Where They Lie

Secluded but Not Forgotten

Story and photos by John J. O’Hagan

As I travel up Mountain Cove Road into the Boise foothills, a cemetery suddenly looms to my left on a desolate hillside. Its brooding presence demands a closer look. It’s an easy hike from the road to the Fort Boise Military Cemetery, the oldest and most history-laden of the city’s cemeteries. It hasn’t been in use for more than a hundred years, yet it’s full of fascinating and little-known facts concerning the state, the city, and the people who first settled here.

Like many people,  I discovered this place by happenstance. Many years ago, when I was younger and healthier, I was an avid runner. My employment was downtown, and at noontime or after work, the foothills were a favorite venue for runs. On one of those runs, I passed the cemetery and asked a companion, “What is that?”

“Oh, an old Army burial ground,” was the somewhat dismissive answer.

To a veteran, a history buff, and a cemetery aficionado, such a casual answer did not suffice. I returned to the cemetery several times and each time, as with so many other historic sites, I discovered something new and intriguing. I supplemented these visits over several years with trips to the State of Idaho Historical Archives, where old newspaper archives and military records revealed stories begging to be told.

I’m currently working on a book that will detail unmarked graves in the cemeteries of Boise. There is probably no cemetery anywhere that doesn’t have a number of unmarked graves, and they fascinate me because they prompt studies in time, memory, and culture (see “Digging up the Past,” IDAHO magazine, April 2004). The old Fort Boise Cemetery will figure prominently in my book.

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