Tombstone’s Boot Hill ~ A Serene Cemetery With a Past…

Tombstone, AZ’s Boot Hill Cemetery
is the final “home” for various 
notorious inhabitants 
 there is much more to this cemetery…

For sure, seven of Tombstone’s early 1880’s residents were hanged for their crimes.  Others were shot dead, of course, at the OK Corral gunfight and during other lesser known fights.  There were skirmishes between residents and the local Apache tribes but not as many as one might think.  There were also cattle rustling operations going on and stagecoach robberies where bandits were looking for the ultimate prize ~ silver ingots mined from the silver mines in and around the Tombstone area.

Here lies Billy Clanton, and brothers Tom and Frank McLaury killed in the OK Corral incident. Billy Clanton is buried, here, just to the right of his notorious father, Newman Haynes “Old Man” Clanton.  The Clantons had a successful cattle ranching business but never registered a cattle brand with Cochise County {where Tombstone is located} and were known to have been rustling cattle from Mexican ranches on the other side of the Arizona/Sonoran border.  The McLaurys were hired hands at their ranch.  For more information about Old Man Clanton and his family, see Newman Haynes Clanton.  Information for this section gained from this article on Wikipedia.

Mrs. Stump is the woman who is buried in this ornate iron mausoleum.  Some women and I discussed why her grave was thusly decorated.
After finding her name in the little $3.00 pamphlet I had purchased at the Boot Hill Cemetery entrance, we learned that Mrs. Stump passed in childbirth.  Perhaps her death was forever immortalized by a loving husband and family in this “crib” surrounding and protecting her and her baby…

There are seven rows and their inhabitants are listed if their names were known.  Graves are remarked as gravemarkers deteriorate.   Looking at all of the desert plant life thriving among the buried dead here at Boot Hill, the cemetery houses a wonderful xeriscape garden with a wide variety of native plants from pipe organ cactus to creosote bushes which grow everywhere around Tombstone. 
One of the women I met at the cemetery told me a story: the oil harvested from the creosote bush was used to oil and lubricate railroad ties back in the 1800’s.  There are a couple of distillations of creosote oils which were used to treat wood and are now considered toxic, but back in the day it was a useful substance.  
She also shared that when you crush the leaves and smell your hand, creosote has a lovely scent!  We decided it would make a lovely perfume {if it weren’t so toxic}.  I remembered the story of Moses and the Burning Bush.  The creosote bush was probably the Biblical plant that would catch on fire but wouldn’t burn up that God spoke through to Moses. 
It was evening time and the light cast on these cairn graves was beautiful.  Each stone, marker and cross glowed in the evening’s God~light.  Perhaps this is why the Jewish people originally buried their dead up on this hill ~ which leads me to the photograph at the beginning of this blog post.
In an article written by Eileen R. Warshaw, PH.D., titled What Became of the Jews of Tombstone?, Ms. Warshaw writes about the many Jewish settlers and merchants who lived in Tombstone back when this area was first used as a cemetery.  Town records were lost in two fires; however, newspaper articles state that two Jewish men may be buried here: Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. M. M. Steinthal.  There are a number of graves which have no names as they were lost to time or were originally {or intentionally} unmarked.  For more information, please refer to her article.  I was unable to link to it due to this program’s limitations.  Please find her article at: http://azjewishlife.com/what-became-jews-tombstone/.  

This top photograph shows the standing marker for The Jewish Cemetery and Memorial and I was moved by the stones visitors have placed on its top spar.  Do you know the significance of this? If you have seen the movie Schindler’s List, about Nazi wartime Germany and how Oskar Schindler helped save hundreds of Jews whom had worked for him in his factory, then you already know part of the story.

Rocks are placed on top of graves of Jewish people who have died as a symbol of permanence ~ of memory ~ that their souls will be remembered.  In Jewish custom, flowers fade just as life, so flowers are hardly ever put on a Jewish grave.  Instead, rocks have permanence and never will fade; therefore, they are placed upon a loved one’s grave as a symbol of remembrance.  A beautiful, beautiful custom ~ one that is sooo endearing to this author!

So just how did Boot Hill Cemetery gets its name?   From the saying of how a lot of the inhabitants DID die: They died with their boots on.  This final photograph shows the glorious commanding view from Boot Hill across the San Pedro Valley to the Dragoon Mountains.  A peaceful and serene final resting place for everyone buried here, beneath their rocks of permanence…

I’ll be writing more about our visit to 
Tombstone over the coming days.
Please leave a comment as I’d love 
to hear your thoughts about this and other posts,
and do
check back for further posts.
We will be traveling the next three days
so I hope to get some more
posts up for you
when I have down~time.

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Blessings to you,

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