Located in downtown Tucson, the National Cemetery was closed in 1875, and throughout the years many graves have been moved to make way for modern development of the real estate. Excerpts from the thorough 256-page report "Tucson's National Cemetery: Additional Archival Research for the Joint Courts Complex Project, Tucson, Arizona" by Scott O'Mack are offered below.
In 2005, Statistical Research, Inc. (SRI), under contract to
the Pima County (Arizona) Administrator’s Office, prepared a
cultural resources assessment for Pima County’s Justice Courts
project, a proposal to build a multistory courts building in
downtown Tucson (O’Mack 2005). The assessment indicated that the
project would potentially impact a nineteenth-century cemetery,
long known as the National Cemetery, as well as later
historical-period features and earlier, prehistoric features.
Because the National Cemetery represented the most difficult
challenge for archaeological data recovery in the project area,
Pima County asked SRI to carry out additional, more intensive
archival research into the history of the cemetery in order to
better understand the extent to which the proposed project, now
called the Joint Courts Complex project, would actually impact
human burials. In particular, the county asked SRI to determine
to the extent possible: the location and size of the military
and nonmilitary portions of the cemetery, and how and when each
portion was used; the number and layout of graves in each
portion of the cemetery; the number of burials deliberately
removed from each portion and the number that may still be in
place; the demo-raphic characteristics of the burial population;
and the relative sensitivity for burial discovery in different
portions of the Joint Courts Complex project area. This report
presents the results of the additional archival research, which
was carried out from February to May 2006.
The Joint Courts Complex project area is bounded by North Stone Avenue on the west, Toole Avenue on the north, East Alameda Street on the south, and the vicinity of Grossetta Avenue on the east (Figure 1). The project area boundary was recently modified and now differs slightly from the boundary shown in the earlier SRI report (O’Mack 2005:Figure 1). The building and parking lot at 200 North Stone Avenue, at the northeast corner of the intersection of Stone and Alameda, is no longer included in the project area, and the southernmost portion of Grossetta Avenue, previously excluded from the project area, is now included. The actual footprint of the proposed Joint Courts Complex has yet to be determined, but the construction project will potentially impact the entire project area.
After an intensive search for information about the National Cemetery, the most surprising discovery is how little documentation of the cemetery exists. The information gathered in the current project has provided a better understanding of when, how, and by whom the National Cemetery was used, and about some of its physical characteristics, but the general lack of descriptive information about the cemetery and the graves it held is remarkable. We have found no map of either the military or nonmilitary portions of the cemetery, no comprehensive record of the burials made in the cemetery, no reliable information about the cemetery’s internal organization, and no record of the burials deliberately removed from the cemetery after it closed. Instead, we have had to rely heavily on scattered, often incidental references to the National Cemetery in a variety of sources, and we can provide only partial or tentative answers to most of the questions we set out to answer.
The lack of documentation can be attributed in large part to the National Cemetery’s period of use. We are still not certain when the area that became the cemetery was first used for burials, but it was at least as early as 1862, when the first recorded military burials took place; the general vicinity of the cemetery may have been used for civilian burials for years before 1862. On the other hand, we are now confident that when the city officially closed the cemetery in 1875 and simultaneously opened the Court Street cemetery, the nonmilitary portion of the National Cemetery ceased to be used for burials; the much smaller military portion of the cemetery remained in use until 1881. During the years the larger National Cemetery was in use, or 1862–1875, Tucson was a small, remote, territorial outpost, with a predominantly Mexican population practicing a way of life established long before southern Arizona became a part of the United States. In the Mexican period, 1821–1854, the use of lands outside the old Spanish presidio was never closely regulated, and this did not change substantially until 1872, when the recently incorporated Village of Tucson was granted its town site by the General Land Office (GLO). The town site survey of 1872 defined the official limits of a cemetery parcel, encompassing the area already being used as a cemetery, but the first time the new municipal government attempted to regulate the cemetery was in 1875, when it decided to close it.
Tucson's National Cemetery, 1862-1890
Our research for the current project has improved our
understanding of the history and physical characteristics of the
National Cemetery and allowed us to revise the discussion
presented in our earlier report (O’Mack 2005:31–48). In this
chapter, we look closely at additional evidence of the
relationship between the military and nonmilitary portions of
the National Cemetery, the timing of the closing of both
portions of the cemetery, and the relationship of the cemetery
to its successor, the Court Street cemetery. The discussion
repeats some of the information discussed in our earlier report,
but it also presents much additional information and some
significant new conclusions. Most notably, it is now clear that
the military and nonmilitary portions of the National Cemetery
were spatially distinct and did not overlap and that they
stopped being used at different times. Also, we are now
confident that the nonmilitary portion of the cemetery, which
was much larger than the military portion, was effectively—not
just officially—closed to burials in 1875.
