By Erika Flores and Patricia Sanders
It’s at once grand and forlorn: the sprawling cemetery bounded by Main Street, Golden Hill, 4th Avenue and N. Arbor Ave in Central Heights.
It’s a cemetery no one claims – and yet so many are buried here, from the infamous to the upstanding and the affluent to the indigent.
In the earliest days of its existence, Pinal Cemetery was owned and managed by a small local mortuary, but the county took it over sometime in 1918, when they discovered they needed more room to bury victims of the Spanish Flu. To what degree the county took responsibility for the cemetery and for how long is unclear.
What is clear is that the county subsequently abandoned their position in the cemetery decades ago. The property is no longer listed on tax rolls, so taxpayer money can’t be used to cut down the weeds, water trees and repair fences. And there have never been any maintenance funds set aside – as is mandated by state law when a cemetery is owned by a mortuary – because no mortuary owns it, and the law does not apply to fraternal/beneficial organizations.
Mike Pastor, a former Gila County supervisor, says the state of affairs at the Pinal Cemetery was a hot topic of concern for local citizens when he took office in 2009. But after looking into it, he says he discovered that for the most part, his hands were tied.
He said he and other supervisors have used discretionary contingency funds to bring in prisoners and school kids to cut down the weeds during the summer, but the problem goes well beyond that.
Although many families have buried generations of their family members here and still live in the area, there are so many other connections that have been lost to the winds of time. In many cases, there is no one to care for the graves – nor to contact about paying for a collective effort to repair and/or maintain the cemetery … so it’s left to volunteers like the Elks Lodge and Boy Scouts to do what they can.
As Shaya Rodriguez, a past Exalted Ruler of the Globe Elks Lodge, says, “Most of the people buried here no longer have any next of kin in the area. The dead have no voice. That is why some of us at the Lodge have decided to advocate for them. There is no one to speak for them, to care for their graves, or to remember who they are.”
A few times a year, Lodge members, along with the local Boy Scout Troop 101, meet at the cemetery for a clean-up. They do what they can with the manpower they have, cleaning not only their section, but neighboring graves as well. But even the hardiest of best intentions and dedicated effort on individual graves cannot begin to touch the decay that has come with stacked decades of neglect.
Yet, strolling among the graves here, even the casual observer gets a sense of the importance of this hallowed ground and those who have a final resting place here.
Most notable for out-of-town visitors are the graves of famous historic figures like Chief Talkalai (1817-1930), who served as Chief of Scouts for three U.S. Army generals, and Pearl Hart (1876-1955), the outlaw famous for her robbery of the Globe to Florence stagecoach.
But more than the names like these that history records are the names which that are integral to heart of this community, both its past and its current population.
Men like John Davis are buried here. Davis, who at one time owned most of the land that now constitutes Miami and Central Heights and who introduced Cleve Van Dyke, mining entrepreneur and town developer, to Miami, is buried here.
As is Van Dyke himself, who was living in Long Beach, California, when he died in 1945. He had asked to be buried in Pinal Cemetery.
And like many in this cemetery who came here before the turn of the century and made their mark, Louis William Bohme arrived in Globe in 1889, where he began by running a freight line to haul ore and supplies from the Black Warrior Mine. He also got into ranching, which he passed on to his sons, William and Fay Bohme, a name closely allied with Gila County ranching. His obituary in the Arizona Republic said Mr. Bohme was one of the notably few early cattlemen to have successfully combined ranching with mining. Today there are seven gravestones with the Bohme family name in the Pinal Cemetery.
Other stories of sites among those buried here are less glorious.
Legend tells stories of bar brawls gone bad that ended at the Pinal Cemetery without so much as a headstone left as evidence. In some cases several single graves were used to contain more than one individual.
“Stacked graves were a common practice at this cemetery for some time,” local historian LeeAnn Powers explains. And families, she says, have sometimes been surprised to find that their plot they thought was vacant has had been occupied for some time.
Back in 1920, a Mr. Hoar of the Elks wrote a lengthy op-ed in the Arizona Silver Belt about the state of affairs at this cemetery, which even back then had begun attracting the attention of people who called for more action.
Hoar pointed out that neither the Board of Supervisors nor any city or county had the authority to spend any of the public tax money they were entrusted with, leaving the duty of care to “nobody” to look after the cemetery.
And nobody it has remained.
Patricia Sanders lived in Globe from 2004 to 2008 and at Reevis Mountain School, in the Tonto National Forest, from 2008 to 2014. She has been a writer and editor for GMT since 2015. She currently lives on Santa Maria island in the Azores.
Thank you so much for article on AHA / Pinal Cemetery. My grandfather, Andres Magdaleno, was a miner who lived in Miami & was killed in underground mining accident in 1942. He was 43 years old & was buried in this cemetery. Do you know what will happen to the cemetery?
Rita: Thanks for your comment and prayers for your uncle. The Pinal Cemetery remains a challenge to maintain since it is largely owned by several private entities which do not have the resources. The County was there today with a crew of nearly 20 volunteers and did clean up – but more needs to be done. Please stay in touch and we will hope for a solution to this problem. The cemetery represents so much of the local history and lives which built this community.
Hello, my Grandfather and Uncle are buried at Pinal Cemetary. I came to try to find them but I could not. Oct 1929 us when they were buried there. One passed on Oct 8 and the On Oct 5. They were miners from Pitcher Ok. They came to Globe to try to heal there lungs, but they both passed just three days of each other, double funeral. I do have some new inf ormation on my Grandfather, but Iam not sure they have head stones or if they both do if you can still see inscription. I am coming back to Pinal to look again. It’s something I just need to do. My mother Grandmother and Aunt would Love for me to find them,
My Grandfather Pedro Limon and great uncle both are buried there and I believe my great grandmother is there too. Its so sad too see that the cemetery is such bad shape ,but it does comfort me to know that there are people who care and are trying to do something about it. Great story by the Globe Miami times
Thank you Andres.
In a few days, I’m coming to the cemetery to look for the graves of Apolonio Acosta 1851-1930 and his son, Trinidad Acosta d 1952. They were the grandfather and uncle of a friend. Is there a way to find out where to look for these graves? Other than close-up pictures on websites, I have nothing else to go on.
My great great grandfather Jose Barba was buried there in 1931. Unfortunately, when I went there a few years back I was told that he was buried in the unmarked “Mexican Section” so I was only able to see the approximate location of his grave.
Do you know if there is a # for the cemetery so I can talk to someone? I have been out twice looking for my sister’s grave. Will be out again in April 2020. I just recently got her death certificate and she is buried there. My grandfather is , as well. We did find his headstone, but I would like to put a marker on hers, as my parents could not afford one when she passed. She passed in 1969. Thank you.
Hello, my name is Randy Cosseboom and I have two grand parents, Joseph & Maude Valentine buried at the Pinal Cemetery. Every Memorial day, my family and I come up to clean up their grave site which is always covered with weeds and to place flowers on the grave. This past Memorial was probably the worst it has ever been. We have been doing this since the late 60’s early 70’s. I is a family tradition. There is a cement foundation surrounding the burial site with the interior covered with a combination of wood, dirt and decorative rock. I would like to concrete this in if possible. I just need to know who to contact to see about getting this done. Please advise. By the way, I live in Gilbert, AZ. I have no problem driving up to the Miami area to meet with someone that can help me with this project. Thank you for your time and help on this matter.
You might try checking in with Pinal Lumber and see if they have names of people who might do this for you.
Hi my name is Tabitha. My father is buried at the pinball cemetery. I desperately need to come and visit. I was told his grave has no headstone. He was buried there in 2007. How do I find out the info I need to find him?
Tabitha, I would contact the Gila Historical Museum and see if they can help you. I also know there are volunteers here with Find a Grave who are working on documenting local gravesites.
My GG grandfather, Georgio Carasco Armendariz (Armindariz) is buried in Pinal Cemetery, Central Heights.
Golden Hill Central Heights, Gila County, Arizona, 85539. It looks like the grave is unmarked. How can I find the location of his grave? I have newspaper info, death certificate, etc. I want to find him. Is there any index /map that I can look at?
Thank you to all who can help.
Gina, we would recommend you get in touch with Gila Historical Museum.
Looking for my mom’s plot know general area but. How do I. Get help finding exact sight so O can Honor mom
I was at the cemetary a few days ago. I saw a grave marked Tabitha. I just made a video of the outing. I prospect gold and explore old places. It will be on my YouTube channel in a couple weeks. Regardless the marker stood out to me. Because the marker stood out you should be able to find it. The name Tabitha I had never heard so it stood out to me. Strange that I saw you post. Good Luck.