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Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

 

Revised Version 010716

 

NELSON MEMORIAL CEMETERY

 

Revised;

July 11, 2014

By: Kathy Block

 

ADDENDUM

January 7, 2016 (Scroll Down)

By: Neal Du Shane

 

Nelson, Yavapai County, Arizona

 

 

Google Earth Satellite Image of Nelson, Arizona

 

A reader of the APCRP website sent some photos of an obscure, abandoned cemetery and sought more information. Along with my late husband Ed, we made several trips to research and photograph this cemetery for an article for APCRP. In June, 2014, John Lemus, who has family members buried in Nelson Cemetery, contacted APCRP after reading the original article. Current information has been revised and updated for this article to include new research about people buried in this cemetery, using John’s contributions of photos, family history, and additional information on historic events at Nelson and the lime companies.

 

Nelson Cemetery is relatively easy to locate. Travel on Historic Route 66 between Peach Springs and Seligman. Just west of mile marker 112 is a road going south called "Nelson Road," Road 19.  A sign at the turnoff says "Lhoist North America, Nelson Plant."

 

Drive south on this graded road for about 4 miles to an active quarry and plant straight ahead. Park in an area on the west (right) side of the road just before crossing a cattle guard. Walk carefully over the cattle guard and go to your right about 100 feet on a prominent dirt path thru the brush, to the easily seen entrance to the cemetery. Watch out for fresh “Meadow Muffins” on this path and inside the entrance. Note the spelling: "Nelson Memorial Cemetary" (SIC) on the entrance sign.

 

Ed Block stands at the entrance of the Nelson Memorial "Cemetary" (SIC) Photo: Kathy Block

 

The town and cemetery are named (according to Arizona Place Names) after Fred Nelson, former division superintendent of the A&P RR, 1886.  A slightly different version is found in an advertisement for the sale of a brass tag used in Nelson at the cement company around 1900. "The Grand Canyon Lime and Cement Company was located in Nelson, Arizona .... Fred Nelson was a conductor on the construction train of the Santa Fe Railroad when track was laid in the region in 1883. Nelson happened to notice the presence of fine lime and other construction raw materials near the location of the location which bears his name (Nelson). He went on to start several lime and cement quarries and also a lime kiln in Nelson."

 

An early notice of mining claims was filed in Kingman in August 1907 under the name, "Grand Canyon Lime and Cement Company." Twenty claims were filed on 400 acres of land in an unorganized mining district near the Grand Canyon.  The company was described as "a powerful corporation, composed for the most part of Los Angeles capitalists and businessmen. For some time they have been shipping lime to California and already have five kilns in operation." It was their intent "to furnish Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California with lime and cement .... The field is a large one and undoubtedly they will find an ample market for their products."

 

The company said the claims "are natural sites for the making of cement and the quarrying of lime .... The Company will doubtless exert the wildest influence upon the prosperity of the territory. Besides furnishing employment for a large number of workmen and thus laying the foundation of an important city, they will furnish lime and cement to the southwest at a figure far below the present rate. The district in which the claims are located has always been known as a placer country, but no mines of any importance have ever been found there. The land seems to be worthless except for the making of cement.  In a short time Arizona will be supplied with cement manufactured within her own boundaries and the government plant at Roosevelt will not be the only cement factory in the territory." (The Copper Era, Clifton, Graham County, August 1, 1907.)

 

Additional claims were filed at the land office in Phoenix in July, 1908, for eight claims known as Schire-Cary and eleven claims known as Grand Canyon claims, that stretched from the boundary of the "Wallapai Indian Reservation" west and south into "un-surveyed public lands" in large 160 acre sections.

 

Nelson, AZ. Photo courtesy John Lemus

 

The cement company built homes for the workers that it rented to them, as it began to mine surface deposits. The community of Nelson developed near the railroad and mine. It was about a mile southwest of the cemetery. There was a railroad siding at Nelson since at least the late 1800s, serving the lime quarry mine. By 1910, the census showed an active community, with 304 inhabitants recorded. Many were Mexicans and worked as laborers and miners in the lime quarry. A few residents were engineers and or RR workers.