A time line of events related to the National Cemetery, including references to sources, is provided as Appendix A. Much of the information in the appendix also appears below, but the time line is useful for determining the chronological context of an event at a glance.
The National Cemetery in Use, 1862-1875
The earliest documented use of the area that became the
National Cemetery was for the burial of two members of the
California Column in July 1862. The names of the two men appear
in a list of burials in the Camp Lowell cemetery prepared in
1881 in anticipation of moving the military burials in the
downtown cemetery to a new military cemetery at Fort Lowell, 7
miles northeast of town (see Chapter 3 for a full discussion of
this document). The burials took place just a few months after
the California Column, a volunteer Union force mustered in
California, took control of Tucson after a brief Confederate
occupation. It is possible that the U.S. Army, which had an
intermittent presence in Tucson beginning in 1856, had already
used the same area for burying soldiers, but there is no known
record of it.
The earliest nonmilitary use of the same area for burials is uncertain. As we discussed in our earlier report (O’Mack 2005:35–36), the oral-historical testimony of a few early Tucson residents suggests that the area near what is now the intersection of Stone Avenue and Alameda Street was first used for civilian burials no later than the early 1860s. Prior to that time, the principal (probably the only) burying place in Tucson was a cemetery adjoining one or more sides of the small chapel dedicated to San Agustín, located just inside the east wall of the old presidio, near modern Church Street. A good indication that the chapel cemetery was no longer in use by 1862 is its absence on the 1862 map of Tucson prepared by order of Maj. David Fergusson shortly after the California Column’s arrival (Byars 1966). The Fergusson map, probably prepared just after the two deceased members of the Column were buried, also does not show their final resting place, which was just beyond the settled part of town.
The U.S. Army, which maintained a permanent presence in Tucson after the arrival of the California Column, continued to use the area near Stone and Alameda as a cemetery for the next 19 years, but the boundaries of the military cemetery may not have been formally established until 1868, or 2 years after the provisional army post at Tucson became Camp Lowell. In 1868, an adobe wall was erected around the cemetery, probably in response to new federal legislation and army regulations requiring a better accounting and protection of military burials. The walled Camp Lowell cemetery was described in a number of official army reports of the day, and it is the subject of a photograph taken by an army medical officer in 1870. When we prepared our original report, however, we were unable to determine its precise location relative to modern Stone Avenue and Alameda Street. We have since used additional sources of information to estimate its size and location, which we discuss in Chapter 3.
We have found no specific references to the burial of civilians in the area near Stone and Alameda prior to the formal establishment of the Camp Lowell cemetery in 1868. Unfortunately, the earliest known record of civilian burials in Tucson, the Tucson Diocese burial register for 1863–1887, indicates a specific place of burial only for a small number of entries, and only when the deceased was buried somewhere other than Tucson (see Chapter 5 for a full discussion of this document). Nevertheless, because the chapel cemetery at the presidio was evidently out of use by 1862 and we have found no evidence that any other burial ground was in use for many years later, it is almost certain that most or all of the civilian burials in Tucson between 1862 and 1875 took place in the cemetery at Stone and Alameda.
The Camp Lowell cemetery, because it was built by the U.S. Army, was known locally as the “government cemetery” or the “National Cemetery,” a name that, for unclear reasons, soon came to refer to the entire area used for military and civilian burials. Our use of “National Cemetery” reflects that common usage, which has continued until today, but even the military portion of Tucson’s “National Cemetery” never was officially a National Cemetery, a status reserved primarily for the major military cemeteries in the East, where the remains of the Civil War dead were interred (or reinterred) in the 1860s and 1870s.
National Cemeteries were eventually designated in some Western cities, such as Santa Fe and San Francisco, but never at minor posts like Camp (or Fort) Lowell (O’Mack 2005:38). Because of the liberal use of the label in Tucson, the few early references to burials in the National Cemetery that we have found are hard to interpret. For example, in our original report (O’Mack 2005:38), we noted the 1869 burial of Ella Stoutenborough Miles, the wife of a captain stationed at Camp Lowell, in the military cemetery, but we now wonder if, despite her status as the wife of an army captain, the note in her obituary about the “National Cemetery” as the place of burial may have simply meant the larger civilian cemetery. But the walled Camp Lowell cemetery did hold some civilian burials, as we discuss in Chapter 3.
