Monday, November 12, 2007

Henry Wickenburg to stay put

[Source: Janet DelTufo, Wickenburg Sun] -- Town Founding Father Henry Wickenburg will not be moved from his current gravesite location and will remain on a hill off of Howard Court with other former town dignitaries. A decision regarding the location of Wickenburg’s grave, which has been a source of discussion for several months, was finally made Monday night (Nov. 5). The original plan to move his tomb, along with the tomb of at least four other former Wickenburg residents, was rescinded from an earlier council decision. “I visited the gravesite, and I had second thoughts,” said Mayor Ron Badowski. “The gravesites are in good shape, and this is not a matter of state dollars, but leaving him where he should be. I thought at first we should move the tombs, and I now apologize for leaning that way. I would like to leave Henry where he is right now.”

No one in the audience or any other council member voiced an opposing view. Everyone seemed to agree with the mayor’s sentiments. Resident Paul Woley spoke first to the council, shedding new light on the situation. He informed the audience that Henry Cowell, who is in a larger tomb with his wife Lydia next to Wickenburg, was the town’s first-ever mayor. “Wickenburg is sort of known as an Old West town, and who we were and what we did in the past defines us,” Woley said. “It is important not to ignore our history, and moving Henry Wickenburg is ignoring history. You have to realize that any change we make changes what we were in the past. Leaving Henry where he is gives us an opportunity to tell a story, and I encourage you to think about keeping that history alive and keeping the grave where it is now.”

Businessman Bill Green also spoke on behalf of not moving the tombs and to allow the former residents to rest in peace. “Henry has been there for 100 years or more, and the gravesites are in very nice shape,” Green said. “I would, however, be opposed to spending any tax money to improve the walkway. I even think a wheelchair can be pushed up the hill (with the existing walkway).”

Green also said there should be no issue with encroachment in order to get to the gravesite because individuals have been using the walkway for 100 years. However, Cindy Thrasher of the Wickenburg Historical Preservation Society said that the property owner who is being encroached upon wrote a letter to the town several years ago making note of the issue. “I think the town should purchase the property in question,” Thrasher said. “We are going to have problems whether we move the tombs or leave them where they are, and we will have to eventually address these problems.”

Thrasher suggested installing a fence around the area and adding directional signage to the gravesite. “If we leave the tombs where they are, improvements need to be made,” Thrasher said. “Either site is appropriate, but if we leave the graves where they are, we will need to make some decisions as to how we are going to improve the area.” Thrasher will again need to go in front of the council to address the situation, since there was no resolution during the meeting as to how the improvements would be addressed. [Photo source: Frank Barrios and Reba Grandrud]