Cemeteries are a great place to find history and Bisbee definitely has that. A visit to the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum will orient a new visitor. This year (2015) we went to Bisbee to go to the Cemetery Tour to learn more about the history of the people that built Bisbee in the late 19th, early 20th century. A similar tour was presented by the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The re-enacters were not polished but brought a sense of “Life” to the people who are buried there. The cemetery is located near the Lavender Pit Mine in the Lowell District on Old Douglas Road near the Shady Dell. Here is what we found.
Joseph M. Muheim 1987-1951 was a businessman born in Switzerland and immigrated in the late 1800s. He came to Bisbee and worked with his uncles until he inherited his uncles’ saloon and brewery. He built several major buildings in town, Muheim Block, Pythian Castle, and the Philadelphia Hotel. The Muheim Heritage house, Muheim’s personal residence, and the Pythian Castle still exist. the Muheim Heritage House is owned by the city of Bisbee and is now a Museum.
George Warren – 1892 Prospector. George is credited with staking the claim for the Copper Queen Mine, at one time one of the most productive copper mines. It is now a tourist attraction. George’s drinking and gambling got in the way of his success. George was buried in a paupers grave. The monument you see above was added later.
George is most probably the miner featured on the Arizona State Seal, striking this pose, taken from a photograph by C.S. Fly.
Harry C. Wheeler 1875 – 1925 was a Soldier, an Arizona Ranger, and three-time Sheriff of Cochise County. Wheeler was born in Florida and enlisted in the cavalry, and fought in the Spanish-American War. In 1903 he joined the Arizona Rangers, eventually becoming captain of the Rangers. While acting as sheriff, he was in charge of the Bisbee deportation. Wheeler was a captain in the Army during World War I.
There is an interesting story about one of the last Gunfights of the old west involving Sheriff Wheeler near Gleeson, Arizona. Read More
John B. Anguis 1858-1904 was a Grocer and hotelkeeper. John immigrated from Austria when he was 20. He established grocery stores in Nevada and then moved to Tombstone where he had another grocery store. Eventually, he moved to Bisbee and built an adobe block store which helped to act as a firewall in the great fire of 1908. He rebuilt and had a hotel in addition to his grocery business.
Elsie Toles 1850 – 1904. teacher, became the first woman to serve in a statewide office when she was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1920. Elsie went to Bisbee schools and was a member of the first high school graduating class. She taught school in Bisbee, Douglas, Hawaii, Berkley, and San Francisco. She eventually returned to Bisbee and lived with her sister on their ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains. She was politically active and wrote several books which are now sold on Amazon.com.
Ella Moson Greene 1858 – 1899. She was a rancher on the San Pedro River when she married W.C Greene, both a rancher and a miner. Together they established the OR Ranch. She was good at managing the ranch while her husband continued to work in mining. They had two children. Daughter Ella died in an accident in the San Pedro River. WC Greene shot and killed the man in Tombstone who was suspected of blowing up a dam on the San Pedro causing the flood that killed their daughter. Read about it here. Ella is buried next to her daughter.
Maggie Letson – 1867 – 1909. Businesswoman, Maggie Madigon, a native of County Clare, Ireland moved to Bisbee with her brother. She met/married James Letson, a successful businessman from Ireland. Maggie Letson invested in real estate, owning most of the property fronting on either side of Main Street. The Letsons invested in mining and cattle. They were important influences in the political/business life of Main St. The Letson Hotel remains today.
The Old Serbian Section of the Cemetery is worth mentioning. The Serbians were a strong influence in the Bisbee community working the mines. The Serbians came in three waves, 1800, 1900 and 1910. They started in low-level jobs, saved their money and soon owned groceries, cafes, boarding houses and saloons. By the 1900’s there were an estimated 2500 Serbians living in Bisbee. Relatives in the Old Country arranged many of the Serbian marriages in Bisbee. Young women were “picture brides”. The brides were selected from photographs and then dispatched to Bisbee to meet their grooms.
Thanks to the City of Bisbee, Muheim Heritage Committee and volunteers for putting this show on. Proceeds will go to the Muheim Heritage House Museum.