Volume 7 Number 50 December 20, 2006
Long-dead quintet has stone markers
By Bruce Colbert BB/CC News
A year of
meetings, researching historic documents, and investigative trips to
Bob Nilles, president of Black Canyon Historical Society, Neal Du Shane, founder and president of Arizona Pioneer Cemetery Research Project-and headstone mason, and Joyce Du Shane, APCRP photographer and support crew, placed the headstones.
The headstones mark graves discovered at Swilling's Stone House by Du Shane, a bonafide grave dowser, during the past year. The Swilling ruins and graves are on private property.
Shane confirmed the location of three adult male graves, and one female child
grave and one male child grave. Through extensive research of records and
documents, some sketchy and others incomplete or contradictory, Du Shane and Black Canyon City historians Kay Beckman and
Bob Nilles deduced what they believe is positive identification of four of the
five burial sites. Research led the APCRP team to other historians,
The burial roster published by APCRP for the adult graves reads like a wild-west novel. 'T. or H. Bustamante, adult male, hired hand of Jack Swilling killed by Indians while in his employ; Thomas Mallon, killed July 29, 1877 by Henry Randall with a double-barreled shotgun in a dispute over a packsaddle; and Col. Jacob Snively, long-time friend of Swilling's, buried at White Picacho in 1871 and re-buried next to Swilling's daughter.’ Description of the children's graves are brief: 'John Doe, unidentified male child with no known history or records available buried next to an adult male; and Matilda Swilling, daughter of Jack, born 1867 and died 1875 in what then was called Agua Fria District.
Shane and advisors Gary and Beckie Grant pre-poured headstones at their homes
in. Sun City and hauled them to
"When dowsing, Du Shane can identify male from female and adult from child, but he cannot discern heads from toes. "In traditional Christian burials, bodies are buried in an east-west orientation," he explains. "When we can't find burial records or living relatives who may know how the body was buried, we place headstones based on tradition.
Two graves at Swilling’s lie end to end and the headstones sit adjacent to each other. According to legend, locals spotted Swilling carrying Snively's bones around in a gunnysack before burying them. Since the bones were buried in a jumble, Du Shane placed Snively's headstone center mass.
Eight-year-old Matilda is buried about three feet from the Stone House. After discussing where on her grave to place the headstone, the group agreed that human impulse would be to bury her with her head nearest the house and they placed the headstone accordingly. The fifth grave lies near a corner of the Stone House and the same logic used on Matilda's grave decided its headstone placement.
Du Shane said animals, not humans, cause most damage, to cemetery headstones: cows walk into them and deer or wild boar rub against them. They buried the headstones at Swilling's about three inches in the ground and laid flat.
"It's just really neat to finally see this done," Bob Nilles said. "It's been one of the big mysteries of the town: 'Who is buried at Jack Swilling's house?' Thanks to Neal and Kay Beckman, now we know. When I first met Neal a year ago I had no idea it would lead to this."
More information about the non-profit Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project is available at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.apcrp.org. Information about Black Canyon Historical Society is available at geocities.con1/hsofbdc, or by calling 623-374-0332.
BB/CCN Photo Bruce Colbert
A female child’s grave was recently
discovered behind the ruins of Jack Swilling’s stone house in
Reproduction approval courtesy: Bruce Colbert
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WebMaster: Neal Du Shane