Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation

Version 121507

 

Black Rock Mine

Monte Cristo Mine

Cemeteries

An APCRP Work in Progress

 

By Allan Hall

 

Author standing at one of the Black Rock Mine Projects

 

 

Table of Contents

Click below for direct connect to subjects:

 

Figure 1:  Main House Terrace and Corral 3

Figure 2: Small Cemetery on Main Terrace 4

Figure 3: Grave Marker Posts 5

Figure 4:  Clearing and Survey Work. 6

Figure 5: Flagged Grave Locations 7

Figure 6: Grave Outlines and Terrace Wall 8

A Puzzle 9

Location Information 9

Precautions 9

Map of Black Rock Mine Cemetery Locations 10

Geographic Relationship of Cemeteries: 10

Map of Cemetery Locations 11

Description 11

EDITORS NOTE. 13

 

 

Black Rock Mine is one of the most visible features along Constellation Road east of Wickenburg.  It receives a limited number of visitors and very few realize there are two cemeteries located here.  The mine operated from 1906 until 1941 and never reopened after WWII.

 

After a break from the summer heat, work has resumed at the Black Rock Mine to complete the location and documentation of grave sites.  In the spring of 2007 we identified one small cemetery within a rock walled terrace plus a nearby site that showed evidence of numerous graves over a much larger area.  Figure 1 shows the multi-tiered terrace that contains the ruins of two buildings and a corral.  To the right of the main terrace you can see a smaller rock walled rectangle, adjacent to the trail.  This is the location of the first cemetery.

Figure 1:  Main House Terrace and Corral

 

Although it is completely derelict it has not suffered from erosion and is in generally good condition, especially considering that it has been abandoned for at least 65 years.  See Figure 2.

Figure 2: Small Cemetery on Main Terrace

 

This cemetery contains seven graves in two rows.  The near side, from left to lower right, has three burials and four are located on the upper half (also left to right.)

There appear to be three headstones without inscriptions.  The other graves may have had wood markers at one time, but I have not been able to locate them.  Other than confirming the presence of the graves, no clearing or marking has been done.

 

The metal debris is primarily corrugated roofing material that was probably blown onto the site from the ruins to the right of this photo.  Otherwise, there is relatively minor disturbance from cattle that graze in the area.  Notice that there is an iron pipe on the margin of the cemetery near the top of the photo.  This is characteristic of graves at Black Rock Mine; as you will see in the following photos.

 

The second cemetery is on the opposite (west) side of the hill shown in Figure 1.  This site was heavily overgrown with acacia, mesquite, Palo Verde and cactus, making it difficult to determine how the area was organized until it could be trimmed and cleared.  The first physical evidence of graves was revealed by the presence of metal pipes that had been driven into the ground to mark grave corners in several locations, but it was still very difficult to see the “big picture.”  See Figure 3.

Figure 3: Grave Marker Posts

 

With the return of cooler weather in November I began trimming the brush and removing old debris to gain a better view of the cemetery.  What is now evident is a large, double-tiered, rock walled (upper and lower) terrace that measures approximately 100 feet on the N-S axis by 40 feet E-W.  Selective removal of undergrowth has greatly improved visibility at the site, as evidenced in Figures 4-5.

 

Figure 4:  Clearing and Survey Work

 

Dead branches and brush are being removed and, where appropriate, trees have been pruned to make the graves easier to survey.  As seen in Figure 4 I use survey flags to visually establish individual grave dimensions.

 

Some fairly large areas have now been sufficiently cleared to permit easy movement and preliminary survey work.  See Figure 5.

 

Figure 5: Flagged Grave Locations

 

This photo shows nine flagged graves that are located on the lower of the two terraces at this site.  The trees and cactus on the right edge are on the western margin of the terrace and additional pruning will be required before some grave dimensions can be established.  We have now identified 31 graves inside the perimeter of the double terrace.  With the exception of one grave, all are oriented in the traditional east-west Christian manner.  After the survey effort is fully completed I will assess the number of infant, juvenile and adult graves.

 

As you can see, this is still a “work in progress.”  I have only been able to provide rock outlines for six of the thirty-one graves thus far.  See Figure 6.

