Cemeteries are usually thought of as sacred resting places for our friends and loved ones -- quiet places, where tears and emotions have choked us -- yet places we like to return to with flowers, seeking still moments to meditate.
Cemeteries are also one of the best places for "diggin' up bones" or stories of the past. Every headstone -- every grave -- has a story. Many of the people's stories are on the pages of local history books, but many are not. Many who have passed on are already forgotten -- their stories never to be told. Sad.
Whether good or bad, they have a right to be remembered because they are someone's child, someone's brother or sister, or someone's grandmother or grandfather. And someday, someone will be looking for their grave, trying to find their story.
The Payson Pioneer Cemetery is on a little hillside on the west side of town overlooking the Payson Golf Course. It is owned and held in trust by the Payson Pioneer Cemetery Board, which is part of the Payson Womans Club. Hundreds of graves are scattered over nearly five acres of land that is shaded by oak and juniper trees. Wildflowers grow in abundance and the graves are neatly marked and decorated with flowers of all colors.
Richard Taylor did maintenance work on the cemetery for 40 years. Since 2004, he has rested there. Richard also did the beautiful stonework at the front of the cemetery.
Anna Mae Deming donated $300 toward fixing up the front of the cemetery through a project at Valley National Bank. At the top of the front steps is a memorial to Lena Chilson Hampton, who kept good cemetery records for many years, and one at the side of the steps a memorial has been added for Richard Taylor. Today, the Payson Pioneer Cemetery Committee -- Pat Haught Cline, Anna Mae Deming, Alta Garrels Dudley, Jeri Haught Chilson, Dese Lazear Muller, Dixie Sanders Jones, and Patty Taylor Rhoades -- tend to the cemetery.
According to local history, the first person to be buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery was John Meadows, killed on his ranch at Diamond Valley by renegade Apache Indians in 1882. Al Sieber, an old Indian fighter, and others who were part of the skirmish that followed the killing of John Meadows, told the story. Eighty-six Apaches fled the reservation at Cibecue, after killing Captain Hentig and a few troops. The band moved west from Cibecue and went through Pleasant Valley, where they killed Bob Sigsbee and Louie Houdon. The renegades continued west past Bonita Creek and finally came to the John Belluzzi place on the East Verde River. Belluzzi wasn't home, so some of the Apaches went downstream to the Diamond Valley Ranch, now known as the Whispering Pines Subdivision.
Meadows, his wife, and some of his 12 children were at the house. The Meadows family had been forted up in the Pieper Dance Hall with other local families, but had left when word reached Payson that the Indian outbreak had been a false alarm. John Meadows stated that he doubted if the Indians would come his way and that no Indian's bullet had been made that would kill him.
Early the next morning, John Meadows heard his dogs barking and thought that a bear might be bothering them. He grabbed his rifle and dashed outside. Meadows was killed about 100 yards down the river from the house. Two of his sons, John Valentine Meadows and Henry Meadows were wounded. Henry died two weeks later.
Major Chaffee, a seasoned officer, and Al Sieber, noted Indian Scout, with about 40 soldiers and a like number of Apache scouts, went in pursuit of the renegades. Sieber trailed the band up the East Verde to the top of the Mogollon Rim.
There, scouts reported the renegades were just ahead and were enjoying a Meadows' beef they had stolen a day or two before. Chaffee ordered the troops to shoot to kill. Eighty of the renegades were killed and six were taken back to the reservation. Only one soldier lost his life in the battle. This battle is referred to as the Battle of Big Dry Wash and it was the last major Indian fight in the Rim Country. John Meadows and his son, Henry, were the last men killed in an Indian raid in northern Gila County. John was first buried inside his house at the Meadows Ranch. Later he was dug up and moved to what is now the Payson Pioneer Cemetery. Henry Meadows died two months after the battle and became the second person to be buried in the cemetery.
Red granite rocks are piled high around the grave of John Gray. His headstone reads: John Gray, born in Pennsylvania 1832, died at Payson July 4, 1892. During Payson's July 4th celebration that year, John bet on a horse race. He drank his share of whiskey and when he ran out into the street yelling, "I won! I won!" he was run over and killed by the horse he had bet on.