 

By 1920, the census listed only 69 residents. Possibly the quarry operations were reduced at this time. However, in 1922, an Arizona business directory listed Nelson: "Post office in Yavapai County and station on the Atkinson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, sixty six miles northeast of Kingman the nearest banking point.  Lime manufacturing the industry.  Population about 200. Altitude 5,200 feet. Aubrey Inv. Co sheep and wool growers. BARANDON. E. postmaster. Grand Canyon Lime & Cement Co, J. S. Sebrim President, E. Barandon supt. genl. mdse."

 

The post office, established March 23, 1904, was probably in one of the lime company buildings, and note the mine superintendent of general merchandise was also the post master. An interesting postcard for sale from 1912 shows the post office was open then. Mrs. Francis W. Munds (1866 to 1948), an active women's suffrage advocate and State Senator from Yavapai County from 1915 to 1917, received a card at Nelson, Arizona from a supporter just after Arizona women could vote.

 

The 1940 Census enumerated 119 residents of Nelson. There were 17 laborers in the lime quarry, 5 track laborers for the "steam railroad", and one each: fireman for the lime quarry, maid for private family, foreman lime company, bookkeeper for the lime quarry, superintendent for lime and cement manufacturing, stationary engineer for the lime company, carpenter, lime quarry, and school teacher, public school!

 

The public school had a teacher named Bernice B. Walter, age 28, from Jackson, Mississippi. Her husband David S. Walter, age 21, was a truck driver. A photo courtesy John Lemus, possibly from 1939, shows about 35 students, with 16 of them boys. The income for Bernice Walter for the year ending Dec.31, 1939, was $1,390 and her husband's income was $1,020!

 

Nelson School. (Year unknown) Front Row. Juan Lemus far left (John’s father), Brother to Juan, Gilbert Lemus far right, next to Gilbert is Cousin Philip Bravo. Front Row 7th from right, little boy with jacket zipped, hands in pockets is Robert “Bobby” Bravo who still lives in Peach Springs. Photo courtesy John Lemus

 

The enterprise, Aubrey Investment Company, listed in the business directory from 1922, had large sheep ranches in areas stretching from Nelson to Seligman.  It advertised in The Holbrook News, September 3, 1915: "FOR SALE: Rambouillet Rams. Yearlings and two years olds. Large, Smooth, Heavy-wooled, Range Raised. Our rams have been awarded silver cups, championships and many other prizes at the New Mexico and Arizona State Fairs, and the Northern Arizona Fair. Send for further information. Aubrey Investment Company, Prescott, Arizona. Ranch address: Nelson, Arizona."

 

This company's legal problems were the subject of amused newspaper articles from 1915 thru 1920, and involved mules and used machinery sold to the State for use in certain road building projects. Two examples of headlines: "Take Back Your Mules, State to Aubrey Investment Company" (1920) and "Mules Come up for Trial in Superior Court." (1920). The complicated situation involved the sale of 34 mules, 34 horses, and used construction equipment to the State in the "dying days of the last Democratic state administration" for $22,475.64 to use for road building. A prominent Democratic politician named Senator A. A. Johns, one of the largest sheep growers in the state, facilitated the deal to buy the mules! (The Aubrey Investment Company also had vast flocks of sheep.)

 

A new administration refused to pay a balance due of $18,000 and canceled the contract after a veterinarian examined the mules and horses. He determined that the horses and mules were "so old and decrepit and so spavined and ring boned and knock kneed as to be of no possible use to the state." The company claimed the mules were worth $400 each during a time when the French and American governments were bidding the price of mules "way up". The construction equipment had "large quantities of old chains and scrap iron of doubtful value except as junk." Aubrey Investment Company was urged to "Come and get your old mules, we don't need them any more" in turning down the company's claim. The State claimed this stock cost them in feed alone, since their acquisition, something like $6,000 for the 100 days they had been boarded at the highway department.

 

Jesus Lemus and Alejandra (6 yr.)