 

Figure 6: Grave Outlines and Terrace Wall

 

This photo shows four male graves that are now outlined.  Rocks are by no means a permanent method, especially in areas where there are livestock; so my process includes driving 10” spikes in each corner, leaving about one inch above the surface.  When the surveying and marking is completed we will then construct the APCRP headstones and do the final placements.  Notice also in Figure 6 is a portion of the upper terrace wall which marks the eastern boundary of this cemetery. 

 

There is one oddity that we have found thus far and is shown in the photo.  The two upper outlined graves may represent simultaneous burials.  Both are juvenile and there is no measurable separation between the two.  It is possible that these two graves were dug at the same time for siblings.

 

Site artifacts are a bit more evident in this cemetery that at the seven graves on the east side of the hill.  We have found the possible remains of two wood markers.  There is also a partial wood fence structure at the south end of this terrace.  Finally, there is a long section of iron pipe on the northern edge of the cemetery that may have served as a top rail for a fence.

A Puzzle

The identification of 38 graves at Black Rock Mine seems to heighten the puzzle about the “Arrastre” cluster of four cemeteries, located to the west, where there may be fifty or more additional graves.  The Black Rock was not a particularly successful or long running operation and could not have employed as many miners as the Monte Cristo Mine, which is a scant half mile to the south.  Excluding the Monte Cristo Mine, we now have 88 or more graves in very close proximity.  Until we can locate historical records such a large number of graves is difficult to comprehend.

Location Information

1.       Drive east from Wickenburg on Constellation Road, travel beyond the Monte Cristo Mine until you come to Slim Jim Creek.

2.     Turn left and drive down (northwesterly) the creek.  You will encounter a gate that separates grazing leases.  This gate has always been closed.  In conversations with the rancher, that is the way it should be left!

3.     Proceed beyond the gate until you arrive at the bottom of the Black Rock Mine area.

4.     GPS coordinates for the small cemetery are:  N 34o 04’ 21” by W 112 o 34’ 57”.  The location of the large double terraced cemetery is:  N 34 o 04’ 19.8” by W 112 o 34’ 59.0”.  Coordinates are given as WGS84.  See the flagged waypoints in the map below.

Precautions

1.       This section of Slim Jim Creek is rather narrow.  ATV’s, jeeps and mid-sized 4WD trucks will have no difficulty if you drive slowly through this area.  Full-sized 4WD trucks may be too wide to pass between some boulders and tight turns.

2.     It is possible to drive an ATV up to the cemetery area, but be aware that there are many old nails.  It is a short hike from the creek to the cemeteries.

3.     Do not enter Slim Jim Creek during periods of potentially heavy runoff.

4.     At the point where the trail rises out of Slim Jim Creek, the space for vehicle parking is limited to not more than two vehicles.

5.     Expect to see rattlesnakes during the warm season.  There are mine tunnels in this area.  Snakes hibernate in these tunnels during to cold season.

Map of Black Rock Mine Cemetery Locations

 

 

Black Rock and Monte Cristo Mines

Geographic Relationship of Cemeteries:

 

In my posting on the Black Rock Mine above, I stated there are six cemeteries at or near the mine.  Although I referenced the Monte Cristo Mine in that article, (which is nearly due south of the Black Rock), I did not mention that two cemeteries have recently been located there as well.  Within an area that is less than one square mile, we can now account for eight derelict cemeteries of varying size.  The presence of so many cemeteries in such a geographically small area is surprising – even if some are modest in size.

 

The map image below shows the vicinity of the Black Rock-Monte Cristo mines and eight numbered arrows.  The tip of each arrow points to the location of each cemetery.

 

Map of Cemetery Locations

 

Description

1.       This is the small, rectangular cemetery on the edge of the main housing terrace at Black Rock Mine.  Seven graves have been identified but no other work has been performed at this site.

2.     The double-terraced cemetery at Black Rock Mine.  Thirty-one graves have been identified and extensive clearing and survey/documentation work is under way.  This cemetery measures approximately 100 by 40 ft.  Only six graves have been outlined.  Grave corner pins have not been set, but survey flags are in place to identify all graves.

3.     This is the Arrastre cemetery that is located a few yards west of the junction of Mahoney Wash and Slim Jim Creek.  Thanks to the help of Neal Du Shane, we have now identified eleven graves here.  Site clearing has been completed on nine of the graves, but two are still covered by a large expanse of prickly pear cactus.  Eight of the graves have been corner pinned, labeled and outlined with rock borders.

