In October of 2020, I casually purchased a copy of Graveyards of the Wild West: Arizona by Heather L Moulton and Susan Tatterson from my local Barnes and Noble. After thumbing through the book, my mother and I decided it would be fun to take several road trips around our state to visit these Old West cemeteries to see what we could find. Yes, we are those kind of people (the kind that find visiting cemeteries fun!).
So with the long Thanksgiving weekend in sight, we set out to drive down to Florence, which is about forty minutes from where we live. Down in Florence you will find two cemeteries that lay back to back: Butte View and Adamsville (named after the town of the same name that no longer exists--Adamsville was washed away when the Gila River flooded in the early 1900's!).
Most of the graves date to before Arizona became a state in 1912, but several others are from much later. Adamsville covers more land area and has more graves, but they are spread out and not as well kept up as Butte View. Butte View has a gravel path linking all of the graves, the majority of which are marked with a plain white cross and the words "Unknown Grave" with a number and any information about the deceased that might be known. While in Butte View, my mother and I noticed a baby girl buried there was celebrating her 120th birthday that very weekend (gravesite pictured below).
Margaret Truman was only a few months old when she died in 1900. Her gravesite was recently restored in time for us to visit near her 120th birthday.
The other notable grave in Butte View, at least according to Graveyards of the Wild West, is the three Butte View "Witches". I must confess, the witches are the reason my mom and I were most interested in visiting the cemetery. According to the book, the three witches are buried outside the confines of the cemetery; their graves are unmarked but were later adorned by visitors. Interestingly enough, this is not at all what you see at Butte View today. After comparing photos from the book with the graves in the cemetery while we were there, my mother and I discovered the three graves now have markers indicating the birth and death dates, along with the names of those buried there. So now the question is, are the graves really those of "witches" and someone created fake names and identities for the graves, or were the authors of the book fed false information? If I'm ever back in Florence when the local historical society is open, I'll have to stop in and ask a few questions...
According to the book, these graves are of the three Butte View "Witches", but according to the graves themselves, these three individuals are men of the same family
Heading over to Adamsville, you'll find another notable grave. Way out here in the middle of nowhere (practically anyway), you'll find the grave of a Confederate Veteran, the only veteran of the War Between the States in this area of Arizona. His name was Granville Oury, and he has a traditional marker as provided by the United States Government for veteran graves (note the pointed tip at the top; Union veterans have rounded tops to their headstones). Besides the traditional grave marker, Captain Oury also has a rock engraved with the Confederate Battle Flag and more information about his life. The two markers are side by side out there in the desert.
Located in the Adamsville Cemetery, Captain Granville Oury is the only Confederate veteran buried in either of these cemeteries.
Some of the other graves in Adamsville I took photos of include a judge, two children buried back to back, and a hand engraved stone with little information. Another marker has completely broken off the original pedestal and now lays flush with the ground. Adamsville is a stark contrast to Butte View, to say the least. What's remarkable about the two cemeteries is the fact that they are side by side, only a few hundred yards apart. One (Butte View) is well cared for, clean, and welcoming to visitors. Adamsville is the complete opposite; surrounded by sharp wire fencing, with dilapidated headstones that are nearly worn away and no one there to clean them up or restore them.
The headstone in front is for a young girl who died before her third birthday. Directly behind her stone is a small marker in the shape of a box for a boy who died at one and a half years old (the box is peeking out to the left of the girl's stone in this photo)
This simple headstone is a concrete slab with a hand engraved marker that lists the deceased's name and years they lived
This grave marker has broken off the pedestal base. The majority of the upright stone now lays behind the base on the desert floor
I'll end this short tour of the headstone back at Butte View Cemetery. Right in the center is a large wagon wheel made of rocks. Why the wagon wheel is there, other than being decorative, I have no idea. The only explanation is a sign saying the design is a wagon wheel. Whatever reason, I thought it looked cool and snapped a photo, so here it is for you all to enjoy as well.
Someday soon we hope to also visit the following historic cemeteries in Arizona:
- Historic Pinal (Outside Superior)
- Pearce (Outside Tombstone)
- Boothill (Tombstone)
- Jerome (Jerome)
- Arizona Pioneers (Prescott)
- Grand Canyon Pioneer (Outside the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona)
Hopefully once the Covid health scare calms down and we're able to travel more, I and other members of my family will be able to visit other historic cemeteries around the United States.
There are two other "historic" cemeteries I've also visited: Arlington National in Arlington, Virginia, where our nation's heroes are laid to rest, and the City of Mesa Cemetery in my hometown of Mesa, Arizona. I now have fifteen relatives and friends buried in the City of Mesa Cemetery, and I try to visit them all once a month if not more often. Visiting cemeteries is a great way to learn local history and also say hello to some of history's forgotten every day people.
So the next time you drive by a scenic or abandoned cemetery, stop in and say hello. You never know whose story you might learn by doing so.