The earliest evidence for the boundaries of the nonmilitary portion of the National Cemetery is the map prepared of the Tucson town site in 1872, which shows a large rectangular parcel labeled “Cemetery” at the northeast corner of Stone Avenue and Cemetery (later Alameda) Street (Figure 2). Obviously, the prior use of portions of this parcel for both the Camp Lowell cemetery and civilian burials prompted this official designation as a cemetery, but it is not clear why the parcel was given the particular dimensions it has on the town site map. The surveyor of the town site, S. W. Foreman, did not include in his field notes (Foreman 1872) any mention of why the cemetery parcel was delimited in this way. And in the field notes from his 1871 survey of Township 14 South, Range 13 East, in which the town site fell, Foreman did not even mention the cemetery. (Nor is it mentioned in the land-entry file for the town site [GLO 1872].) As we suggested in our original report (O’Mack 2005:33), the southern and western boundaries of the 1872 cemetery parcel conformed to the existing alignments of Cemetery Street and Stone Avenue and probably represented the practical limits of the area used for burials prior to the town site survey. The northern and eastern boundaries were probably chosen arbitrarily as Seventh Street and Sixth Avenue simply to fit the newly surveyed regular street grid of the town site; any close correspondence to the area previously used for burials was probably not a factor. In 1879, when it was proposed that a portion of the cemetery parcel be granted to the Southern Pacific Railroad, the city council referred to the parcel as the “Cemetery Reservation,” which suggests that the parcel was recognized from the beginning as an area reserved for use as a cemetery and was not already fully used as one (Tucson City Council [TCC] minutes, 14 May 1879).
Ironically, most of the information we have about the National Cemetery does not appear until the end of its period of use, when the Tucson City Council decided to close it. In April 1875, a committee consisting of council members R. N. Leatherwood, C. T. Etchell, and S. Hughes was formed to consider the “practicability” of closing the old cemetery (as it was already known) and moving it to an area in the northwest part of town (TCC minutes, 10 April 1875). This was followed a few weeks later by a council resolution that 10 blocks of the town site (Blocks 7–16) be set aside for a new cemetery and that the land be surveyed for that purpose (TCC minutes, 27 April 1875). In May, Court Street (also known as Tenth Avenue) was extended north from downtown to the new cemetery, which it bisected (TCC minutes, 10 May 1875). This was the origin of the name used informally for the new cemetery for many years (and throughout this report), the Court Street cemetery. Later in May, the council resolved that, in the land reserved for the new cemetery, Blocks 8, 9, 14, and 15 be set apart for Catholic burials, that Blocks 10 and 13 be set apart for burials of all other denominations, and that Blocks 7, 11, 12, and 16 be “reserved from use for burials,” which apparently meant that these blocks could eventually be used for cemeteries, because they eventually were. The council also decided that the 6 blocks to be used immediately for the Court Street cemetery be donated by the city for such use, subject to regulation by the council (TCC minutes, 18 May 1875).
At the same meeting where the Court Street cemetery was created, the National Cemetery was ordered closed: “Resolved that on and after the last day of May 1875 no more dead be interred in the old burial ground and clear publication be made that on and after the 1st day of June 1875 all dead be interred in the new cemetery, and that notice be given by publication in conformity with law” (TCC minutes, 18 May 1875). We found a notice to this effect in the Citizen (Arizona Citizen [AC] , 29 May 1875) but have not yet located one in a Spanish-language newspaper.
Before we examined the Tucson City Council minutes for the present report, we considered the closing of the National Cemetery in 1875 to have been an official act, but not necessarily an effective closing, as there was clear evidence of at least one burial in the “military cemetery” in 1881 (that of Cpl. John Lyon; see O’Mack 2005:36–37). As we discuss below, it is now clear that the city council allowed the military cemetery to remain open until 1881, even after the civilian portion closed. This fact, combined with the unambiguous language of the closure resolution and the council’s considerable efforts to open the Court Street cemetery on the day after the old cemetery closed, strongly suggests that the city council was determined to stop burials in the civilian portion of the National Cemetery after May 31, 1875.
The references we have to the old and new cemeteries in the first few years after that date are limited to complaints about the remote, untended nature of the Court Street cemetery (AC, 22 January 1876; AC,17 February 1877), reports of efforts to survey and fence the new cemetery (DAC, 8 April 1879 a; DAC, 8 April 1879 b; AC ,9 May 1879), and calls for the burials in the National Cemetery to be transferred to the Court Street cemetery (Arizona Star [AS], 3 October 1878; AS, 3 April 1879). Nothing suggests that people were still using the National Cemetery for burials, and everything suggests that the Court Street cemetery had effectively taken its place, despite the perceived difficulties with using it.
