Rim Country's History Is Carved In Stone

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There is humor.

Stanley and Louise Barrus, for example, are "Just Restin'."

Joseph Popeck, meanwhile, rates poetry: "Foot in mouth, wagon full/Always took a stand/So lift your glass, toast a cheer/Here lies the 'One man band.'"

There are tragic tales told in just a few words, such as this too-brief biography of one Helen Marie Bunga: "Beloved premature daughter of William and Mafe Bunga ... lived 12 hours, died June 12, 1967."

And there is history, literally beginning with John and Henry Meadows, brothers who were "killed in last Indian raid" to become the first residents of Payson Pioneer Cemetery in 1882.

These are just some of the Northern Gila County tombstone epitaphs chronicled in the book "Cemetery Inscriptions," compiled by Payson resident Margaret Furtkamp, and published by her friend, Donna Garrels, director of the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.

"Margaret works for the Genealogical Society, and she kept calling me wanting to know about my husband's family, the Haughts, and where they were buried," Garrels says, recounting the book's inception in 1997. "While we were talking, we got to deciding how wonderful it would be to have a book where you could just look those things up.

"Actually, it was Margaret who kept saying what a wonderful idea it was. I just kept thinking, 'Oh, God!'"

Despite Garrels unexpressed misgivings, Furtkamp and her husband, D.C., proceeded to visit every cemetery in Northern Gila County, noting every headstone inscription and the location of every gravesite in northern Gila County including those in the Cline Family Cemetery, the Gisela Cemetery, the Haught Cemetery, Mountain Meadows Memorial Park, Payson Pioneer Cemetery, Roosevelt Cemetery, St. Paul's Episcopal Church Columbarium, the Tonto Apache Indian Reservation, the Tonto Basin Cemetery, the Young Cemetery, and various burial sites along the county's highways and byways.

Once all that legwork was done, Garrels says, "It took Margaret about a year to put the book together. She put it on her computer and did it all. She doesn't want anyone to know that she's the one who did it, but I keep telling people it was her."

The 168-page book was self-published at a Tempe printing company for the first time in 1998.

"We're now in our third printing. And every copy has been sold right out of my house. People would just come to my house or call on the phone asking for it. And I've had lots of orders come in through the mail ... many of them from the Mormon Church. I must have sold them a dozen books."

Today, Garrels' house isn't the only place one can pick up a copy of "Cemetery Inscriptions."

"I just sold 10 of them to the Rim Country Museum. They've been wanting it to have it available in their little gift shop."

Asked if she knows how many copies have been purchased over the years, Garrels doesn't need to scan any inventory records for the correct answer.

"I know exactly," she says. "120."

Despite such an impressive sales figure, Garrels laughs when it is suggested that she is now a successful book publisher.

"I don't think so," she says. "But I do think it's a wonderful book. Whenever you get into an argument about who died and when, all you have to do is pick up this book and the argument is over."

Although there is likely no one in the Rim country outside of Furtkamp who is more familiar with the area's cemetery inscriptions, Garrels says she does not have a favorite.

"Tell you the truth, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the inscriptions. I go around looking for gravestones with a horse and cowboy sitting in front of a tree, because that's what I put on my husband's. I had never seen it before my husband died. I thought it was really different when I got it. But now I'm finding that there's many, many of them. I hope Ralph isn't too upset."

A final, obvious question. What inscription would she like to be carved onto her own headstone?

"Oh, I don't know," she says, laughing. "Probably a cuss word. Or 'What the hell am I doing here?'"

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