Location Description and History
Respect was shown for the dead depending upon the status one held while alive. A drifter caught between a bullet and a hard place would have been buried without notice, only the undertaker aware of his passing. While a young woman buried along with her stillborn child would have the finest in funeral services as the townsfolk would all be there in their mourning outfits.
Marking these 3 X 6 plots of ground would most often be two pieces of wood affixed together in the shape of a cross. Words either chiseled in or painted on would mention a name, if known, and a date. Sometimes there was a mention of the cause of death. Hanged. Drowned. Shot. Suicide. Murdered. These and other words would have been their epitaph. Wild flowers would have been gathered and brought to these gravesites and tears would have dropped from swollen eyes to the fresh dug earth now mounded around the tombstone of this loved one's final resting place. For more than four years this was the place where the famous and the notorious were buried. Where the epitaphs such as "Murdered in the streets of Tombstone", "Hanged by Mistake", and "Shot by Ormsby" are the last and final words attributed to the person now residing at the Tombstone Cemetery. The wild side of Tombstone took many lives and just as fast as one would die in this raucous town a new man or a new family would be arriving with wagons piled high, ready to be unloaded in their new home here in Tombstone. Tombstone was growing fast and as the town grew the cemetery began to get a bit over crowded. Simply put, there was going to be a need for a new cemetery if this town continued to grow as it was. The need was answered, the land generously donated and the deal sealed with a handshake. The land where the Jennie Belle, Little Tom, and the New Year's Gift mining claims sat was gifted to the city for the New Tombstone Cemetery at the west end of Allen Street.By 1884 the town of Tombstone was beginning to take on the established standards that all fine cities maintained and having a "new" city cemetery where "proper" residents of town could be buried would have been met with a feeling of status. The simple wooden crosses with painted or etched epitaphs were soon over-shadowed by the large granite carved headstones. Etched for eternity would be words that described these individuals. And standing tall above the ground these ornately carved stones would tell of the life once lived in words and symbols.
As the years went by the "old" city cemetery fell upon neglect. It began to be reclaimed by the desert. It was no longer used for services and the friends and loved ones of those buried within this perimeter, for the most part, no longer lived in Tombstone. The call to move on would have taken them to the next boomtown and with their departure a void would have been placed over the final resting spot of the loved one they had to leave behind. No longer would there be tears shed on the soil here. No longer would there have been flowers placed beside a wooden cross. And no longer would there be footsteps to follow that once led the way to little Eva's small mound. The "old" city cemetery had become forgotten and no longer revered as the sacred and hallowed grounds for those who died in Tombstone's infancy.
The wooden crosses marking the unnamed man known only as "Killed by Apaches" and the double mound of dirt where the Brady brothers were buried soon fell victim to the scrub brush and the cacti that over took the old cemetery. Oh, Mother Nature did a good job on this once sacred plot of ground while reclaiming the land and almost completely erasing all traces of this final resting place. But Mother Nature did what she does naturally.
Not all the wooden crosses and other markers were taken over by the growing desert life and ravages of time and rot. Grave robbers stole many and those not stolen were broken and destroyed. This abandoned cemetery soon became the final resting place for someone's worn out icebox and every other form of garbage one could imagine. The "old" Tombstone City Cemetery where the famous and the notorious were buried along with the brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters, daughters, and sons of Tombstone's first pioneers was now the city dump.
Yes, Tombstone's cemetery (soon to officially borrow the title "Boothill" and incorporate that name in the effort to draw tourists) was so desecrated that even the town's first mayor and founder of the Tombstone Epitaph Newspaper, John Clum, was unable to locate the site where his late wife was buried while visiting during the 1920's. Words written about the condition of this cemetery refer to it as a disgrace and humiliation to the town of such legendary history.
If the town was going to follow suit with Dodge City it best clean up this cemetery for its commercial potential. There appeared to be a lack of pride in Tombstone's past pioneers except for the patriotic and loyal Boy Scouts of Tombstone whose mission it was to clean up this graveyard/dump. A call to action was announced and yet no one really cared to pitch in and clean it up. Funds were requested and denied. John Clum even offered to match any funds acquired for the clean up of this "most pathetic dump" and no one stepped up. And so for the second time it was the town's Boy Scout troop that stepped forward and started the action to clean up the old city cemetery that had, by this time, been given the official name change to "Boothill".