The Abandoned National Cemetery, 1875-1890
The earliest hint that Tucson or some of its citizens had plans to use the National Cemetery as something other than a burial ground is a brief item in the Weekly Arizonan (WA) in 1871, which stated that rumors of the proposed route of a railroad through Tucson had prompted a local entrepreneur to “take up lots” in the old cemetery (Weekly Arizonan [WA], 4 March 1871). As we discussed in our original report (O’Mack 2005:40–41), this item is hard to interpret because it predated the official town site survey that would have made claims on town lots a possibility, but it does indicate that the City Council's official closing of the National Cemetery in 1875 may have been influenced as much by the anticipated gains of selling land for a railroad as by any concern about sanitary problems in the old cemetery, which was the usual justification for removing the bodies from the cemetery given in newspaper articles into the 1880s (see Appendix A).
The Coming of the Railroad
The railroad first became a presence in Tucson in January
1877, when the city donated about 200 acres to the Southern
Pacific Company in anticipation of construction but before a
right of way (ROW) had been settled on by the company. The
donated land, which did not include the cemetery parcel, was
meant simply to demonstrate the city’s good intentions and would
later be exchanged for the land Southern Pacific really wanted
(Devine 2004:163–164). On May 14, 1879, the city council held a
special meeting to hear the request of Col. C. E. Grey, chief
engineer for Southern Pacific, for a 100-foot-wide ROW directly
through the town site. The council minutes described the main
features of the request, which included room for a depot and
other facilities (TCC minutes, 14 May 1879). No mention was made
of the cemetery at this time, but Ordinance No. 21, passed by
the city on August 21, 1879, to allow the grant (City of Tucson
1883:77–81), does include among the many parcels donated by the
city a portion of the “cemetery reservation,” without other
comment (see also the deed granting the ROW to the Southern
Pacific Company [Village of Tucson 1879]). We tried to locate
the field notes of the survey for the railroad ROW and other
records relating to the construction of the railroad through
Tucson but were unsuccessful.
The coming of the Southern Pacific Railroad was greeted with enthusiasm by almost everyone in Tucson, and apparently without any concern for the small portion of the 1872 cemetery parcel that it crossed. We wondered if the Mexican-American community in Tucson might have been worried about the railroad’s alignment, given that the majority of the burials in the National Cemetery were of Mexican Americans, but an article published in El Fronterizo a few days after the fateful council meeting with Col. Grey simply listed the details of the railroad’s request and noted, without comment, “El camino cruzará junto al cementerio católico” (“The road will pass next to the Catholic cemetery”) (El Fronterizo [EF], 18 May 1879). Later that year, Las Dos Repúblicas published a notice that the Southern Pacific Railroad, which had reached Yuma, would begin construction from Yuma to Tucson. The notice was full of enthusiasm for the railroad and made no mention of the possible impact on the cemetery (Las Dos Repúblicas [LDR], 19 October 1878a). And Sheridan (1986:55–56) has noted the excitement generated by the railroad, including in the Mexican community, when it finally reached Tucson in March 1880.
The railroad would directly impact only a small portion of the cemetery parcel, just clipping its northeast corner, but the plans for its construction prompted the city to subdivide the affected and adjacent property into lots and to lay out new streets on either side of the ROW. On May 22, 1879, the city council ordered “that G. J. Roskruge be employed as surveyor to survey part of old cemetery and contiguous land into lots” (TCC minutes, 22 May 1879). “Old cemetery” presumably referred to the cemetery parcel as defined in the 1872 town site survey, and “contiguous land” referred to a small area of land north of the cemetery parcel that became part of Block 251 as a result of Roskruge’s survey. Later, in March 1880, just before the railroad reached Tucson, the council passed Ordinance No. 24, establishing Toole and Steven Avenues, which would run along opposite sides of the railroad (City of Tucson 1883:83–86). Toole Avenue would pass through the cemetery reservation, but no mention of this fact was made in the ordinance, and we have not found any reference to the impact of the new street on the old cemetery. The railroad ROW, the lots surveyed by Roskruge, and Toole Avenue together took up exactly one half of the 1872 cemetery parcel, leaving the triangular parcel labeled “National Cemetery” on the 1880 Pattiani map of Tucson (Figure 3).
