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Veterans honored at ghost town cemetery in Rochester near Twin Bridges

cemetery rochester.jpg
Posted at 7:44 AM, May 28, 2024

ROCHESTER — Here’s the grave of Sgt. John Conner. He served in the 2nd Minnesota Volunteers in the Civil War. He now lies in a cemetery in the long-abandoned ghost town of Rochester, Montana, in the middle of nowhere and long forgotten.

But the members of the Twin Bridges American Legion want to make sure Sgt. Conner and four other veterans are never forgotten.

“People don’t forget that there are veterans that have been buried someplace long forgotten, so, hopefully, we just going to bring the reminder back that there are veterans around,” said American Legion member Bill Gibson.

The Twin Bridges American Legion traveled 14 miles down the winding dirt road to the once booming gold mining town of Rochester to perform a Memorial Day ceremony at the ghost town’s cemetery, where five war veterans are buried.

“Basically, just still respect that veterans that are buried here, even though some of them been buried here since late 1880s. Kind of a forgotten cemetery for a while,” said Gibson.

A few volunteers spent the past two years trying to clear the overgrown cemetery, which has been neglected for decades.

“We had problems even finding the graves; the sage brush was four or five feet tall,” said Gibson.

Honor Guard member Doug Martin added, “You couldn’t see anything at all, hardly any of the headstones, and the farther you got into the sage brush, the more child graves we found.“

Gold was discovered in Rochester in 1863 and by 1900, the town had more than 2,000 living there before it went bust by 1937.

“A lot of the places and homes and businesses that were here were moved down to the Ruby Valley. The back bar at the Blue Anchor came from up here,” said volunteer Patty Hayes.

The American Legion wants to hold memorial services and try to maintain the old Rochester Cemetery.