The name of Wyatt Earp drew many people to this part of Arizona, all wanting to see the graves of the three men killed in the gunfight where he and his brothers and a man named Doc Holliday "triumphed over the evils of the cowboy faction". The violence of Tombstone's past was to be the focus here at "Boothill". While in that same graveyard were the forgotten final resting places of over 250 lost souls … people who would not or could not be associated with violence. Perhaps their value or disvalue to this town would never be known, as they had no association with the famous Earp/Clanton feud or the wild cowboy vendettas. Time saw to it that a few were located and reclaimed, to the best of their memories, thanks to loved ones who helped with the renovation process.
Many buried here were true Tombstone
pioneers and yet many of them forgotten, their markers removed never to
be reclaimed, their story never to be told.
Yes, now the "old" city cemetery was taken care of. The dirt where once only the wild growing desert plants and carelessly discarded garbage claimed home now had well formed mounds and exceptionally manicured landscape with not a weed to be found in it. This was to honor these Tombstone pioneers. Actually no, this was to capitalize on the violence of Tombstone's past. This was to bring in money to the Tombstone coffers.
And now the "new" cemetery remains, for the most part, devoid of any city attention. Almost a dichotomy of sorts. This cemetery once meant "status" to many folks in town. Enough so that the "old" cemetery was allowed to fall to ruin and disrepair with never a thought given to clean it up until the vision to reclaim it brought dollar signs to the eyes of early city fathers. For many years and even up to today a collection box has been placed at the "old" cemetery. I wonder what other cemeteries, historic or not, ask for donations to view the burial grounds of their pioneers. The City of Tombstone today claims that the donations for the month of April were slightly over $23,000 with over 48,000 visitors walking through the doors that lead to "Boothill". And at this moment bids are being accepted for a new tile floor in the gift shop as well as for the addition of a patio at this tourist destination.
Here the rocks have been carefully mounded and delicately placed so that no foot should trip over the replica headstones or metal rod crosses that mark even the "unknown's" of Tombstone's pioneers. All cleverly re-created to bring tourists to this destination. Special attention is given to the grounds that never a weed can grow from as this well-visited and often photographed graveyard has constant attention while the "new" city cemetery has been allowed to become over grown with the same weeds, cacti and other wild desert plants. These sometimes devouring up the unreadable epitaph … covering the tombstone for this forgotten pioneer.
Here at the "new" city cemetery headstones are crumbling and the ground is too. The wild critters of the desert have delightfully found their homes under many of the concrete slabs, unmarked mounds, and granite tombstones. Their burrows have tended to weaken the grounds that support the slabs and markers. Each step must be taken carefully here so as not to lose your footing with the crumbling grounds. Our pioneers, the ones who kept this town alive so that there is now and will forever be a "Boothill" to visit have now become the forgotten ones. The doctors, lawyers, marshals, councilmen, mothers, fathers, and children of this great town now have their last and final resting place becoming a common dumpsite as well. Garbage sometimes seems to just grow out there along with the heavy century plants whose roots have grown deep under the faded headstones, their epitaphs unreadable. Will it take a century for this plant to bloom before there is shown a semblance of care about the upkeep of this place?
A dear couple in Tombstone has given an incredible amount of their time and energy filling in the mystery of these lost epitaphs and markers in Tombstone's Other Cemetery. Years of research has gone into their labor of love that now tells a story of sorts in names and dates of those whose lives were lost and eulogized here at the end of Allen Street. A gift to be sure to the town's history as told from the epitaphs.
And now a new call to action is being heralded for these pioneers' history to be told. This important historic landmark, the "new" Tombstone Cemetery, has fallen into a state of disrepair. The town no longer has the Boy Scouts to follow the footsteps of those who once took care of their loved one's grave by cleaning up and pulling the overgrown weeds. Perhaps once a year near Memorial Day there can be found a few family members or other volunteers who wander through and pick up the empty beer bottles and other pieces of garbage now claiming home here near their family's site. Weeds are pulled and fresh flowers are exchanged for those that were left from last year's Memorial Day sprucing up. This done in memory of the loved ones resting here, gone days or decades matter not, for they are remembered and loved.