Removing Burials in the National Cemetery
About a year after the railroad’s arrival, complaints about
the sanitary conditions in the abandoned National Cemetery
included comments about shallow and disturbed graves: “Many of
[the graves] are open; the coffins containing bodies in various
stages of decomposition, and numerous skeletons are exposed to
view, and the stench arising therefrom is frightful” (Arizona
Weekly Star [AWS], 3 February 1881; see also Arizona Weekly
Citizen [AWC], 6 February 1881). Apparently in response to such
complaints, the city council began working to have the burials
removed, or at least to limit its own responsibility for such
removal. On February 14, 1881, the council reached a resolution:
Upon motion of Councilman Levin seconded by Councilman Etchells
it was resolved that in lieu of the land formerly promised to
the School Trustees of School District No. 1 Pima County a deed
issue to them for Block No. 115 one hundred and fifteen and for
the southwest corner of the old cemetery of the following
dimensions on Stone Avenue 250 feet and on Cemetery Street 300
feet: this to be in full of all demand for the Block heretofore
referred to being No. 238 and upon the condition that the City
be at no expenses for the removal of the bodies interred in said
ground [TCC minutes, 14 February 1881; emphasis added]. The
Citizen soon reported the gist of the resolution and noted that
Block 238, for which the “southwest corner of the old cemetery”
would be granted in lieu, was originally granted to School
District No. 1 in November 1872 (AWC, 20 February 1881). The
Citizen misleadingly stated that “the School Trustees shall
remove all bodies from the land given them.” The resolution only
stated that the city should not be responsible for such removal.
There is no indication that the school trustees ever made an
effort remove burials (see below), but the city was off the
hook. The property so granted to the school was later designated
Block 254 and corresponded closely to the area now bounded by
Stone Avenue, Alameda (formerly Cemetery) Street, Grossetta
Avenue, and Council (formerly Miltenberg) Street.
At the same meeting on February 14, the council reached another resolution: Upon motion of Councilman Levin seconded by Councilman Steinfeld the Recorder was ordered to notify the Commanding Officer at Camp [sic] Lowell that hereafter no more burials can be permitted within the National Cemetery, said cemetery being situated in the centre of the city [TCC minutes, 14 February 1881].
The “National Cemetery,” which here referred specifically to the walled military cemetery, was located entirely within the property granted to School District No. 1 (see the discussion of the location of the military cemetery in Chapter 3). This resolution prompted the army to have Assistant Quartermaster G. C. Smith prepare a report about the condition of the military cemetery in Tucson (cited in War Department 1884) and later to have an inventory made of its burials. The list of burials in the military cemetery was prepared a few months later, probably by Smith (see Chapter 3).
Later in 1881, the city council seemed to relieve itself once again from the duty of removing burials when it granted a petition to open a new street: Petition of citizens for the opening of Council street from Stone Avenue to where it would intersect Toole Avenue if opened was granted upon the condition that the school trustees give the land needed for that purpose from the school lot on the corner of Stone Avenue and Alameda Street and receive in lieu of said land given, the like quantity of land on the east side of the school lot and fronting on Alameda street, and that no expense incur to the city by the opening of said street [TCC minutes, 7 November 1881; emphasis added]. As the Citizen noted a week later, the new street would pass through the old cemetery (Weekly Arizona Citizen [WAC], 13 November 1881), which probably explains the unwillingness of the city to cover the expenses of opening it. Three months later, apparently prompted by continued interest in opening the new street but still unwilling to take on the responsibility of removing burials, the city council decided to place the burden of removal on the friends and families of the deceased: C. M. [i.e., Councilman] Levin Street Commissioner rendered his report regarding the opening of Eighth Street [i.e., Council Street] from Stone to Toole Avenue, through the old cemetery, recommending the opening and the removal of the bodies to the new cemetery within sixty days from date, and that the Recorder give notice in an English and Spanish paper published in the city, to the effect that all bodies not removed by relatives or friends of those interred within the designated time, be removed and reinterred under supervision of the municipal authorities. The report was adopted and the Recorder instructed to act accordingly [TCC minutes, 4 January 1882].
