Updated 2021-05-12. We love to wander around old cemeteries, a good excuse for a road trip. Cemeteries give us a sense of history, a sense of place. Many memories are hidden there, many stories to be told. Isn’t the cliche, “If only the dead could talk?” Sometimes, they do.
Old cemeteries go hand in hand with Ghost Towns. Sometimes the Ghost Town is completely gone, no sign of it, except for the cemetery, which still sits quietly professing the history of the area, and secrets to be uncovered. Some of these towns are not dead, just old, with gravesites and gravestones that allude to the person’s past and give you a sense of the history of a town.
Knowing a bit about the history of a town connects you to a place, an understanding that might not otherwise be discovered, a foundation for these tales, ghost stories, if you will. I sometimes wonder if cremation will diminish the historical record.
Watch the slideshow below, read the captions, hover over the photograph for more information.
Bisbee Evergreen Cemetery – There is indeed history here. Visiting the Bisbee Cemetery is a visit into mining history. George Warren is buried here, the man credited with having his portrait on the state seal of Arizona. Here you will learn that Bisbee is a town of immigrants, miners and ranchers.
Boothill (1878-1884) – What article about cemeteries would be complete without Tombstone’s infamous Boothill. Buried here are the remains of many an Old West character; including 3 notorious members of The Cowboy gang of rustlers: Billy Clanton, Frank & Tom McLawry. They lost “The Gunfight at the OK Corral”. Here too is buried China Mary who controlled the oriental labor, prostitutes, and opium trade in Tombstone. She also helped down-on-their-luck miners. When she died, her funeral precession was at least as long as the one for “The Cowboys”. Florentino (aka Indian Charley) was buried here a few days after he was shot to pieces by the Earp Posse following the assassination of Morgan Earp, March of 1883. Self-styled gunslinger, Billy “The Kid” Claybourne was laid to rest here after he called Buckskin Frank Leslie out on Allen Street. Mr. Leslie shot him clean through the heart. Five men, who were legally hanged for their roll in the Bisbee Massacre, are buried here. So is John Heath who was strung up by a mob for his roll in the same botched robbery. Les Moore is buried here. His tombstone reads: “Here lies Lester Moore, four slugs from a .44. No Les, no more.” But there are more, a lot more, which is why Boothill is the most famous cemetery of the Old West.
Charleston – We finally hiked to the Charleston cemetery, with a docent from the Friends of the San Pedro River. It is up the second wash from the Charleston Bridge and then up another wash from there. Good luck finding it on your own.
Courtland – We have not been the Courtland cemetery but are planning a trip this fall. It is off the beaten path a bit of a hike from what is left of Courtland. I understand that they are busy fixing it up. There is now a fence marking it thanks to volunteers. We will check back. Courtland is on the Ghost Town Trail, midway between Pearce and Gleeson. you can find more about the Ghost Town Trail here.
Dos Cabezas – (Two Heads) You may know them. They, and the town, sits on the west side of the Dos Cabezas Mountains, thus the name. It lies Just south of Willcox on Route 186, on the ways to Fort Bowie. The Post Office closed in the 1960’s. A few houses, remnants of another mining town.
Dragoon – The Dragoon Cemetery is the Amerind Museum Family Cemetery – In the 1930’s William S. Fulton fell in love with Texas Canyon, bought the property and turned it into an archaeological research station. It is now an Internationally acclaimed American Indian Museum and Research Foundation. The Fulton Family is buried on the property.
Dragoon Springs – Just outside of Dragoon, on the south side of the railroad tracks, turn west and you will find the old Stage Station, complete with cemetery.
Faraway Ranch – Faraway Ranch was a dream home for Emma Erickson, matriarch of the Ranch. You can visit today as a part of the Chiricahua National Monument. The Family cemetery is at the west entrance to what is now the Chiricahua National Monument.
