Saturday, November 28, 2009

Boot Hill Cemetery- Tombstone Arzona

What visit to Tombstone would be complete without a visit to Boot Hill Cemetery. Once again due to the famous gunfight, this Boot Hill although very well known isn't the only cemetery known as Boot Hill. Boot Hill is the name for any number of cemeteries, chiefly in the American West. During the 19th century it was a common name for the burial grounds of gunfighters, or those who "died with their boots on". Also, Boot Hill graves were made for people who died in a strange town without assets for a funeral, known more formally as pauper's graves.

The cemetery for all its historical significance is somewhat of a disappointment. Even an amateur cemetery buff can immediately see that 98% of the markers that are in place are far from original, and sadly there was more effort put toward placing markers that would last for many years, but not be too costly, then there was toward at least making them good replicas of what once was there.

Reading up on the cemetery in both the Tombstone historical society's own literature as well as other independent articles, One has to appreciate that the volunteers have done their best to accurately mark the graves of those buried there. They even have a list of names of folks that were buried there but whose grave locations are not known. Also I was able to verify one of my own suspicions, that the cemetery was originally much larger than it currently is, but nature has simply reclaimed what once was taken from her. There is also a small Jewish section connected by a small dirt path at the bottom of the cemetery.

Also many of the graves are marked with the manner in which it's occupant passed on. This was a common practice in the 1800's and prior, where records could be so easily lost in boom towns such as Tombstone. I have included a little wikihistory also.

The most notable use of the name Boot Hill is at the Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona

Formerly called City Cemetery, the plot features the graves of Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury; the three men killed during the famed Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Currently the Boothill Graveyard is open to the public and a popular stop for tourists visiting Tombstone. Located on the northwest corner of the town, the graveyard is believed to hold over 300 persons, 205 of which are recorded. This was due to many Chinese and Jewish immigrants being buried without record.

Tombstone's famous "Boothill Graveyard" was originally plotted in 1878 and was first named "The Tombstone Cemetery". It was used as the city's main cemetery until the current cemetery, "Tombstone Cemetery" at the end of Allen Street was opened up in 1884. Afterwards, additional burials would be added from time to time.

There was a section for all the Chinese and another area for the Jewish. It is believed some 300 persons in all were buried here. It was common for bodies to be found in various parts in and ouside of town, with no one ever being able to identify them, and they were interred with no markings, or as "unknown".

After the new cemetery was opened up, Boothill Graveyard went neglected. The original grave markers were all made of wood, with painted inscriptions, and withered away under the elements. Some markers were stolen by souvenir hunters. In 1923, the city contacted several of its residents to help locate and identify graves. A boy scout troop had also set about to clean up the cemetery. In the 1940's, Emmett Nunnelly, a Tombstone resident, organized and effort to restore the cemetery to its original state. Harry Fulton Ohm, owner of the famous Bird Cage Theatre, donated new steel markers from his plant, which are the same markers that remain today.

Lynching in the United States was the practice of killing people by extrajudicial mob action in the United States of America, chiefly from the late 1700s through the 1950s. This type of murder is most often associated with hanging, although it often included burning and/or various other methods of torture, and only rarely were lynchers punished, or even arrested, for their crimes.

Only one lynching ever took place. As indicated by the gravestone, John Heath was taken from the county jail and lynched by a Bisbee mob in Tombstone on February 22, 1884, a short distance from the court house. Heath was the alleged leader of a gang who shot up a store in nearby Bisbee during an armed robbery in December, 1883. Four innocent bystanders were killed.

Legal justice was swift for the rest of Heath's gang. The five men were hanged simultaneously on March 8, 1884, in the court yard of the Tombstone Court House. Capital punishment was a function of county government until Arizona became a state in 1912.

Perhaps the most famous Chinese person in Tombstone was China Mary (nee Sing, aka Ah Chum), a plump woman from Zhongshan county. She usually wore brocaded silks and large amounts of Asian jade jewelry. She was influential among Whites and people of other nationalities, and in Hoptown her word was as good as that of a judge or banker. The Whites, who preferred Chinese domestic labor, soon learned that Mary was resourceful in finding workers. She guaranteed the workers' honesty and workmanship. Her warranty was "Them steal, me pay!" All work was done to the employer's satisfaction or it would be redone for free. Payments, however, were made to China Mary - not to the employee.

China Mary managed a well-stocked general store where she dealt in both American and Chinese goods. White men and Asians were both allowed to play in the gambling hall behind her store. They had to abide her rules. China Mary seems to have been an astute investor; she was involved in a number of businesses, Opium Dens,  several hand laundries, houses of Ill Fame and a restaurant owned by Sam Sing. Mary was also a money lender, and she used her own judgment to determine borrower's credibility. China Mary is also remembered as a generous lady who helped those in need of money or medical care. No sick, injured, or hungry person was ever turned away from her door. She once took a cowboy with a broken leg to Mary Tack's boarding house and paid the medical bill herself. 

When Mary died of heart failure in 1906, the town folks had a large turnout for her service. A death certificate showed that "Ah Lum" died on December 16, 1906, at the age of 65. Although local official John E. Bacon typed the wrong name (AH-overstrike C(hina) Lum), the date matched the cemetery marker for China Mary, and the certificate was clearly meant for her. China Mary was buried in Boothill Cemetery beside her friend Quong Gu Kee, who died of natural causes on April 23, 1893.

One of Tombstone's madams earned the title "Queen of the Red Light District." She was "Dutch Annie," the belle of silver boomtown and friend to everyone. Although she was a soiled dove Annie was looked upon as a camp angel. Numerous times she was known to take a miner down on his luck and give him a new start in life.

When she died all Tombstone mourned and turned out to bury her in Boothill with dignity and splendor. Prominent business men and citizens, along with members of the underworld and girls of the red light district attended her funeral. Over a thousand buggies followed her to her final resting place. Like almost all Tombstone's ladies of sin, no one ever knew her real name. Consequently, her grave is marked with a simple epitaph which reads "Dutch Annie 1883."

1 comment:

Sonia ;) said...

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO AWESOME....Loved it..LOL...You covered everything.


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