As it happens, Council Street was not extended east at this time, and it was not until 1889 that Miltenberg Street was surveyed and opened along a similar alignment through the old cemetery (see below). But notices to remove the burials did appear. The Arizona Daily Star published a brief notice: “Persons having relatives and friends buried at the old cemetery between Stone and Toole avenues, must remove them within sixty days” (Arizona Daily Star [ADS], 7 January 1882). This notice actually lacked a clear indication that it was an official declaration of the city council, but a similar notice, unmistakably official, appeared in Spanish in El Fronterizo, signed by Recorder Charles Meyer (EF, 13 January 1882; see the full notice in Appendix B). At the same time, undertaker E. J. Smith posted a notice in Spanish in the same paper that in light of the city council’s order that all bodies be removed from the old cemetery and reburied in the new, he saw fit to offer his experience in the same task, as well as his 30 years of experience as an undertaker, at a reasonable rate (EF, 20 January 1882). We found no such ad in the English-language papers, but the Star soon published a notice that “Undertaker E. J. Smith will to-day commence the removal of bodies from the old to the new cemeteries” (ADS, 4 February 1882). In light of Smith’s advertisements in El Fronterizo and the obvious unwillingness of the city council to pay for removals, this notice meant that Smith would begin the removal of those bodies for which he was specifically contracted by individual families and not that he was fulfilling a contract with the city for the general removal of bodies.
Apparently, not everyone was happy with the way the removals went, not even undertaker Smith. The Citizen soon complained about the “indiscriminate and irresponsible digging done in the old Cemetery.”When particular burials were searched for, others were disturbed and scattered, then reinterred “in a common hole.” No disinfectants were used, and the stench was unbearable (AWC, 12 February 1882). A day after the Citizen’s complaint, on February 13, 1882, Smith petitioned the city council to pass an ordinance that no interments be allowed in the new (Court Street) cemetery except with a permit from the Board of Health and only under the supervision of a cemetery sexton, a position he offered to fill himself if the ordinance was passed. He also asked that the ordinance require that the new cemetery be enclosed and provided with streets and alleys, that the land be divided into lots for sale to families, and that there be “a Potters field for the interment of all who are unable to purchase lots” (TCC minutes, 13 February 1882). Smith was busy removing burials from the old cemetery and reburying them in the new one when he made this petition, so it may have been prompted by his frustration at finding burials in the old cemetery. His request for a potter’s field is especially suggestive: perhaps haphazardly placed indigent burials were complicating his removal effort. Unfortunately, we have found nothing to indicate how many (or which) burials Smith removed from the National Cemetery, and the issue disappeared for a time from the newspapers and the city council minutes. Nevertheless, it is clear that many burials remained in the old cemetery. In December 1882, the city council instructed the city attorney “to draw [an] ordinance in regard to removing the bodies from the old military cemetery, also regulating all cemeteries belonging to the city”(TCC minutes, 9 December 1882; also see ADS, 13 December 1882). And a month later, the council instructed the street committee “to examine into the feasibility of finally and effectually removing the bodies from the Old Cemeteries [i.e., from both the military and nonmilitary portions of the National Cemetery]” (TCC minutes, 11 January 1883; also see ADS, 14 January 1883).
The need to remove the burials in the National Cemetery seems to have been linked in some people’s minds with the need to remove the cemetery wall; in other words, to effectively eliminate any trace of the cemetery. Just before the council renewed its efforts to have the bodies removed, calls for the cemetery wall to be torn down began appearing. The Citizen called the wall a “harbor of filth,” noting that it had long been used as “a screen for the committing of nuisances which poison the whole atmosphere for many blocks around it” (DAC, 23 November 1882; AWC, 26 November 1882). In other words, the area screened by the wall was being used as a privy, as was also reported by Assistant Quartermaster Smith in 1881 (War Department 1884). Similar complaints appeared several times over the next few weeks, including comments about the neglectfulness of the city council for letting the wall remain (DAC, 4 December 1882; AWC, 17 December 1882a). The Citizen soon reported that Mayor Tully had authorized that the wall be torn down when arrangements could be made (AWC, 17 December 1882b). As we now believe that the military and nonmilitary portions of the National Cemetery were surrounded by separate walls (see Chapter 4), it is unclear which wall was the butt of complaints (so to speak), but on December 23, 1882, the city council passed a motion instructing the street committee “to have the old fence [sic] removed from the military cemetery” (TCC minutes, 23 December 1882; emphasis added). On January 28, 1883, when the Citizen reported that the cemetery wall was “torn down and carted away,” for which it praised the mayor and city council, it did not specify which wall was so removed (AWC, 28 January 1883).
Despite all the concern surrounding their removal, most of the burials in the cemetery seem never to have been moved. In February 1883, the Citizen published a long editorial deploring the ongoing abuses of the “old cemeteries” (i.e., the military cemetery and the adjoining civilian cemetery), which included the destruction of monuments and headboards, the leveling off of graves, the opening of vaults, and the use of cemetery soil and grave contents for street fill. The editorial included a grandiloquent condemnation of the city for not taking charge of the problem: That the city needs the land for other purposes is no palliation for a great wrong. That the friends of the dead had been advised to have the bodies removed and that many of them have not complied with the mandate of the law excuses no one. Other cities have so grown that their early cemeteries have from homes of [the] dead, become the very heart of life, but preparatory to the transition the dead have been reverentially removed, and if needs be reinterred at the public expense. It then remains with Tucson to commit an act of shame that has no like in the present century [AWC, 18 February 1883; see Appendix B for the full article].
The editorial emphasized the sorry state of the military cemetery, where the neglect of dead soldiers was especially reprehensible: “That they too should be treated as dead dogs, and every mark of their resting place obliterated and trodden under foot, should reach further than the corporation limits of Tucson, 16 and touch a nation’s pride, for they of all men, are deserving of a better remembrance.” The editorial recommended that the federal authorities be notified of the condition of the military cemetery, presumably in hopes of prompting a federal removal of the military dead, “and until such thing can be done the city should not be allowed to level off their graves as purposed” (AWC, 18 February 1883).
We did not find any mention of a proposal to “level off” the graves in the old cemetery in the city council minutes, but in April 1884 a notice appeared in the Arizona Daily Citizen that the council would consider the question of selling lots in the old cemetery (Arizona Daily Citizen [ADC], 13 April 1884). Apparently, the question of removing bodies from those lots before selling them (or leveling them off) was never again considered by the council. The U.S. Army at Fort Lowell, however, got busy with the removal of the military burials.
In June 1884, Dr. W. J. White, apparently under contract to the army, removed the remains of soldiers buried in the old military cemetery and reburied them in a new military cemetery at Fort Lowell. The Citizen reported that about 130 soldiers were buried in the old cemetery (AWC, 23 June 1884), but White reported having found the remains of just 74 men, many of them consisting of only “a few decaying bones”; the new cemetery at Fort Lowell already held eight burials (ADS, 24 June 1884). The unearthing by White prompted a warning by the Citizen (AWC, 23 June 1884) that dangerous vapors had been released, an accusation that White, in a letter to the Star (ADS, 25 June 1884) attributed to the envy of parties who did not get the contract for removal. A visit to the old cemetery 10 days later by the mayor and three other city officials confirmed that there was no health hazard or even an odor associated with the removal (AWC, 5 July 1884a). The Citizen nevertheless insisted that the upturned ground, “decayed animal matter,” and coffin fragments posed a hazard and called for the city to disinfect the ground (probably with quicklime, judging by their original warning) (AWC, 5 July 1884b). The lack of any mention of Dr. White in the city council meeting minutes of the period must reflect White’s status as a federal contractor rather than as someone hired by the city. The Citizen later referred to the removal of soldier burials as “when the government contracted with Dr. White” (AWC, 12 July 1884).
The National Cemetery Subdivided, Sold, and Graded
Following the removal of military burials in 1884, the
abandoned National Cemetery seems to have been absent from the
minds of the city council and the local newspapers for several
years. Then, in February 1889, the Star published a brief item
describing the cemetery as “the general dump ground and
receptacle for the offals of the city, ”adding that in addition
to holding a great variety of trash, “the ground has a number of
holes which were formerly graves,” presenting a hazard to
pedestrians (ADS, 27 February 1889). A few months later, the
city council ordered that the city surveyor plat and number lots
in the old cemetery and that on April 15 the lots be sold at
public auction to the highest bidder, “no lot to be sold for
less than $100” (TCC minutes, 1 April 1889; also see ADS, 2
April 1889). This was 5 years after the council first reportedly
considered selling off the cemetery as lots.
On April 13, 1889, John Gardiner, City Surveyor, surveyed and created a map of the subdivision of the old National Cemetery, or newly designated Blocks 252, 253, 254, and 255 (Figure 4). The survey included laying out Miltenberg Street and Grossetta Avenue, which are shown for the first time on a map. The street names were evidently in honor of Frank Miltenberg and A. V. Grossetta, both city council members at the time. As noted earlier, the council had already agreed back in November 1881 to allow Council Street to be opened through the old cemetery to Toole Avenue (see above), but apparently that never happened. In an apparent effort to preserve the dimensions of the parcel granted to School District No. 1 back in February 1881 (“on Stone Avenue 250 feet and on Cemetery Street 300 feet”; see above), the alignment of Miltenberg Street was somewhat north of Council’s alignment, and this is still the case today. Block 254 remained the undivided property of School District No. 1. By April 13 (and presumably somewhat earlier), a notice of the proposed April 15 sale of lots appeared in the Citizen (ADC, 13 April 1889; AWC, 13 April 1889).
On the same day that John Gardiner made his survey of the old cemetery, a special meeting of the city council was called to consider a petition, submitted by unnamed petitioners: The City Clerk presented the petition of various residents and taxpayers, requesting the Council not to sell the lots as heretofore published for sale; it was read and after discussing the subject upon motion of C. M. [i.e., Councilman] Hoff seconded by C. M. Miltenberg it was deemed best to proceed with the sale of the lots on the day advertised and the petition was laid on the table [i.e., it was denied] (TCC minutes, 13 April 1889).
Another petition asking that Alameda Street between Stone and Toole Avenues be made 80 feet wide (it is 60 feet wide on Gardiner’s approved plat) was also denied.
When the Citizen reported the pending sale of lots in the old cemetery, it noted that “a proposition to convert that spot into a park will probably not be adopted” (AWC, 13 April 1889). This is presumably a reference to the nature of the first petition denied by the council. It is interesting that the nature of the petition and the names of the petitioners are not provided in the council minutes, nor is any discussion of the reasons for denying the petition. One wonders if the petition was prompted by a concern for the burials that remained in the old cemetery and if the petitioners represented a part of the community whose interests were not well represented on the council, which in that year had six members, all of them Anglo-Americans (as were the mayor and the recorder, the two other city officials in regular attendance at council meetings). Whatever the circumstances, the city council carried out the sale of lots as planned. The sale was conducted by Mayor Fred Maish and Recorder Charles Meyer, with about 30 bidders in attendance. The bidding “in some instances was spirited, and a few of the choice lots sold for $175” (ADC, 15 April 1889). For the time being, undivided Block 254 remained school property.
Soon the people who bought lots in the old cemetery were filing their deeds with the city recorder and preparing to erect buildings (ADC, 25 April 1889; ADC, 30 August 1889; ADS, 27 April 1889; AWC, 27 April 1889). In February 1890, the Citizen reported that several owners of lots in the old cemetery were “now grading them preparatory to erecting houses thereon” (ADC, 6 February 1890), and later, that contractor Alexander J. Davidson was making arrangements “to grade all the lots in the old city cemetery” (ADC, 8 February 1890a). Two weeks later, the Citizen reported that the owners of the lots in the old cemetery “have pooled together and graded their lots, and added much to their value, as well as appearance”; some of the owners were also preparing to plant shade trees (ADC, 25 February 1890). This last report probably means that contractor Davidson was hired by the owners acting as a group. It is not clear whether the reference to grading “all the lots in the old city cemetery” included undivided Block 254, but a systematic grading of at least the other portions of the old cemetery has significant implications for archaeological data recovery in the project area (see Chapter 6). Davidson, who was the contractor for many notable projects in Tucson in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, made no mention of grading the old cemetery in his reminiscences (Davidson 1930–1936:22).
Also in February 1890, the trustees of School District No. 1 published a notice that there would be a vote by “the electors of School District No. 1” to decide whether the land in the old cemetery granted by the city to the district should be sold at auction. An entrepreneur named W. S. Read (possibly the same as the W. S. Reid mentioned by Sonnichsen [1987:137]) was eager to purchase the land in order to build a large hotel. School board members H. Buehman and J. S. Mansfeld commented that such a sale was possible if the right price were obtained (ADC, 8 February 1890b). Nonetheless, when the school district sold Block 254 in 1890, it was only after Mansfeld had hired surveyor George Roskruge to subdivide the block into six lots and an alley (Figure 5). The six lots of Block 254 were sold by Mansfeld (acting on behalf of the school district, presumably) to six different private parties later that year (see O’Mack 2005:153–154). There is no indication that the trustees of School District No. 1 ever gave much thought to the burials that remained in the old cemetery property donated to them by the city council. Nine years passed, during which the district did not make any use of the donated property, which made us wonder if the district’s failure to use the property, or the eventual decision to sell it, was based on a reluctance to build on an old cemetery or on some additional information about the burials that the district acquired during its ownership. We researched the early history of School District No. 1 and found no mention of the old cemetery property (City of Tucson 1882; Cooper 1967; Long 1900; Sherman 1883; and various parts of AHS, Pima County Records, Ms. 183, 1864–1985, Tucson).