Translated:

“Jesus Lemos my cousin. First house in Nelson. 2/9/1911

Your mom and me at your left with Alejandra who is 6 years old and she is the oldest of my young girls.”

 

 

(Journal-Miner, Phoenix, April 17, 1919.)  Eventually, in November, 1920, after much acrimonious testimony, a jury for the superior court of Yavapai County admitted the validity of the contract and awarded the company $17,000. The plaintiff had asked for $21,000.00, after one initial payment of $3,000. An appeal was planned, but no further news was found, nor information on the eventual fate of the defective mules!

 

Besides the mule scandal, some famous historical events took place in Nelson. A railroad siding was the scene of a train robbery on February 24, 1897. James Fleming Parker and an accomplice, whose name has never been verified, stopped a train at a pass called "Rock Cut" by forcing a RR employee to flag the train down. The robbers wore masks and carried guns and dynamite. The mail and baggage cars were uncoupled and driven two miles east to Nelson Siding. There, one robber was shot down by a messenger who was in the baggage car, and Parker grabbed some money and fled, but was unable to dynamite the safe, as the dynamite was on his slain accomplice. After a dramatic hunt, he was captured and jailed in Prescott. In a jailbreak, he and two others escaped after shooting and killing a District Attorney and were eventually captured. Parker was hung, and buried in Citizens Cemetery in an unmarked grave noted in my article on Potter's Field there. To the last, Parker refused to name his slain accomplice. At the time and now, there was speculation this man was Parker's brother or close friend, due to Parker's reaction of extreme grief when he learned this man was shot and killed. A question lingers: Could this unknown man be buried at Nelson Cemetery?

 

Two decades later, another event happened at Nelson, involving the lime company. On July 18, 1908, a man who called himself Charles Bly was captured by Lieutenant Olds of the New Mexico Rangers at Grand Canyon Lime and Cement Company's camp. Bly had escaped on the warden's horse from New Mexico penitentiary where he'd served two years of a four year sentence for horse stealing! Bly was actually Frank Sherlock. Under the name of Bly, he'd actually served as deputy sheriff of Mohave County for eight years and run down many desperate criminals. He had a reputation as a "dead shot with a pistol." He was betrayed by a fellow convict whom he discharged from a position with the lime company, where Sherlock had a contract for provisions to the mine. Sherlock (Bly) had a small trading store at Peach Springs and worked on neighboring cattle ranches. One news article claimed that "since coming to this county he appeared to be a hard working fellow, but made few friends, there being something about the man that repelled the people with whom he came in contact." Also, "he is a man who could never hide his identity on account of a cast in one eye and other marked characteristics."

 

He was captured when Olds, accompanied by manager M.E. Woods, met him casually at the company's camp. Olds introduced Woods and while the two men were shaking hands, Olds stuck his pistol against Sherlock's stomach and cried, "Hands up! I have a warrant for you!"

 

A news account reported that Sherlock calmly replied as his hands went up, "Guess you got me, Kid."  Woods disarmed Sherlock of a huge pistol and extra clip cartridges while Olds covered him with a cocked gun.

 

Marker of five Chacon children.

Sherlock had been living with a Mrs. Palmer and at his request he was taken to the woman's home.  He supposedly said, "Guess I've got to leave you, little woman, these fellows have got me."  She replied, "If you are coward enough to let them take you, go on!" Then, for the first time, "Sherlock weakened badly and wept bitterly as the officers took him away." He admitted he was the man wanted, but said he'd "quit crooked business long ago, and wanted no more of it." 

 

He was taken to Williams to be put on a train to New Mexico to be turned over to Captain Christman of the New Mexico Penitentiary. There, he was asked by a reporter if he was a deputy sheriff of Mohave County? Sherlock replied, "I used to be but I am something else now." Then, asked if he was the man they wanted in New Mexico, he said, "I resemble him some but won't admit it just now."  He was stripped by Olds and identified by a bullet wound in the left breast three inches above the nipple, answering a description and a photograph. (Weekly Journal-Miner, Prescott, July 22, 1908.)

