Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation



The “Box Wash” Mine and “Pipe” Cemetery*


By Allan Hall

Certified APCRP Coordinator


The hunt for old mines, pioneer settlements and grave sites is virtually guaranteed to produce a surprise now and then. The Arrastre Cemetery, in Slim Jim Creek, is a well known example. There, many of the graves are marked with discarded drag stones taken from the arrastre. But - imagine a cemetery where many of the graves are marked with old ventilation pipes!  Such a place exists south of Wickenburg and can be visited without much difficulty.


Figure 1 - Mine and cemetery east of Vulture Mine Road



A Brief Description of the Mine


Several attempts to establish a name or date of origin for this mine have proved fruitless, as none of the standard reference sites has yielded any information.  The nearest geographic feature is Box Wash, which will temporarily serve as a convenient name for the mine.   For the moment, at least, it is a hole in history, as well as the ground.


The mine is located in the NW1/4 of Section 20 in T6N, R5W.  This places it about 2.7 (air) miles northeast of the historic Vulture Mine.  GPS coordinates for the shaft are N 33o 51’ 04.08” X W 112o 48’ 23.04” (all coordinates are WGS84).


Several of the mines in this area (including the Vulture Mine) were discovered or began operation in the 1860s.  There are several trash fields in the vicinity of the mine.  The old cans at these sites include many with solder tops (hole and cap) and Norton’s side seam construction.  This shows the mine to be in operation at least as early as the late 1880s.  The presence of “open top” cans in some dump piles shows the mine operated until at least 1920, and may have continued into the 1930s.  A thorough survey of these trash sites is needed to establish a date of operation earlier than 1887.


The mine features one large shaft with a protective covering and a smaller, irregular, open shaft that may have been the original mine entrance; later serving as a ventilation shaft.  The extent of underground workings is unknown, but the dump contains several hundred tons of waste material – sufficient in volume to support a shaft and drifts of several hundred feet.  There is no doubt this was a productive mine, and inclusion of the extracted ore would only increase the size of the underground workings. (That is, the ore vein would have been removed from the mine site to a mill for processing.  That volume, plus the waste rock, roughly equals the size of the shafts, drifts and stopes in the mine.)


Concrete footings next to the covered shaft suggest a sizable head frame existed at one time, and there are other concrete works that indicate a large ore hopper was used.  There is no evidence that a stamps mill operated at the mine.  Additionally, I have found no evidence of a well; suggesting that water may have been pumped from the mine or hauled in from a nearby location.  Oddly, no water pipes have been found in the vicinity of the mine.


Although no buildings remain, one small, dirt and rock foundation is located on the east side of the trail, north of the mine shaft and dump.  The presence of bent nails at this location indicates a wood structure that was probably dismantled after the mine ceased operation.  Workers may have lived in tents at the mine or possibly in Vulture City, about three miles to the SSW.


There are several relatively shallow open cut prospect trenches within 100 yards of the shaft.  This suggests an effort to locate other portions of the ore vein to the west, northwest and northeast of the main shaft.


One major curiosity is the presence of a small arrastre, located about 150 feet south of the shafts.  Ordinarily, you would expect this feature to be associated with gold or silver mines, but the dump appears to contain material more closely associated with manganese and/or tungsten ore bodies.  That is, the waste material is uniformly dark gray in color.  There is virtually no quartz gangue, no secondary copper, and only scant traces of oxidized sulfur on the dump.


Figure 2, Small arrastre at mine.


The dimensions of this arrastre are another puzzle – it’s inside diameter measures only 56 inches and the grinding track is only 17.5 inches wide.  This certainly rules out its use for anything other than pulverizing small quantities of ore – possibly for assaying.  As Figure 2 shows, the center of the arrastre was built using a metal drum.  Note also the sluice on the near right side for draining water after the ore charge had been pulverized.  I suspect the arrastre may have been a late addition to the mine, since it was operated mechanically by an electric motor or gas engine.  In any case, the arrastre does not show signs of long term use.


Grave Sites at Mine


Thirty-one graves have been identified at nine sites on or near the mine workings.  Of these, twenty-five are contained in three distinct clusters and six others are appropriately characterized as lone graves.  Only one grave is female.  The remaining graves are primarily male adults, but at least five are juvenile or very young males.


I have taken the liberty of including photos of all nine sites for the simple reason that they may be helpful to anyone who is learning how to recognize abandoned graves.


Figure 3, Pipe cluster Site #1


Cluster #1 contains nine male graves located in two rows on a north-south axis with head positions generally facing east.  Seven of these are marked with sections of pipe at the head position.   The pipes vary in height and may have been used to distinguish adult versus juvenile, as the small graves are marked only with shorter pipes.  This is the northernmost grave cluster and is approximately 225 feet NNE of the covered shaft.  As shown in the photo, the terrain is a natural flat area above a wash. 


Figure 4, Pipe cluster Site #2


Figure 4 shows part of Cluster #2, which contains seven male graves.  Five of the graves are marked with sections of pipe.  This cluster is located on the east side of the mine, between a portion of the dump and the roadway (out of view to the right).  In contrast to Cluster #1, the main axis is east-west, but individual graves primarily face east.  The positioning of several graves adjacent to a dump prompts the question of timing.  I suspect these burials predated the growth (and potential encroachment) of the dump.


Figure 5, Lone male grave at Site #3.