Susan McFarland Gladden, called "Grandma Gladden" by all who knew her, is a cemetery occupant who witnessed the Pleasant Valley War firsthand. She was in the Blevin's home in Holbrook when Commodore Perry Owens shot and killed the Blevins boys, one of them being only 14 years old. Grandma Gladden and her brother, Charley McFarland, moved to Payson and bought a small ranch, where they made their home for 40 years. Grandma Gladden ran a restaurant in Payson and provided many a good meal for local cowboys and weary travelers. Her two daughters, O'Beria Gladden and Grace Gladden, grew up in Payson. In her home, Grandma Gladden played the fiddle and taught the teenage girls how to dance. O'Beria married Mart McDonald in 1894, and later, Grace married Mark A. Blake.
Preston "Press" Nail is buried near the east gate of the cemetery. A bachelor, he lived in Star Valley around 1890. In about 1920, Press was burned to death when the A.J. Franklin house burned in lower Star Valley. The remains of Press Nail were put in a five-gallon coal oil can and buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery. His brother, Ben Nail, also a bachelor, was killed when a runaway team of horses forked a tree between Payson and Star Valley, near Mud Springs. He is buried in Star Valley.
1912 was a good year for Payson because Dr. Christian H. Risser arrived. 1933 was a bad year because that was the year he was laid to rest in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery. After arriving in Payson, he purchased a small ranch with cattle and built a home with extra rooms, where he could care for his patients. Doc Risser made house calls and his old faithful mare, Maude, took him far and wide. He delivered many babies and treated every ailment that plagued people in the Payson area.
In addition to his medical services, Dr. Risser served on the Payson School Board and helped procure the Boy Scout Camp for the Rim Country. He contributed to the social activities and helped make Payson a better and healthier place to live.
The same year Doc Risser arrived, Bill Boardman married Theresa Haley and moved her to Payson. She became a very competent assistant to the doctor and took charge in his absence. After the doctor died, she was the sole medical help for the Payson area until the next doctor arrived. Theresa and Bill Boardman are buried side by side in the cemetery.
Mr. Pat Chase was on his way to Phoenix with a load of bootleg whiskey when his truck over turned on Ox Bow Hill. Doc Risser and others went to the wreck to see if they could help him and found him pinned underneath the truck. Doc Risser told him he would die when they lifted the truck off of him and he did. His widow wanted him buried with his favorite possession -- a diamond ring -- and he was. Two days later someone dug him up and stole the diamond ring. Old-timers know who it was, but they aren't telling -- for now at least.
The stories could go on and on. "Diggin' up bones" is quite an adventure. Respectable, law-abiding citizens and outlaws alike leave this world with interesting stories.
The Payson Pioneer Cemetery holds a huge archive of the past, if one only takes the time to "dig."
A rather unique feature in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery is "Bachelor's Row," located on the east side. Here you will find the grave of Jim Callaghan, who was a blacksmith, a horseshoer and a carpenter. He built the original Guy and Bill Boardman homes, one of which is still standing on west Frontier Street. Jim Callaghan also built a small house of lumber, mud, and bottles from the old Payson saloons. Mr. Callaghan was born in New York in 1835 and died in Payson in 1926.
Miners Paul Vogel and Bill Craig are also found in Bachelor's Row. Vogel built the old adobe on August Pieper's old place -- which is now (2007) the oldest standing house in Payson. Craig built the adobe at Little Green Valley. They were prospectors and miners who owned two of the most productive mines in northern Gila County: the Zulu and the Grand Prize. They made enough money from mining interests to found and develop the Spade Ranch in 1883. Some of the fruit trees they planted remain on the old Spade Ranch on the East Verde.
Judge C.F. (Jay) Vann served as Payson's Justice of the Peace from 1918 until 1932. He did some mining and established a trout hatchery up on the East Verde, in partnership with Elmer Pieper. In Payson, he served on the school board for several years and aided some high school graduates so they could go to college. The names of Ben Butler and Fred McGee can also be found on Bachelor's Row.