 

The Arizona Republican, Phoenix, August 21, 1908 reported that owing to Sherlock's good conduct and evident reformation he was granted a pardon. It is said that he was surprised and grateful when the pardon was granted him and that he "wept like a child." 

 

The Grand Canyon Lime and Cement Company ceased operations on August 24, in 1934, in Arizona. It was reported as "inactive" by the California Secretary of State eighty years after filing. 

 

Lloist North American, based in Los Angeles, has operated the lime quarry operations since 1986. It mines the sedimentary red wall limestone surface deposits and recently operated 24/7 with 3 shifts, employing about 72 workers. One report said the company is developing large reservoirs of 100 million tons of high quality chemical and metallurgical grade limestone. With nearby rail facilities at the site, there is basis for plant expansion.

 

The lime companies have faced various legal problems over the years of operation. The Grand Canyon Lime and Cement Company was sued by the Federal Government in litigation that began in 1907 and finally was settled in 1912, over two issues: illegal payments to the Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad for shipping lime; and illegal cutting of timber owned by the government to provide fuel for lime kilns. Briefly, the railroad had granted special tariff rates to the lime company. These were illegal under the "Elkins Law." The railroad argued they hadn't violated the law, but that lime cars were billed at one rate at the shipping point, but when the cars arrived at their destination, there was some depreciation from line falling out of the cars, and charges were based at the weight at the receiving point. This made the tariff rate lower. The railroad had been fined $330,000 by the government for these "rebates". The lawsuit was eventually settled in favor of the railroad.

 

The woodcutting lawsuit by the government claimed the cement company had illegally cut $38,886.75 worth of wood, totaling 12,810 cords. on public lands on a strip of land seven miles long between Nelson and Yampai, Arizona extending for half a mile on both sides of the Santa Fe main line.  The wood was burned in the lime kilns. Eventually the suit was settled for a fraction of the original, at $3,125.00, in January 1912.

 

Mining in the lime quarry was dangerous. Two workers were killed in powder explosions on April 8, 1912. A news article stated that: "The Gaddis Perry Company received an order for two coffins from the Grand Canyon Lime and Cement Company and undertaker VanMarter made the shipment. Two Mexicans had been killed at the lime quarry by an explosion of both giant and black powder early in the morning. The bodies of the two victims were horribly mutilated. The man was one of the Quarry workers and was close to the powder when the explosion took place. The other, a boy of about twelve, was carrying a bucket of water some distance away and was knocked down by the force of the explosion and every bone in his body was broken. Death in each case was instantaneous, the theory is that sparks from the kiln stacks may have fallen into some black powder which in turn exploded the giant powder. "(Mohave County Miner, April 12, 1912.) The names of the victims were not given, but death certificate records show the man was Enrique Albares, age 27, and the boy was Jose Lopez, actually age 16. The victims were buried in Nelson Cemetery.

 

Earlier, in February 24, 1910, Cristobal Ramas, age 40, a laborer, was killed by explosion of powder. His death certificate stated that he "died before medical aid could be had." He, too, was buried in Nelson Cemetery.

 

In 1913, the Grand Canyon Lime and Cement Company was sued by a man crippled in an accident at the plant. Headlines read: "Maximo Perez became a cripple while in the employ of defendant concern." To quote from the article: "A railroad line, operated solely by the force of gravity and human power, leads to the company's kilns a short distance away. The cars are guided downhill to the kilns and then pushed back up by the laborer. While employed upon one of the cars, it was derailed by a defective rail and overturned. Perez was caught in the car. When rescued from the wreckage, his right leg was found so badly crushed and his condition otherwise so critical that amputation was resorted to in order to save his life." Eventually the victim sued for $15,000 damages. One point was stated that "the concern operates quarries as though all are peons!" The accident occurred May 1, 1913 and the lawsuit was filed September 9, 1913. No report of eventual outcome. (Weekly Journal-Miner, Prescott, September 10, 1913.

