Monthly Archives: March 2013

Cemetery of the Week #94: Tombstone’s Boothill

Legally hanged and buried in the same grave

Legally hanged and buried in the same grave. 1960s postcard.

Boot Hill Cemetery
408 N. Hwy 80
Tombstone, Arizona 85638
Information telephone: 520-457-3300
Founded: 1878
Number of interments: approximately 250
Open: 7:30 a.m. – dusk
Admission: free

Boot Hill is an American term for a burial ground in the western part of the country, dating to the post-Civil War era in the last third of the 1800s. A graveyard called Boot Hill (or Boothill) denoted a settlement where men “died with their boots on” or violently and suddenly, as opposed to quietly in bed of old age or illness.

Tombstone, Arizona dates to 1877, when a prospector named Ed Schieffelin discovered silver and named the first mine Tombstone. By 1879, a town had sprung up in a relatively flat area nearby. Gunslingers, gamblers, prospectors, Chinese laborers, and fancy ladies flocked to the town, which at one time was the fastest growing city between St. Louis and San Francisco. The high tide of population reached an estimated 20,000 people.

Shortly after the mine opened, the area found itself in need of a graveyard. A slight hill northwest of town was chosen. It didn’t have a name in its earliest days. Tombstone’s pioneer cemetery remained in use only until 1884, when the New Tombstone City Cemetery opened on Allen Street. That cemetery continues to be in use today.


An alternate spelling of McLaury with the assertion they were murdered by the Earps. Vintage postcard.

While Tombstone’s early history was mirrored by boomtowns across the west, one event made its mark in the folklore of the West. The Gunfight at the OK Corral didn’t actually happen at the corral, but nearby on Fremont Street. On October 26, 1881, US Marshalls Virgil Earp and his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, joined by the newly deputized Doc Holliday, faced down the Clantons and the McLaurys. Half a minute and 30 shots later, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were ready for their journey to Boot Hill.

One of the best known epitaphs comes from a gravemarker in Tombstone. Lester Moore was an agent for the Wells-Fargo Stagecoach. He and another man had a dispute over a package. Both men died in the gun battle that followed. Moore’s marker reads, “Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a .44. No Les no more.”

No Les no more.

No Les no more. Plastichrome postcard.

George Johnson’s epitaph also approaches poetry: “Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake. He was right. We was wrong. We strung him up and now he’s gone.” Johnson was hanged for stealing a horse – which in fact he had legally purchased.

John Heath was taken from the county jail by a mob from the nearby town of Bisbee. They were incensed because he’d led five men in a robbery that had killed “respected citizens.” Heath was lynched from a telegraph pole near the city court house.

The graveyard was neglected for many years. Vandals stole the original wooden grave markers and the desert reclaimed the hill. The locals referred to the area as the “Old Cemetery” until the late 1920s, when it was renamed in hopes of drawing tourists. Its namesake is the Boot Hill Cemetary (sic) in Dodge City, Kansas, which dates to 1871. That will be the subject of another Cemetery of the Week someday.

The message on the back of this postcard reads,

Plastichrome postcard.

The graves in Boot Hill were originally heaped with stones “to keep the varmints from stealing the bones.” Those heaps of stones and historic records helped when it came time to make new markers for the graves, but a number of the pioneers resting here went to their final rewards anonymously. No one carried ID in those days; the West was where one went to reinvent oneself. The names and stories of some of these pioneers may never be known.

Useful links:

NPR’s feature on the graveyard

A listing of people known to be buried in Boot Hill

The Ghost Trackers’ night-time report

A brief history of Tombstone

Tears on their Tombstones

GPS information provided by

Other Old West graveyards on Cemetery Travel:

Week 25: Bodie State Historic Park

Week #64: Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park

Week #66: Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery

Week #68: the Brigham Young Family Graveyard

Sale on the Cemetery Travels Notebook

From now until March 31, take $10 off the cost of the Cemetery Travels Notebook on Use the code SHARE10. Here’s the link.

The Cemetery Travels Notebook is the place to keep field notes from your own cemetery adventures. It features 80 lined pages, interspersed with 20 lush full-page color photographs of cemeteries from Paris to Tokyo, with stops at Sleepy Hollow, San Francisco, and all points between, to inspire your wanderlust.

Photographer Loren Rhoads, editor of Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries and former cemetery columnist for Gothic.Net, now blogs about graveyards as travel destinations at She’s a member of the Association for Gravestone Studies and the Graveyard Rabbits Association.

Ordering information:

The Cemetery Travel Notebook is usually available for $21.95 (softcover) or $38.95 (hardbound) from See a preview at Blurb. With the SHARE10 code, you can take $10 off!

Praise for the Cemetery Travels Notebook:

“Loren Rhoads’ Cemetery Travels Notebook is the perfect notebook for a taphophile. It’s a lined notebook for all your note-taking needs. It’s also filled with beautiful full-color photos of monuments from the U.S. and beyond.” – Minda Powers-Douglas, The Cemetery Club

“The Cemetery Travels Notebook is really beautiful. It will be very useful.” – Jeane Trend-Hill, author of the Silent Cities series

“The Cemetery Travels Notebook is great! I love the photos and the amount of space for keeping notes and thoughts.” – Joy Neighbors, author of A Grave Interest

“I just received the Cemetery Travels Notebook.  The photos are inspirational and I love the fact that there’s a lot of writing space for my thoughts.” – Leni Panopio, Cypress Lawn Memorial Park

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

Vintage postcard from my collection.

Vintage postcard from my collection.

The photo prompt for this week was lunchtime: not an easy topic to illustrate on a blog about cemeteries. I usually shy away from photographing strangers when I see them in graveyards, in order to respect their privacy. I have seen people picnicking from time to time: everything from sitting in folding lawn chairs and hoisting bottles of beer in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills to seated on a quilt and chiming their wine glasses together in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.

People used to picnic in graveyards all the time. Once cemeteries ceased to be burial grounds right in the heart of town, it took time and effort to reach them, especially in the days before paved roads. If you went to visit your relatives, you packed a lunch and intended to set a spell.

I have a couple of vintage postcards of picnickers, but my favorite doesn’t show any people. It’s labeled “Summerhouse, Prairie River Cemetery, Centreville, Michigan.” The summerhouse is basically a thatch-roofed pavilion with rough straight trees holding up a conical roof. Welcoming bent-wood benches wait inside.

Summerhouses were common in cemeteries — usually in the south, I believe — where a visitor would want some respite from the sun. Often they had enough room that you could erect a rough table and spread out your feast.

If you type Prairie River Cemetery into Google, only one by that name comes up. Centreville, Michigan, despite its name, lies in the southwest corner of the state, between Kalamazoo and Elkhart, Indiana, not too far from the shores of Lake Michigan. Google maps shows Centreville surrounded by farms even now.

Findagrave has a list of graves in the cemetery, but no historical overview for it. The USGW has a list of cemetery photographs, but the interface is clunky and frustrating. I don’t know if the summerhouse still stands.

My favorite part of the postcard is the message written in spidery cursive on the back: “Dear Cousin: So glad you and Marshal should clasp hands once more. So old fashion like. Wish we had some more ice cream as it is warm here.” It’s postmarked 1911.

Cemetery of the Week #93: Montparnasse Cemetery

The Pigeon family monument, Montparnasse Cemetery

The Pigeon family monument, Montparnasse Cemetery

Cimetière du Montparnasse
aka Montparnasse Cemetery
3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet
Paris, France 75014
Telephone: +33 1 44 10 86 50
Founded: July 25, 1824
Size: 47 acres
Number of interments: more than 300,000 people in more than 35,000 tombs
Open: From March 16 to November 15: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and holidays: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In the winter, from November 6 to March 15: Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays and holidays 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Map: You can request one from any of the guardhouses at the gates or download it here:

The Mairie de Paris organizes guided tours. For information, call 01 40 33 85 85.

The second municipal cemetery in Paris might be considered a poor sister to larger and grander Pere Lachaise, except that Montparnasse Cemetery is so full of intriguing and beautiful sculpture. Its flat, tree-shaded paths are pleasant to walk in any weather, but now that spring is coming and birds will fill the trees, it will be particularly lovely.

Montparnasse was recognized as an historic monument as early as November 2, 1931. It serves as the final resting place of Guy de Maupassant, whose short story “The Horla” scarred me as a child; composers César Franck and Camille Saint-Saëns, whose Danse Macabre you can hum, and Jean-Paul Sartre, author of No Exit, alongside his companion Simone de Beauvoir, whose book The Second Sex pioneered feminist theory.

Among the joys of Montparnasse are the two life-sized lions snarling atop one grave. A cloaked woman hunches over another monument, her face buried in her hands. Elsewhere, a crusader in armor, draped in a floor-length marble cape, keeps watch. Perched atop a mound of stone clouds, an angel sounds his trumpet directly into another grave. Nearby, a marker bears a deep relief of a shrouded woman, laid out of her bier, clutching her limp infant even in death. On yet another, a nude woman stands in relief, balancing a five-pointed star overhead as she poses before the pyramids of Egypt. A skeletal Death, clutching his scythe, lounges at her feet. By far the strangest monument is a rotund man-sized cat, painted with Op-Art flowers like something out of Yellow Submarine.

A gauze-wrapped corpse lay on the ground beneath one of the cemetery’s wall. Above it, a brooding bust protrudes from a marble slab. When I visited, a single red rosebud, its end wrapped in tinfoil, lay atop the marble corpse. This is the cenotaph in memory of Charles Baudelaire, the author of Les Fleur du Mal. (A cenotaph is a monument to honor a person whose remains lie elsewhere.)

Elsewhere in Montparnasse lies the grave Baudelaire shares with his mother and stepfather. That gravestone’s inscription makes no mention of Baudelaire’s worth as a poet. He died in Paris on August 31, 1867 of syphilis. His mother, who nursed him at the end, said he died with a smile on his lips. That seems unlikely.

Closeup of the Pigeon family monument

Closeup of the Pigeon family monument

Also in Montparnasse stands one of my all-time favorite grave monuments: a life-sized four-poster bed. On the bed lay a man and a woman sculpted in bronze. She sleeps beneath the covers, fully dressed in Victorian finery, complete with a veil. Half out of bed, he wears a coat and tie, boots, and clutches a book in one hand.

Useful links:
A brief history of the area, in English

A whole lot of photographs of monuments in Montparnasse

All the famous French people in Montparnasse

A great video compilation of all Montparnasse’s lovely monuments

Other Parisian cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #10: Pere Lachaise

Cemetery of the Week #19: the Paris Catacombs

Cemetery of the Week #20: Napoleon’s Tomb

Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood


Well, this is an experiment. I’m trying to use the WordPress app to blog from my iPhone. So far, not impressive. I couldn’t figure out how to put a photo at the top of my post and write text after it without publishing the photo first and then editing the post. More experimentation is required.

Anyway, it’s been way too long since I did a photo challenge. The subject of today is “My Neighborhood.”

There aren’t any neighborhood graveyards in San Francisco, although there are remnants of graves in many neighborhoods. The oldest of these are in the churchyard at Mission Dolores.

I’ve written about the Mission before, but not about my relationship with it. I’ve visited it more than any other cemetery in California in the 25 years I’ve lived in San Francisco. I’ve watched it change from overgrown and full of broken stones to a tamed rose garden to full of native plants and designed to teach about the early Mission days when the Spanish converted the Miwoks.

The churchyard used to be dominated by a huge mound of stone that harked back to the grotto of Lourdes. Now it has a large tule reed house, like the Miwoks would have lived in–although not in the graveyard. It strikes me as intrusive.

I shot this photo standing outside the graveyard, looking through the chain-link fence. The shady paths looked peaceful. A robin sang at the top of its voice. Spring is here and life goes on and that’s the most beautiful thing that I know.