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Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation

Version 112512

 

Morenci, AZ

Historic Old Pioneer Catholic Cemetery

Shaded area is approximate boundary area of the Old Morenci Catholic Cemetery

Created by: Neal Du Shane

 

For several years APCRP has known of this historic Cemetery but we have never had the opportunity to physically research it in the field. On November 15, 2012 we finally had the opportunity to stop and walk some of the cemetery. Much to our surprise it was much larger than we had anticipated from a geographic and interment standpoint. Many more graves are still visible and some are still being visited on a regular bases based on the attention they are getting. For the most part the graves are of Hispanic decent so logically one can assume Catholic by religion.

 

 

In total, APCRP estimates the cemetery encompasses approximately nine acres. The vast majority of the grave sites are below the road that runs through it up on the hill side. It was observed by APCRP researchers on many of the graves the head was at ground level but the foot of the grave was built up and out of the ground by some four or five feet to maintain a level grave. The hill side is approximately thirty-six percent grade, more in some locations less in others. Getting the deceased to the grave site would have been a challenge, either going up or down, left or right, to the grave site. There appears to be no logical pattern for the grave configuration, it appears they are placed where there was room on the hill side.

Only extremely few small paths were found to traverse between the grave sites. No steps to gain access going up or down between the graves. Not being able to layout and document the graves APCRP estimates with this size of the total square footage, it is possible there is room for some 4,683 graves in this given area. APCRP speculates there are 800 to 1,000 graves visible and many more unmarked graves could be interred here.

The Old Catholic Cemetery can be reached today by going north on the Coronado Trail (Highway 191). The old Catholic Cemetery is all that remains of old Morenci. The rest of the town was either blasted away in the expansion of the open pit mine, or has been buried under mine waste. In 1983, Tony Enrico, a field surveyor for Phelps Dodge, said the cemetery would not be disturbed because "the surface indications show there is no mineralization of value there." Some burials go back to 1881, but no one has been recorded as being buried there since the 1945. The cemetery was about one and a quarter miles from old Morenci, and since there were no roads to it, you'd see 50 to 60 men lined up behind a coffin, taking turns carrying it to the cemetery and its final resting place.

 

Most, if not all, of the graves were blasted with black powder. "They'd blast a hole, and lay a template over it in the shape of the coffin to see if the box would go down without getting stuck."

Many babies were claimed During the years of World War I, with an influenza epidemic. Unofficially, families would take the small victims to the cemetery at night and bury them in shallow graves next to the narrow spaces near their next of kin. If any type of marker was placed at the grave it is unlikely the marker exists today.

Another cemetery was located in old Morenci next to the Arizona Central underground mineshaft. If someone died in the mine, he'd be brought out and placed in coffins stored there. There was a window in the coffin box. No records exist that embalming was done. The family would be called and they would stand the coffin up to have their last picture taken with the deceased. Then they'd bury them within a few hours.

A local Urban Legend has it that this created a problem at one time. The tale has it that two men were courting the same girl and she married yet a third person. One of the jilted lovers committed suicide and his family wanted his former girlfriend, now married, to have her and the other jilted suitor's pictures taken with the deceased. They stood the coffin up on a chair, but before the photograph could be taken, a big wind came along and knocked the coffin off the chair. After that, the superstition grew that the suicide victim would never rest until the other jilted suitor was dead.

Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation

Version 112512

WebMaster: Neal Du Shane

n.j.dushane@comcast.net

 Copyright 2003-2011 Neal Du Shane
All rights reserved. Information contained within this website may be used
for personal family history purposes, but not for financial profit or gain.
All contents of this website are willed to the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (
APCRP).

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