 

Mine tailings across from the Nelson Cemetery. Photo Kathy Block

 

And in June, 2014, the Chemical Lime Company Nelson Lime Plant, owned by Lhoist North America and headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, had been targeted by the EPA for pollution controls to limit nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions at the lime plant partly due to a visual impact on the Grand Canyon and other areas within 200 miles, including Petrified Forest National Park, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, Pine Mountain Wilderness in Arizona and Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah! A detailed report gave information on the Nelson Plant and its operations, and current pollution control efforts. Here are some facts.

 

Lime Plant looking South from cemetery. Photo Kathy Block

 

"The Nelson Plant processes limestone and manufactures lime near Peach Springs in Yavapai County, Arizona. The limestone processing plant consists of a quarry mining operation, a limestone kiln feed system, a solid fuel handling system, two rotary lime kilns, front and back lime handling systems, a lime hydrator, diesel electric generators, fuel storage tanks, and other support operations and equipment. The lime manufacturing equipment consists of two lime rotary kilns (Kiln 1 and Kiln 2) and auxiliary equipment necessary for receiving crushed limestone, processing it through the lime kilns, and processing the lime kiln product. The lime kilns are used to convert crushed limestone (CaCO3) into quicklime (CaO). "

 

The EPA examined four available retrofit control technologies and only one was a "technically feasible control option." After many studies and experiments, a system called Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR) was chosen as an option for reducing emissions from the kilns. The control technique uses injection of ammonia or urea without using any catalyst, at a critical temperature window. Though no detailed design work for this system had been done, there was an anticipation that a 50 percent reduction was achievable based on the company's experience with operating the urea injection system at another company lime plant. There were concerns that the urea would be stored on site, and leaks could cause air and non-air quality impacts. Also the systems would require electricity to operate the blowers and pumps, resulting in emissions, but these would be low.

 

The company currently doesn't have this control equipment and the kilns are allowed to burn coal, petroleum coke, fuel oil, or any combination of these fuels. There are "bag-houses", two multi-cyclone dust collectors, and a wet scrubber to control particulate matter emissions.

 

The COSTS to comply with the EPA rules were calculated. Using a 20 year amortization period, since there was no known enforceable shutdown date for the plant, the totals for each kiln for various costs for emission reductions were, spread out over a 20 year period, Kiln 1 = $1,253,180.00, and Kiln 2 = $1,246,216.00! This is about $62,659.00 per year for Kiln 1, and $62,310.80 for Kiln 2.

 

A recent Google Map shows only a long rectangular building near the RR tracks and possible foundations/ruins at the site of Nelson, along a secondary road south of the RR tracks. The company houses were removed. They now truck their materials to other sites for shipment. Nobody lives at Nelson any longer. A few Native Americans may live in the area. Workers for the quarry possibly travel from nearby Peach Springs and other nearby settlements and farms.

 

Nelson today - Frank Lerma, (L) brother-in-law of Emma Lerma, who is buried in Nelson Cemetery. Man on right unknown.  Photo courtesy John Lemus.

 

The Nelson Cemetery, where many of the early people who lived and worked in Nelson, has 4 marked individual graves out of at least 24 individual burials, plus one grave with possibly 5 burials of children, marked with a plaque that is partly obliterated and unreadable.

 

Path thru brush. Ed Block verifies coordinates. Photo Kathy Block

 

Fifteen (15) death certificates were found, supplemental documentation in old newspapers of burials; two birth certificates, plus one additional name to the roster with information from John Lemus. The records are scattered among death certificates recorded in Yavapai County and some in Mohave County. The county line angles NW to SE just west of Nelson, but Nelson and the cemetery are in Yavapai County.

 

Marker believed of five children. Photo Kathy Block

 

This plaque on a tall upright stone, says, in Spanish, translated.

 

"Here rests the remains of the children." The plaque itself is unreadable. John Lemus gave the names of the children as: Zacarias, Isabel, Lydia, Rolando, and Maria Chacon. Zacarias and Isabel are twins, as are Lydia and Rolando. Birth certificates for Lydia and Rolando show they were born June 28, 1937.  No other records could be found. John Lemus sent information that Lydia died on July 24 and Rolando died on September 24, but didn't know the year.

 

Headstone of Ernest Bravo. Photo Kathy Block

 

Ernest Bravo's glass fronted headstone is first row to the right when facing the cemetery from the entrance. Ernest died at the age of 1 month, 24 days, of Broncho-pneumonia on April 8, 1955. The glass has been damaged from the exposure from the elements, cattle and wild life. His is the newest marked burial in this cemetery.

 

Emma Lerma marker. Photo courtesy John Lemus.

 

Emma, a married housewife, died at age 25 years, 5 months, 27 days, on October 10, 1952, a suicide from arsenic poisoning, in Williams Hospital, Williams, Arizona, and buried in Nelson Cemetery. Photo courtesy of John Lemus.

 

Marker for Maria Zamora. Photo Kathy Block

 

This stone for the grave of Maria Zamora was partly obscured by brush in the row in the upper right hand corner near the fence.

 

The faint carved inscription in Spanish says, roughly, "A nina Maria Zamora que fallecio a la edad de 3 anos Marzo 18, 1924, su afligida madre le dedica este recuerdo."

 

Jose Borrajero translated: "To the girl Maria Zamora, who died at the age of 3 years, March 18, 1924, her grieving mother dedicates this remembrance." The child died from Bronchial-pneumonia.

 

(L), John Lemus Jr., (R) John Lemus, at grave of Jesus Lemus, 2011. Photo courtesy John Lemus

Grave of Jesus Lemus in 2013.

Time, neglect and the elements take a toll in just two years.

Photo courtesy Author.

 

This toppled cross marks the grave of Jesus Lemus. John Lemus identified her grave.

 

Jesus Lemus (Lemos) was the mother of Vicenta Lemus, also buried at Nelson Cemetery. Jesus Lemus died September 12, 1924, age 40, of "surgical shock." Her daughter, Vicenta Lemus, died at age of almost 10 years, January 1, 1919, of "probably double pneumonia."

 

 

Vicenta Lemus. Courtesy John Lemus.

 

Another burial in Nelson Cemetery with no marker was Atilano Lemus. He died in October, 1918. A brief news item from The Mohave County Miner and Our Mineral Wealth, Kingman, Arizona, October 26, 1918, said: "Information has just been received that the person who suicided at Nelson, Arizona some two weeks back, was a Mexican resident of that place by name of Lemus. No motive is assigned for the act."

 

John Lemus, provided the name of Atilano Lemus. Sent a photo of Atilano and his two brothers, Julian and Dioniso.  Atilano is on the left. The grave of Atilano, was said to be near this rebar, which had a statue of the Virgin Mary attached at one time.

 

(L) Atilano Lemus and his brothers. Photo courtesy John Lemus.

Substructure once held a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Nelson Memorial Cemetery.

Photo Kathy Block

 

Other graves scattered in Nelson Cemetery had either no grave markers or markers so decayed as to be unreadable.

 

Graves with no markers or illegible. Photo Kathy Block.

 

 

 

Layout of Nelson Memorial Cemetery created by Ed Block. No Scale.

 

The late Ed Block drew this map of Nelson Cemetery showing the locations of the graves. The perimeter of the cemetery is surrounded by a decrepit barbed wire fence supported by weathered wooden posts that enclose the 60 foot square on the hillside to the west of the road to the quarry and lime processing plant.

 

There are unconfirmed reports that the original Nelson Cemetery was located near a building at the Grand Canyon Lime & Cement Company quarry, and that the graves were relocated when the operations expanded.

 

One source claimed that Native American workers refused to dig up and transport coffins and bodies to a new location; another claims only the grave markers were moved. Possibly more evidence will eventually be found about this relocation.

 

Researched and created by Neal Du Shane

 

Google Earth Satellite Image showing four possible locations of the original Nelson Cemetery. Urban Legends abound as to what graves, if any, were exhumed and reinterred in the current cemetery. The most prevalent Urban Legend has no graves exhumed, only headstones and markers were relocated. APCRP’s research finds what we believe to be 24 actual graves in the current Nelson Memorial Cemetery. APCRP’s research reveals:

 

Pin one (1) is the most logical location for the original cemetery.

Pin two (2) and three (3) are possibilities.

Pin four (4) is indicated on most topographical maps.

 

The Nelson Cemetery or cemeteries still hold mysteries yet to be solved, research continues!

 

If you travel west toward Peach Springs on Historic Route 66, there is an appropriate set of restored Burma Shave signs not many miles past Nelson Road exit:

 

"If daisies are your favorite flowers

Keep pushing up those miles per hour!

Burma Shave."

 

I wish to thank: Neal Du Shane, as always a most helpful editor and satellite image creator; my late husband Ed Block for mapping the cemetery; Jose Borrajero, Barbara Thompson as well as Joe and Molly Bejarano for the translations of the Spanish on the gravestones and plaques; to Molly Bejarano for her exceptional research; and a special thank you to John Lemus for contributions of photos and family history. This APCRP team effort helped make this revised article the most comprehensive to date.

 

---------- NELSON MEMORIAL CEMETERY UPDATE ----------

 

NELSON MEMORIAL CEMETARY (SIC)

NELSON (GHOST TOWN), ARIZONA

December 11, 2015

By: Neal Du Shane

 

Nelson as a community, has been an on again, off again, community since 1886 when the railroad laid tracks through this region of Arizona connecting east and west coasts. The earliest recorded grave in this cemetery is February 24, 1910. It is logical to assume there were earlier unrecorded burials in the general area and likely were not in the formal cemetery. Rather these graves were possibly individually buried at random throughout the community and surrounding area as was the custom of that era.

 

Looking across the ghost town of Nelson at the Lime Plant, 2015. Photo: Neal Du Shane

Remains of the former town of Nelson, AZ. 2015 Photo: Neal Du Shane

 

Picket gate stands guard at Nelson, AZ. 2015 Photo: Neal Du Shane

 

Today Nelson (ghost town) sets beside the main east/west coast line of BNSF with trains running regularly every hour. There are sidings to the Lime Processing plant that load and haul processed lime to either coast, with deliveries at all points in-between.

 

Judy Bryant & Neal Du Shane Researching Graves. Photo: Kathy Block.

 

Previously Ed and Kathy Block found, researched, and then identified what they believe were the graves in this Pioneer Cemetery. Kathy Block, Judy Bryant & Neal Du Shane revisited this cemetery on Sunday December 6, 2015 to compile and document additional information. Specifically to identifying who is buried by name, in which grave with or without markers and to determine if each grave had an interment.

 

During the process of interviewing local residents in the surrounding area, Ed and Kathy found there were numerous Urban Legend’s. One was that the original Nelson Cemetery was relocated by the mine company at that time. In this process some local residents and workers, believed the mining company only moved the headstone, but not the actual graves. Another Urban Legend is the Native Americans living in the area wouldn’t move any of their descendants.

 

We were able to identify what we believe was the original cemetery, which is in fact below the main offices (number one yellow stick pin) with no indication there were graves remaining below the building. Our research found no indication about the original cemetery that was speculated as being below a tailing pile or mine pit. In addition each and every grave in the current Nelson Memorial Cemetary (SIC) had an interment with the exception of one. (See mystery below) In total, this accounts for twenty-seven total interments. The names of the individuals matched the markers when applicable. Many death certificates were researched and found for each and every grave in the current cemetery.

 

Research revealed the original Nelson Cemetery is believed to have been in the area of the number one yellow stick pin. Number two through four stick pins were researched and proved negative for the original cemetery location.

 

Using APCRP’s Rule Of “TEN” estimator, this would account for a population at Nelson, in its peak, to be approximately 270 residents. While this estimator is not scientific, it is a rule of thumb APCRP uses to provide an estimate for population, visa-versa to estimate possible graves. If inhabitants were 3.5 per household, Nelson may have had up to 77 homes either permanent, semi-permanent or temporary transient (wood/canvas) structures. The 270 population of Nelson was likely made up of mine and railroad workers.

