Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Resting place of Phoenix's first mayors, 'Lost Dutchman' opens for tours

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] -- Thin black bars protect the graves of the famous and not-so-famous people who made up Phoenix's early history. One volunteer has a key and unless visitors call ahead to arrange a tour, they're not getting past the gates at Pioneer & Military Memorial Park. Made up of seven historic cemeteries near 15th Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Phoenix, this is where early Phoenix families buried their dead from 1884 to 1914. Wearing blue-gray Easy Spirit sneakers Marge West, a researcher with the Pioneers' Cemetery Association, walks slowly on a brick path, key in hand to open the wrought iron gates. "All the early history of Phoenix is buried here," West said. "I came in 1983 to see what it was all about. Since then I've been finding out who there people were." On Dec. 29, the Pioneers' Cemetery Association volunteers will offer free, guided tours of the park and the 110-year-old Smurthwaite House. The first mayors of Phoenix are buried in the 11-acre park, along with Buffalo Soldiers, miners, prostitutes, victims of scarlet fever, small pox, measles and childbirth, and Jacob Waltz, also known as the "Lost Dutchman." Like Waltz, the desert park has its secrets. Many of the graves are unmarked. For the most part West knows who's in the park, but she doesn't always know where. "This was not segregated in any way," West said. [Photo source: Arizona Republic.]