Friday, October 26, 2007

Wickenburg disinterested in history; wants to disinter original settlers

Wickenburg Founding Father, Henry Wickenburg, and several other early residents are slated for disinterment from their graves located on top of a hill on South Adams St. and Howard Court in Wickenburg, Arizona.

  • Henry Cowell (1852 – 1928)
  • Lydia Cowell (died June 29, 1905)
  • James Ouncell (possible Cowell; died June 17, 1900)
  • W. Weise (1846 – 1907)
  • Henry Wickenburg (November 21, 1819 – May 14, 1905)

It is the opinion of James Garrison, Arizona State Historic Preservation Officer, and Kathryn Leonard, National Register of Historic Places Coordinator, that the site’s significance and integrity make it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Any attempt to move the graves would result in severe damage to the historic monuments and the National Register eligibility of the site. National Register properties are eligible to receive competitive grant funding from the Arizona Heritage Fund as well as other national funding sources for acquisition, rehabilitation, and interpretive development.

It all began several years ago when the Town of Wickenburg sold off portions of Wickenburg property for a housing development. The hill that Henry Wickenburg camped on when he first came to the area is the location of his burial plot (he asked to be buried there). The hill is now almost completely surrounded by houses and the property owners would like the graves moved. There is a vacant piece of privately-owned property that, if purchased, could provide access to the publicly-owned cemetery from the street.

It has been suggested that the Wickenburg Historic Preservation Society (WHPS) acquire the gravesite from the Town of Wickenburg so WHPS could maintain the existing property, work on acquiring access from the neighbor, place the property on the National Register of Historic Places, and seek grant funding assistance. As a "last ditch" alternative, WHPS has suggested moving the graves to the Wickenburg Boetto House property in an attempt to save them and provide a spot for tourism and interpretation.

The Arizona State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) contacted WHPS officials and wrote a letter to the Wickenburg City Council encouraging the preservation of the cemetery and graves in their original location. The Arizona State Museum also favors leaving the graves in place. The Town Council, however, voted to have WHPS proceed in moving the graves. It has not yet been determined by the SHPO if the Wickenburg Boetto House property is suitable for a cemetery.

WHPS ran a legal ad in the weekly Wickenburg Sun on August 29, September 5, September 12, and September 19, 2007 and posted it on the Town website. This is the first legal step and notifies any possible family members about the movement of the graves. Now the legal advertisement has occurred, WHPS will be required to wait another six months before it can start moving the graves. It is the intention of the Town of Wickenburg to abandon the “Henry Wickenburg Gravesite” cemetery site.

In the July 19, 1924 Arizona State Miner, Sharlot Hall wrote an article about the cemetery, saying: “Wickenburg has a gold mine in that old graveyard exactly where it is located...that tiny piece of land lies exactly where every train-load of people are compelled to see it. It is worth big money as the very best slam-you-in-the-face advertisement to be had. It should be cleaned up and fenced with a good attractive iron fence to include every grave. The grave and home of Uncle Henry Wickenburg should become a public charge of the Town – not merely for the fine spirit of remembrance but for the good of advertisement in it. Properly played up every visitor who had an hour to spare in the town would pay a taxi fare to see the historic piece of ground.”

What can you do? You are welcome to express your opinion about this matter to:

Contact the Wickenburg Town Council at Wickenburg Town Hall, 155 N. Tegner St., #A, Wickenburg AZ 85390, 928-684-5451,
  • Mayor ~ Ron Badowski
  • Vice-Mayor ~ Jim Girard
  • Council Member ~ Chris Band
  • Council Member ~ John Cook
  • Council Member ~ Kristi Henson
  • Council Member ~ Scott Stewart
  • Council Member ~ John Zerby