 

 

One structure at the former Nelson town site, constructed of concrete still remains today. (3 Photos Above) It is devoid of doors and window glass that may have been removed by local residents. Logically it was a railroad housing structure in its configuration, the configuration of the  rooms consisted of one large room at each end, some individual 8’X10’ had joining doorways between two rooms. There were six chimneys for cooking and heat visible on the connecting corrugated tin roof. In the center joining the two sides was an open area that may have been used as an open eating area in the heat of the summer?

 

The Urban Legend regarding the Mine Company moving only the headstones has been debunked. As was the Urban Legend that the graves were left behind in the original cemetery, it is our belief there were no interments left behind.

 

 

Sadly the Nelson Cemetery has been devastated by the lack of attention and neglect. Many of those interred here potentially had families that have moved on and no longer reside in the general area. The fence surrounding the cemetery has fallen, fence posts barely erect, and the wire is in disrepair. Weeds are growing wild and over taking the grounds. It is uncertain, based on this neglect, how many more years this Pioneer Cemetery will remain an historical place or will simply melt back to earth, leaving no trace of its former proud and honorable existence.

 

 

LAYOUT OF INTERMENTS - NELSON MEMORIAL CEMETERY, NELSON, AZ

 

ROSTER OF INTERMENTS

 

Nelson Memorial Cemetary (SIC) Mystery:

 

There is one single 7’ X 3’ alleged grave site (number 15 – 19 on the cemetery layout above) however, that has a marker/headstone with all outwardly appearance of a grave. It has six names listed on the extremely weathered marker, hand written on paper behind Plexiglas. (Photo below) Numerous hours have been spent trying to identify the names and inscription, we believe we are extremely close but recognize we may not be 100% accurate. All are children passed in the 1920’s through the 1930’s. Our research at this grave site found no indication there is anyone buried in this grave, empty of any interments. Speculation theorizes this may have been a memorial as opposed to an actual grave site? But where were the children buried if not here?

1.     It isn’t logical to bury six individuals (children) in one 7’X3’ grave which would require stacking horizontally.

2.     They passed over several years, how would you excavate a new burial without disturbing previous burials?

3.     If these were all cremations we would still find an indication of one or more burials.

4.     If the children didn’t pass from an epidemic or a fire, their death dates would not span the multitude of years listed.

With historical research, often there are more questions than answers. We are continuing research to see if we can find the answers for this perplexing situation.

 

If you have documentation regarding this mysterious situation, please contact us: n.j.dushane@comcast.net

 

Recreated text on the marker at the mystery grave – translated below.

 

AQUI DESCANSAN

DOS RESTOS DE LOS

NINOS                             12-03-??

2-5-24 ZACARIUS   11-??-22

6-23-37        YSABEL       11-23-24

4-11-31        MARIA         04-22-32

6-23-37        ROLANDO   11-23-35

6-23-37        LYDIA          ??-11-35

PADRES

RAFAEL CHACON

JACINTA ROMERO

----------------------------------------------

HERE LIE

THE REMAINS OF

CHILDREN                       12-03-??

2-5-24 ZACARIUS   11-??-22

6-23-37        YSABEL       11-23-24

4-11-31        MARIA         04-22-32

6-23-37        ROLANDO   11-23-35

6-23-37        LYDIA          ??-11-35

PARENTS

RAFAEL CHACON

JACINTA ROMERO

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

A great full appreciation to Kathy Block, for her diligent research at the cemetery and computer; the late Ed Block for mapping and research at the cemetery; Jose Borrajero, Joe and Molly Bejarano for translation on the gravestones and plaques; to Molly Bejarano for her exceptional research and cultural insight of Joe Bejarano; to John Lemus for contributions of photos and family history. This combined APCRP Booster team effort helped make this revised article the most historically comprehensive to date.

 

Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

 

Revised Version 010716

 

Webmaster: n.j.dushane@comcast.net

 

Copyright © 2003-2016 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.
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