay had indirect ties to the birth of Woodland Park. His daughter Harriet married James Baldwin, considered the co-founder of Woodland Park. Baldwin’s brother Moses, in fact, played a key role in establishing the Woodland Park Cemetery. Last week’s ceremony also brought together members of McBay’s extended family together, including McBay’s great, great, great granddaughter, Annie Brigham and her husband Tom, who live in Palisades. McBay, who died in 1903, was buried in the Woodland Park Cemetery, with a grave marked by a hand painted wooden marker. But the grave marker withered away after 122 years and many rough winters in the high country. Following research conducted by the Ute Pass Historical Society in preparation for a cemetery celebration, McBay’s burial site was confirmed and arrangements were secured through national and state authorities for establishing a new headstone.
Annie Brigham said she knew about George McBay’s Civil War background and even has a pipe he once smoked from during his fighting days with the Union. But she wasn’t quite aware of the details of his burial at the Woodland Park Cemetery. She complimented the Ute Pass Historical Society for doing a considerable amount of work in obtaining the new headstone and in organizing the ceremony. “This is a great way to honor him,” said Annie Brigham, who came equipped last Saturday with many family tree books. During the ceremony, McBay’s service with the Union was honored, and especially his role in halting the Confederate invasion into the West. “This battle (Glorieta Pass) was just as important and strategic for the Union as Gettysburg and Antietam,” said Andrew Tyler, commander of VFW Post 6051.