By: Neal Du Shane 3/25/08
For the past four years a determined effort has been under way researching, writing, with Microsoft PowerPoint presentations sprinkled in, to various historical groups, on the life and times of Jack and Trinidad Swilling.
My research took me from the
Historical Department at SRP, Earl Zarbin, the New Catholic Church in
With most research you can only hope for bits and pieces to work from.
Sorting through rumors and
misinformation took an inordinate amount of time. The more research APCRP does,
the more obvious that what is written in history is not factual or accurate. It
was written with facts they had at the time and there is too many agenda's,
political slants and family stories that you have to sort through. Even when an
eye witness observes an incident, two eye witness’s accounts can be 180 degrees
In the current day Yuma Cemetery, A.K.A. Desert Lawn Memorial Park, in the Catholic section, there are two lots that the Hodges family own, out of 8 graves in the east lot (one with the headstone) there is only five recorded graves and markers according to the cemetery records. There are three adult male graves unmarked or recorded by the cemetery.
It gets a little confusing
with the cemetery records as to the exact lot lines. Then when the original
cemetery was relocated in 1903 information was lost creating more confusion.
Jack Swillings grave is in the second lot (West) and there are no other graves in this lot. Between the two lots, combined there is room for 20 graves, 10 in each lot. Based on realignment between the two lots there is currently room for 12 in the East lot and 8 in the west lot. According to the limited records at the current Yuma City Cemetery there is room for up to 20 graves between the two lots which confirms our infield findings.
In our initial research into Jack’s finial resting place we interviewed several learned historians. Each and every one of them had not been able to find documentation as to Jack Swilling’s grave. Several theories existed but no conclusion was forth coming.
In November of 2007 Bob
Nilles and I made a trip to
Interviews with the local
Catholic Church records turned up no information, not even his name. Searching
the cemetery records at the current
After Jack's death at
6:30 PM August 12, 1878 all documentation ceased, to this date no Death
Certificate has been found, nor record of where he was initially interred.
Speculation was that he was buried in the original
In 1903 we have researched
that those that could afford the relocation of their loved ones, the
re-interment had a cost of $10.00 and were exhumed and relocated. There is no
information that the
No record is available that
Jack was one of those that were relocated at the local Catholic Church to the
Putting together all the information we had collected over the past four years, logic started to come forward, it is likely Jack was buried in one of three possible locations.
Knowing one possible location was on a current Indian Reservation at the former Hodges family ranch; our hope was this wasn't one of the locations as I was sure his grave would be lost forever as we would never gain access to the land.
The second grave site in our
search, was the current rail road yard, in that Jack was never exhumed at the
original cemetery and his remains were in the Rail Road yards in the Potter’s
section somewhere when the rail road bought the land in 1903 and relocation of
some of the graves at the families expense. There is no certification available
that all the graves were relocated, for that matter if anyone knew where all the
graves were in the original
The third location is the
most optimistic in that Jack was in fact interred in the original
Tuesday January 29, 2008, I
traveled back to
I am happy to report that within the research abilities I posses I'm 99.9% certain I've identified the final resting place of John William “Jack” Swilling. To prove conclusively the grave would need to be exhumed by archeologist and DNA tests completed on the remains to be absolutely certain this is Jack's grave. APCRP doesn’t posses the equipment and does not have the finances required to complete this portion of the documentation task. We will corporate with any legitimate group or agency that would like to complete this testing.
The four red ground flags at the bottom of this picture
identify the grave of Jack Swilling. Photo courtesy: Neal Du Shane
Jack Swilling's grave is in
I probed the complete grave
site inch by inch and there is absolutely no type of marker. It's possible there
was a wooden cross that has long since decayed or was never moved from the
The historical events seem
to point; that upon the death of Jack Swilling in the Yuma County Jail, at 6:30
PM on Monday August 12, 1878 no one was there his body to claim, the Hodges
family, friends of the Swilling’s, took possession of Jack’s remains. Out of
respect and friendship to the Swilling family, they placed Jack Swilling in one
of their plots in the Hodges family lot in the original
There is written documentation from Jack Jr.’s wife, do to Jack’s declining health he was not in the Yuma County Jail, in fact was released to the Hodges family and being held at the Hodges family home when he died.
Regardless of which is accurate, it points to a strong family friendship between the Hodges and Swilling families and they would have placed Jack in one of their family plots.
In 1903 when the graves were
relocated to the new
I was told a group came to
APCRP doesn’t agree
with this unless it is family members that want to exhume and re-inter him
and Jack would be placed next to
APCRP would like to see some
type of fitting marker placed at Jack’s grave to pay tribute to his
historical importance to
As a point of clarification
. . . Jack named
Two Swilling relatives have pledged $400 to install a marker at his grave. APCRP make's headstones and no matter the resolve, there will be a marker at Jack Swilling’s grave by next year (2009)!
If you would like to contribute to this headstone placement project please contact APCRP A.S.A.P.
HEADSTONE PLACED AFTER 130 YEARS
NOVEMBER 19, 2008
NOVEMBER 19, 2008
Arguably the location of John William "Jack" Swilling's final resting place could continue to eternity. The controversy stems from the fact that no records of his interment have ever been documented, not even a Death Certificate has been found. It is as if all documentation on Jack Swilling ceased on August 13, 1887. Many historians have researched over the years and turned up nothing to document his grave. To the best of APCRP research abilities we believe this to be his final resting place identified after almost five years extensive research.
Relatives of Jack Swilling support this research finding, having donated a fitting marker provided by APCRP at the head of Jack's grave. To this end, as mentioned earlier, the only way to prove conclusively, this is the remains of Jack Swilling is to exhume the grave and perform DNA tests on any remains.
This fitting tribute and respectful honor to an Arizona Pioneer and Frontiersman is on a lone grave in the Yuma Cemetery in Yuma, Arizona.
Photograph by: Neal Du Shane 11/19/08
WebMaster: Neal Du Shane
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