Site #3 contains a single male adult grave, located on a hillside about five feet above a small wash.  The grave has a north-south axis, with the head facing north.  As illustrated in the photo, care was taken to construct a dry stack retaining wall to prevent erosion.  This grave is located approximately 100 feet south of Site #1.

Figure 6, Pipe cluster at Site #4


The most unusual pipe cluster is found at Site #4, where there are nine adult and juvenile male graves in three rows.  The row axis is north-south.  The three tall pipes are not grave markers, however.  Instead, they seem to have served as an entrance to the cemetery from the opposite side.  Notice the wire cable suspended across the tops of the pipes – it may have been adorned with flags, streamers or religious symbols at one time.  In the upper right corner (right of the tall pipe) you can also see the edge of an ocotillo fence.


Unlike the other two pipe clusters, this site used only short sections of pipe for grave markers.  Why this is so is a mystery.  Eight marker flags show the location of graves.  The ninth grave is out of view to the right.


Certified APCRP Coordinators Bonnie Helten and Cindy Enos are credited with the initial discovery and confirmation of these graves.  They visited the site two days after I found the first cluster at Site #1.

Figure 7, Lone male juvenile grave at Site #5.


Site #5 contains a small male, estimated to be not more than three years of age.  Although the grave shows some disturbance by cattle, it is outlined with rocks and not mounded.  Orientation is approximately east-west, with the head position facing to the east.


Figure 8, Lone Male juvenile grave at Site #6


Site #6 also contains a small male. Based upon grave size, I estimate its age to be not more than two years. Like Site #5, this grave appears to have been disturbed by cattle or wildlife, but was probably mounded rather than outlined. The head position is at the large boulder at the top.  Grave orientation is east-west.


The young male at Site #5 is approximately 160 feet southwest of the pipe cluster at Site #4.  The male at Site #6 is about 260 feet SSW of Site #4.


Figure 9, Lone female adult grave at Site #7.


Within 60 feet of Site #6 you will find the only female burial at this mine. It is distinguished by an impressively large ocotillo growing through the rock mound that covers the grave. It is also one of the largest mounded graves I have seen, and it causes me to think this lady was both well known and respected.



Figure 10, Lone adult male grave at Site #8.


The lone male grave at Site #8 is approximately 370 feet west of the main shaft and about 100 feet west of the young male grave at Site #5.  This site is above a wash in a thicket of trees.  There are no markers to aid with visual identification.


A few feet to the left (south) of this photo there are indications of piled dirt, suggesting that a tractor or other implement may have leveled or cleared this spot in preparation for the grave.


Figure 11, Lone adult male grave at Site #9.


Graves can frequently be found along the margins of old mine and freight trails, as well as stage coach roads.  The last of the grave sites is the only one located on the east side of the trail – literally within a few feet of the roadway.  This is a male with a grave orientation that is approximately northeast-southwest.  Before a full inspection can be completed, branches must be trimmed from the Palo Verde tree that limits access to it.  At present, the dimensions of this grave are unknown.  Kathy Block is credited with locating it in late March, 2010.


Graves such as this underscore the oft-repeated premise that (during Territorial days) people were frequently buried where they died in remote areas.


The thumbnail map below will give you a visual orientation to the grave sites at the mine.  For easy reference, see also the table of coordinates for each site below.



Site Coordinates


N 33o 51’ 02.64” X W 112o 48’ 23.88”

Pipe cluster site #1:

N 33o 51' 06.10" X W 112o 48' 21.80"

Pipe cluster site #2:

N 33o 51' 04.02" X W 112o 48' 21.30"

Lone male grave site #3:

N 33o 51' 05.00" X W 112o 48' 21.80"

Pipe cluster site #4:

N 33o 51' 05.58" X W 112o 48' 25.80"

Lone male grave site #5:

N 33o 51' 04.44" X W 112o 48' 27.12"

Lone male grave site #6:

N 33o 51' 03.18" X W 112o 48' 26.70"

Lone female grave site #7:

N 33o 51' 03.36" X W 112o 48' 26.52"

Lone male grave site #8:

N 33o 51' 04.32" X W 112o 48' 27.72"

Lone male grave site #9:

N 33o 51' 05.70" X W 112o 48' 20.46"


Getting There


1.  From the intersection of West Wickenburg Way (US-60) and Vulture Mine Road, drive south toward the historic Vulture Mine.

2.  After you pass mile marker 15 you will see the entrance to Vulture Mine approaching on your right. On your left you will see a dirt road and mail boxes. Turn left onto the dirt road. This is BLM Trail #9054.

3.  Continue on #9054 until you arrive at a fork in the road. The left fork will be marked as BLM Trail #9055. Take this trail.

4.  Remain on #9055. Several trails will branch left or right of #9055, but these should be ignored.

5.  You will pass a large dirt tank (Garcia Tank) on your left as you proceed north.

6.  The mine site is north of the tank on your left. A small two track road will lead you up onto the dump near the shaft.

7.  Your return from the mine should retrace the route described above.  Trail #9055 requires 4WD if you attempt to drive north, beyond the mine area.


Text Box: A word of caution is, unfortunately, required. Be advised that the three mile stretch of Vulture Mine Road from mile marker 15 to 18 contains several sites that have been used for human smuggling in the past. It is highly unlikely that you would encounter illegal migrant groups during daylight hours. There are no reports of activity since August.










Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation



WebMaster: Neal Du Shane




Copyright ©2010 Neal Du Shane
All rights reserved. Information contained within this website may be used
for personal family history purposes, but not for financial profit of any kind.
All contents of this website are willed to the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (