Manitou Spring: Holds the Emma Crawford Festival every year in her honor. Along with the Emma Crawford Memorial Coffin Race. The Crawford family came to Manitou Springs, Colorado, in 1889, in the hopes of improving Emma’s health. The family were practicing spiritualists and believed that spirits of Native Americans were steering the family. Emma and William Hildebrand were engaged to be married.
Hildebrand, a railway engineer, also moved to Manitou Springs to be near his fiancé. During a hiking trip to the top of Red Mountain, Crawford marked a spot where she wished to be buried should she pass away. She did, in fact, die prematurely on December 4, 1891, at the age of 19. She had not yet married Hildebrand.
Even though Hildebrand did not have the town’s authorization, he and twelve friends took it upon themselves to carry Crawford’s coffin up Red Mountain to the spot she had chosen earlier. It took the men two days to haul the coffin to the top. In 1912 a railway line was constructed on the mountain, requiring the grave to be relocated to a different spot on the mountain.
However, this was not the last move for Crawford. Massive rainstorms throughout the month of August, 1929, caused a great deal of erosion on Red Mountain. Crawford’s grave came loose and traveled down the mountain a total distance of 7,200 feet. Being close to 40 years old, the coffin did not survive the wild trip.
Crawford’s bones were located by residents of Manitou Springs. Records from that time are not accurate; therefore, two different accounts exist as to what happened next. Version #1 states that Emma was brought to the city hall and immediately re-buried in Crystal Valley Cemetery. Version #2 says her bones were kept in storage for several years while caretakers searched for members of the Crawford family. When none could be found, retired pallbearer, Bill Crosby, undertook the task of putting her body to rest. Crawford’s gravesite in the Crystal Valley Cemetery did not have a grave stone until 2004, when the city purchased a headstone for her.
The Emma Crawford Festival began in 1994, with a parade and other activities are included in theis festivities. A bizarre, idiotic sporting event later added is the Emma Crawford Memorial Coffin Race. For the duration of the race a five-person team, consisting of one rider and four coffin pushers, race for speed and awards for most inventive coffin and look-a-like Emma. Emma Crawford’s Victorian Wake is a party held in her honor at the Miramont Castle. The party celebrates Victorian-themed food, clothing and decorations.
Why would a town want to immortalize someone with disgustingly odd activities like a coffin race? After death a person should be left alone and allowed to rest in peace. Celebrating someone’s life is understandable; but a festival and a party publicizing the coffin washing down the mountain is not a proper memorial.