No visit to Tombstone would be complete without a trip to the Boothill Cemetery. Founded in 1878, the cemetery was officially named “The Tombstone Cemetery” and was originally used by the pioneer settlers of the community. In the 1880’s it became the burial place of those whose deaths came to represent to wild west atmosphere of Tombstone. Outlaws were buried along side their victims, suicides, hangings and lynchings were all represented in addition to the town’s more respectable citizens. During this time the cemetery became informally known as the “Boothill Graveyard”.
Visiting this cemetery is unlike any other I have experienced. With my interest in Find A Grave, I visit cemeteries fairly often. It is not usually a sad or depressing experience but I am always aware of the meaning of my surroundings. The graves are the final resting places of human beings so a certain amount of respect, if not reverence, is appropriate. That should be no less true of the people interred at Boothill and yet it has a tourist attraction feel to it. Possibly it is the distance in time. Possibly it is the ‘wild west’ feel of the place and the familiarity of the stories. Maybe it’s just that families come with children of all ages to look at the graves of strangers. Whatever the cause, it is not at all a sad place to see.
The cemetery is quite small; less than 300 graves and many of them familiar from the stories I heard only a couple hours earlier in Tombstone. I have read many personal histories and I have seen many graves but it is interesting to be able to connect them so immediately.
Dutch Annie was a prostitute. Actually, she was known as the Queen of the Red Light District. The caption on her photo at the Bird Cages says when she died “the whole town of Tombstone turned out to bury her with dignity”.
George Johnson bought a horse he did not know was stolen.
Stinging Lizard was shot by Cherokee Hall. His gave lies not too far from the grave of Jack Hall; also shot by Cherokee Hall. Apparently one needed to tread lightly around Cherokee Hall.
The concept of Political Correctness was unknown in 19th century Tombstone.
The 5 men listed were sentenced to be hanged for their part in a store robbery where several people were killed. Scaffolding was constructed outside the courthouse along with a viewing stand for the public. Offended by the carnival atmosphere of the coming executions, local woman Nellie Cashman and some friends went to the court house the night before the hanging and tore down the bleachers. The hangings took place on scheduled but without the cheering crowd.
John Heath was believed to have planned the store robbery. He was lynched by a mob of angry citizens who took him from the Bisbee jail.
Sometimes the descriptions are succinct.
Two cowboys – Drowned
Killed by Indians
Following a path down from Boothill, one finds the Jewish Memorial. Notwithstanding my earlier comments, this area conjures the feeling I usually associate with places of burial. The area previously held individual graves of Jewish residents of the area. In 1984 a monument was erected by the Jewish Friendship Club of Green Valley.
The plaque reads; “Dedicated to The Jewish Pioneers and Their Indian Friends”