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Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation

Version 122006

 

Big Bug Canyon Country News

Volume 7 Number 50 December 20, 2006

www.bigbugnews.com

 

 

Long-dead quintet has stone markers

 

By Bruce Colbert BB/CC News

A year of meetings, researching historic documents, and investigative trips to Arizona ghost towns and historic sites ended Dec. 4 when four dedicated history buffs placed five headstones at the ruins of Ari­zona pioneer Jack Swilling's homestead in Black Canyon City.

            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.

            Du 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 Text Box: BB/CCN Photo/Bruce Colbert
Bob Nilles, standing, and Neal Du Shane place a headstone for Col. Jacob Snively at the ruins of Jack Swilling’s pioneer home in Black Canyon Canyon City, Du Shane recently discovered Snively’s and four other unmarked burials at the site and made headstone for each grave.
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, Phoenix city data banks, and Yuma County Jail where Swill­ing spent time during the 1870's. During field trips to backcountry cemetery sites, Du Shane and other researchers discovered pre­viously unknown pioneer cemeteries and graves.

            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.

Du Shane and advisors Gary and Beckie Grant pre-poured headstones at their homes in. Sun City and hauled them to Black Canyon City for placement. "I learned that a mortar and stucco mixture makes the best headstones, especially for stamping in the letters," Du Shane said. There is no standard or traditional size for headstones, so Du Shane "swagged out" a size that is 15 1/2 by 21 inches.

            "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.

 

Text Box: BB/CCN Photo/Bruce Colbert
Jack Swilling carried around a gunnysack containing the bones of Col. Jacob Snively before burying the bones behind Swilling’s stone house in Black Canyon City. Grave dowser Neal Du Shane recently discovered Snively’s burial site and marked it with a headstone.
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 n.j.dushane@comcast.net 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 Black Canyon City. Evidence suggests the grave is Matilda Swilling, one of Jack’s daughters that died as a young girl in 1870’s Neal Du Shane discovered the grave and made its headstone on behalf of Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (APCRP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation

Version 122006

 

Reproduction approval courtesy: Bruce Colbert

 

All Rights Reserved – © APCRP 2007

 

WebMaster: Neal Du Shane

 

n.j.dushane@comcast.net

 

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