Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

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Pat Ryland – Neal Du Shane

Stone Park, Wickenburg, AZ

Photo courtesy: Pat Ryland


As with so many Historic Pioneer Cemeteries when cemeteries were discontinued and a new cemetery was established. Notices were posted in newspapers for the families to exhume and re-inter loved ones to the new burial sites in municipalities. Often, do to the family members not being bilingual or had moved from the area the family never received notice to relocate their loved ones.


The expense of exhuming loved ones and purchasing new lots which in those days cost $50.00 this equal’s in today’s money $2,500 just for the new lot, then factor exhumation, preparing the new interment site, which could add another $1,000 to the total expense. This cost simply eliminated many families from being able to absorb this expense. Subsequently the family member was never exhumed and relocated from the original burial site.


Stone Park Plaque, Wickenburg, AZ 5/16/08

Photo courtesy: Pat Ryland


In some cases if there were headstones at the original cemetery, they may have been moved by the local governments and placed as memorials at the new cemetery in a “Potters” section or were discarded entirely.


It is more likely there would have been stone monuments in a city as old and well established as Wickenburg, but less likely in communities such as the ghost town of Constellation and the ghost town of Gilbert or mining camps in the area etc.


On April 11, 2008, Pat Ryland, member of the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (APCRP) researched Stone Park in sweeps far enough apart so as not to count the same grave twice.


From the back of the Town Hall building to the entry to the library, Pat found 61 male graves and 8 female graves. Indicating 69 families were unable to exhume their loved one, for what ever reason, and place the remains in the new cemetery.


As of this writing our current research has found eleven places that burials have taken place in Wickenburg. Two are locations for cremations in two different churches, but the remaining nine are believed to be definitely “Pioneer Cemeteries”.


A Pioneer Cemetery is defined as a cemetery or burial ground that has had no more than two burials in the past 50 years. The two currently active cemeteries, Wickenburg Cemetery and Garcia Cemetery, have regular burials throughout the year. This leaves seven sites that qualify with a Pioneer Cemetery distinction.


All historical documents that could verify the process were destroyed in the Historical Societies fire some years ago. Based on logic and instinct, it would seem the Sols Wash Burial Ground/Cemetery would have been the original Wickenburg Cemetery. History research indicates due to issues and destruction by flooding a new burial site was located on higher ground.


Pat Ryland’s research finds that Wickenburg was founded in 1863 and the progression of cemeteries seems to be:


1860’s “Stone Park” Cemetery

1875 – “Lumber Yard” Cemetery

1890’s – Garcia Cemetery

1900 (Pre) “Boetto House” Cemetery

1901 – Sols Wash Cemetery

1905 – Henry Wickenburg Cemetery

1910 – Wickenburg Municipal (current) Cemetery


It is extremely unlikely the graves in Sols Wash were exhumed and moved to the new cemetery, our research has found seven graves in two separate locations at the former site of the Sols Wash Cemetery. Very likely, the current day Chestnut St. was placed through the center of the Sols Wash Cemetery and divided the cemetery.


Factor in individual religious and racial cemeteries, there may have been two or three active cemeteries at the time as Wickenburg was one of the three major communities in Arizona, Tucson and Yuma being the other two.  


To give the readers a perspective to the labor and effort to exhume an interred in the 1800’s, APCRP conducted an experiment in a field to verify the time and labor to dig a grave. The size was four feet by seven feet and six foot deep, that equals 126 cubic feet of earth to remove. Five adult men, with pick and shovel, it would take them the better part of one day to dig one grave, exhuming could be slightly quicker but not by much. One well placed stick of dynamite might expedite the digging but we have never found verification this was done.


In 2008 we witnessed a backhoe, two trucks and three men and it took them the better part of four hours to dig on opening for a burial ceremony. It isn’t an easy task to exhume a grave!


Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation

Version 051808-1


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