Fort Bowie – Unless you have a pass, you must hike a mile and a half or so to Fort Bowie National Historic Site. This is where you will find the cemetery among other historic recreations. Although most of the remains have been moved to the National Cemetery in San Francisco, the graves remain.
Fort Huachuca – This active military cemetery, goes all the way back to the Apache Wars and includes Indian Scouts as well as 76 Unknowns from San Carlos. We went for a visit one Holiday weekend. They have a directory that you can refer to.
Harshaw – This is one of many mining towns to spring up in the Patagonia Mountains in the 1880s; Mowry, Duquesne, Washington Camp and Lochiel were others. You may find remnants here and there if you choose to make the trip. You will find plenty of shafts, and headframes. Interesting day trip with a stayover in Patagonia. The new mine is going in just east of Patagonia very near Harshaw. It will change the landscape and this town.
Paradise – A Post Office survived here from 1901 to 1943. George Walker of the George Walker house, a 100 year old B&B that caters to birders, is buried in the cemetery.
Pearce – Once Pearce had about 1500 people, many of them miners looking for gold. Pearce today has maybe a dozen souls. What’s left of the town is a Mercantile (open once a year at Thanksgiving), a Gift Shop and Pottery shop. Nice people here.
Poston Butte – The Father of Arizona is buried on this hill just outside of Florence, Az.
San Xavier – A cemetery for the Tohono O’odham nation sits to the west of Mission San Xavier dating from Father Kino’s time.
Silverbell – The old town of Silverbell and Silverbell Mine is just west of the new Silverbell Mine. There is nothing left of the town, they pulled up the boards and moved them to the new town of Silverbell. The cemetery still exists on the side of the hill.
Court Street Cemetery – The cemetery is no longer there, but some of the remains remain. Just north of the Best Western on Stone and Speedway is an empty lot. This was the northest corner of the cemetery which went south and west to roughly 2nd street and 10th Avenue.
Tombstone City Cemetery (Opened 1884) – This is the new Tombstone graveyard and is the resting place of many of Tombstone’s most upstanding citizens, Chief Nino, who is claimed to be the grandson of Cochise for one. Camillus Fly is another. He was the famous Tombstone photographer who took those photos of the only Native Americas still at war with the United States. Further down this road is where the father of Tombstone is buried, Ed Schieffelin as well as the Monument Guest Ranch, a great stay.
Tucson Evergreen and Holy Hope Cemeteries. Many many pioneers are buried here, Sam Hughes, George Pusch, Eppes Randolph, Herbert and Eva Drachman, Lara Pennington, are just a few. Holy Hope is the Catholic Cemetery with all the plastic flowers on the north side.
One short story about these two cemeteries. Mr. Stevens was a wealthy Tucson merchant. He married Petra Santa Cruz when she was a teenager. Around 1890 however, things weren’t going well in their business. One afternoon, Petra laid down to nap. Mr. Stevens pulled a gun and shot her in the head. He then turned the gun on himself and died a few hours later. Petra survived. She wore a heavy Spanish comb in her hair that deflected the bullet.
Mr. Stevens is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery. Petra is buried at Holy Hope next door. It is said that she didn’t want anything further to do with him, even in eternity.
Tumacacori – In the rear of the mission is the mortuary chapel. Behind that, a cemetery. Some graves not so old.
Zuni Mission – We don’t know how old some of these grave sites are but we can imagine.
For those of you who are truly fans of Genealogy, here are a couple of sites to keep you going.
The Arizona part of the project is at Ancestry.com is Arizona Gravestones.org. A volunteer act of love. Photos of each gravesite, contributions and history by volunteers.
There is a great website exploring the history of some of these towns on the “Ghost Town Trail” here. And yes, they do occasionally give tours. These towns are recent enough that there are people to actually recall and chronicle their history.
For more Ghost Towns in the area see our page “Ghost Towns and Tours of Southern Arizona” listing stories and sites around Southern Arizona.