4.     This cemetery is located directly above the Arrastre site on a relatively flat point that rises about twenty feet from Slim Jim Creek.  It is by far the largest cemetery in area and likely contains more than thirty graves.  Interesting features at this site include:

*      A double burial inside a tent-rock cabin (male and female adult)

*      A co-burial of a female and infant

*      The use of Arrastre floor and grinding stones at this upper cemetery

Otherwise, the graves in this area are widely dispersed and generally unorganized.  There is one remote cluster of four graves that is too far from the Black Rock Mine to be considered part of either cemetery #1 or #2.  For the time being I am classifying these graves as members of #4.  Survey work has been underway since March 2007, and will resume when the two Black Rock Mine cemeteries are completed.

5.     This is a small cemetery located quite near to the Arrastre.  I have identified four graves, but the area is thick with growth and overhanging branches, and there could be one or two more burials at this site.  Other than the initial identification of graves, no work has been done.  The cemetery is not protected by a rock wall, as the Arrastre is, and it is closer to the level of Slim Jim Creek.  There is evidence of past flooding.  No grave marking artifacts have been located thus far.

6.     This cemetery is situated in the least opportune location of all.  It is virtually at the level of Slim Jim Creek and shows extensive mounding of sand from pasting flooding.  An initial survey identified the presence of at least eight graves, but this area is also quite overgrown with brush and mesquite trees.  Otherwise, no work has been done at this site.

7.     The “Upper” Monte Cristo cemetery was recently discovered by Neal.  It is located due east of the head frame, very near to the northwest corner of the old miners dorm ruin.  The initial survey revealed the presence of approximately eight graves on a hillside.  There is some evidence of rock mounds.  No work has been performed at this site.  The upper cemetery is in very close proximity to an unmarked, open shaft.  Please be careful if you visit this location!

8.     The Lower Monte Cristo cemetery is situated on a flat to the west of the mine, at a point where Constellation Road makes a sharp bend.  An initial survey of this location indicates approximately twenty graves that are primarily oriented in along a single curving line above a small wash.  Other than verifying an approximate number of graves, no clearing or formal survey work has been performed

 

Without historical documentation it is impossible to establish a connection between the cemeteries #3 - #6 and the mining or settlement activity at Black Rock (#1 and #2) or Monte Cristo (#7 and #8.)  It is possible (even likely) that both mines may have used these areas.

 

Most of these eight cemeteries still require clearing and formal survey work before an accurate count of graves can be provided.  At present, all we know is that we are dealing with at least 118 graves and I would not be surprised if we locate even more as the clearing of brush progresses.

 

It is well established that the Black Rock Mine began operation in 1906 and ended in 1941.  Unfortunately, it is far from clear when the Monte Cristo mine began operating.  The year 1909 is well established as the point that Anglo ownership and operation began, but Mexican nationals may have begun working the veins of horn silver as early as the 1870’s. 

 

There is little reason to doubt that at least some of these graves can be attributed to mine accidents.  What is not yet known is the extent that epidemics or violence may have played to account for the overall total in this area.

 

If you love a mystery, these eight cemeteries are a great place to do historical research! 

 

 

EDITORS NOTE: Allan Hall has become the volunteer with the most cemeteries ADOPTED for Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (APCRP). In addition under his leadership he has numerous cemetery restorations to his credit along and near Constellation Road. To his credit he has found 90% of these abandoned and derelict cemeteries that apathy and neglect have all but forgotten. These museums of our history would have been lost if it weren’t for dedicated volunteers such as Allan and others within APCRP. With assistance of Allan’s son Jason, they have completed most if not all of the work on all of the Black Rock Cemeteries. Bringing dignity and honor back to these lost and forgotten Pioneers of Arizona that helped make what we see today possible.

 

If you or your group would like to ADOPT a Cemetery Project, let APCRP know and we will assist you in education and training to restore your cemetery project. It is fun, educational and gets you in the outdoors to enjoy the beautiful back country of Arizona.

 

Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation

Version 121507

 

WebMaster: Neal Du Shane

 

n.j.dushane@comcast.net

 

Copyright ©2003-2007 Neal Du Shane
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All contents of this website are willed to the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (APCRP).

 

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