Lovingly nearly every day in the very early morning hours you can find someone very special at the Tombstone Cemetery. Someone who is not motivated by dollars or even a scouting badge. She has no loved one buried here and knows none of them resting here from life … only their epitaphs. She is someone who dearly and truly just wants the "real" cemetery in historic Tombstone to have the polish it deserves. She rakes and pulls up weeds. She tugs the long dead century plants whose growth has now toppled over the tombstone. She scoots along and removes the dead desert grasses growing tall against the headstones. She cleans up the old and weathered articles that have blown throughout these chain link fenced in walls. And she leaves each one she tends to with a new and bright bunch of cheerful yellow daisies or sunflowers. Where there is mention of military service she leaves the red, white and blue flowers. The careful attention she devotes to each burial location will hopefully one day keep this "new" cemetery from being neglected and forgotten in favor of the tourist attraction, "Boothill".
Her efforts are not supported by the funds gained from the donation box at "Boothill". She is not paid to do this; it comes from her heart and her desire to see that all those buried at Tombstone's City Cemetery are remembered with respect for the life they lived in the town at the bottom of the hill. As she says, "They all have a story and I want to know them all." Who out there would be willing to share the stories of Tombstone's true pioneers with this "angel" in Tombstone? Who wants to make sure that Tombstone can be remembered for its hearty citizens who kept this town on the map and not just the notorious citizens whose only claim to fame was ending up at the wrong end of a bullet?
Please hear this call to action and if you know the stories of those you visit in the Tombstone Cemetery share them. Go out there in the morning and spend some time with her and let her know you care about the stories as well. If you no longer live in this town or prefer to speak with us, then write or call this paper and tell us how to contact you for these stories. Tombstone's pioneers deserve a proper burial ground and she devotes her mornings seeing to it that the overgrowth of weeds and rubbish does not deter from that respect. She asks no money for her efforts. She does not have a donation box at her side. All she truly wants is to know the stories of these pioneers she has become so close to. Close enough to spruce up their final resting place up. And close enough to place the "wild flowers" and shed a tear upon the tombstones of those that are gone but not forgotten in Tombstone's history. Death was certain for our pioneers of the past but let's not let their stories die too. And let it never be said that the Tombstone Cemetery was a disgrace or humiliation to the town of such legendary history.
Narrative from The Tombstone Times (From the June 2005 Issue). Written by Janice Hendricks
There are various local legends about a particular section of the cemetery being haunted. Here is a one story that was e-mailed to us;
"We had heard that the Tombstone graveyard, not the Boot hill, was haunted and we wanted to it see for ourselves. There were about six of us, including two girls. "Long about dark, we gathered at the edge of the graveyard to watch. We didn't have to wait long. Soon shadows began to appear around the graves, then human forms.
They were misty and hazy and you could see right through them. All of us had goose bumps all over our bodies. We were frozen to the spot, so scared that we dared not move for fear the ghosts would spot us and come after us. The ghosts, however, were actually not doing much of anything, just floating among the tombstones. It didn't look like they were even aware of each other's presence. They just floated around, several inches off the ground. Sometimes they would even float through each other. This went on for about ten minutes or so. Slowly, one by one, they began disappearing, then, finally, all the ghosts were gone."
We performed an EM sweep from north to south along the cemetery, moving in a grid pattern. Three D/C electromagnetic fields were recorded but no frequency counting equipment was available for this ghost hunt. The power levels of the fields were 5, 17 and 8 milligauss.
While at the cemetery gate, we did notice that lights coming from cars on the cemetery road casted shadows throughout the graveyard, which can give it a creepy effect.
Click on the thumbnails to view the larger image
While we encountered several unusual electromagnetic fields it must be remembered that we were in an area with large mineral deposits that could potentially amplify the earth's natural magnetic field. the readings of our instruments could be consistent with EM fields of this type.
The vast majority of the photographs taken
at the cemetery contain false positives such as airborne dust and pollen.
Only five of the photographs contain anything remotely interesting, although
these too are not conclusive.
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