John Bartholomeo Belluzzi, born near Genoa, Italy in 1848, and his wife, Mercedes, are buried side by side in the cemetery. John left home at the age of 18 and became part of the crew of a Spanish schooner. He jumped ship in San Francisco and with a friend, worked his way inland until he reached Globe, Ariz. There he worked at the Old Dominion Mine. While in Globe, he learned that homestead sites were available in the Tonto Forest. In 1874, he applied for a homestead. The homestead would later be known as the Rim Trail Ranch. The five daughters of John and Mercedes Belluzzi are buried in a row near them; Angela (Mrs. R.T.) Taylor, Rose (Mrs. Henry) Hardt, Jo (Mrs. Vern) Gillette, Susan (Mrs. Lewis) Bowman, and Marie (Mrs. Walter) Lazear.
A rather different headstone is that of J.G. Clayton, a candy maker who was born in 1849 and died in 1928. Anna Mae Deming remembers that the candy shop was in the first Payson Womans Club building. She can recall Mr. Clayton kneading fondant candy on a big marble slab. He also spread his taffy to cool on this slab. When he died, his friends thought it only befitting that the big piece of marble become his headstone. His grave is located near the west gate of the cemetery.
An old miner, Fred Pantry, lays at rest on the east side of the cemetery by the gate. He was murdered while out in camp. He was identified by the gold in his teeth and his remains were kept in Judge Cal Greer's office for about five years. Judge Greer and Andy Ogilvie finally placed remains in a 5-gallon can and buried him in the cemetery.
Headstones mark the graves of Fletcher and Nellie Beard. Fletcher was the Forest Ranger in northern Gila County from 1908 until his death in 1913. An office was constructed in 1908 to accommodate him. This office still stands on Main Street and now belongs to the Northern Gila County Historical Society. Nellie, who was a sister to Floyd and Lewis Pyle, died in 1970. Her children were Laura Beard Pieper, Elvin F. Beard, Valda Beard Taylor, and Catherine Beard Sanders.
Henry and Sarah Haught, known far and wide as "Pappy" and "Mammy" Haught, are two of the many Haughts buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery. Mammy was born in 1872 in Cumberland County, England. When she was about three years old, she boarded a ship at Liverpool, England, with her family and sailed to America. The family lived and raised cotton around Dallas, Texas. When Mammy was not yet 16 years old, she married Henry "Pappy" Haught in Dallas, Texas. They farmed and started their family. Their first son, Sam, was born in 1889, followed by Ida (Sis) in 1891. During the Oklahoma Land Rush they went to Oklahoma, where another daughter, Margaret (Babe) was born in 1893, and a son, Columbus Boy in 1895. Cousin Fred Haught sent word from Arizona that the country here was good, so Mammy and Pappy decided to move to Arizona. They had two wagons and Mammy drove one of them. Mammy also cooked big meals daily on the long journey. On Aug. 10, 1897, somewhere in the White Mountains, Mammy stopped her wagon to give birth to a daughter, Irene Champion Million. The name came from a newspaper article about a lady named Irene Champion who was a millionaire. An hour or so after the birth, a bed was made in the wagon for Mammy and the baby, and the trip continued. Many descendants of Mammy and Pappy Haught live in the Mogollon Rim country. Pappy Haught is best remembered for his fiddle playing at all the country dances in this area. He even entertained Zane Grey.
Another Haught who left a mark in Payson's history was Anderson Lee "Babe" Haught. He was born in 1870, the son of Peter and Suzanne Haught. He came to Arizona after his brother, John Haught, sent word that Arizona was a good place to settle. He traveled from Texas to Arizona by train, then walked to the Mogollon Rim country and established a homestead under the Rim. Haught dry-farmed and became a hunter of lion and bear. When famous author, Zane Grey, came to the Rim country, he hired Babe Haught as a hunting guide. Haught also built Grey's cabin. Haught guided the writer on many hunting trips and provided information for some of Grey's books, including "Under the Tonto Rim" and "Code of the West." Babe Haught was married to Ellie Hunnicutt, whom he had married in Dallas, Texas. Babe died in 1929 and Ellie in 1968.
On the west side of the cemetery lays the grave of Jackson White Lane, known as Jack Lane. Lane was a Texas newcomer. One day in Payson, he indulged in too much whiskey and rode up and down the street on his horse, shooting his pistol. He ran his horse through a girls' croquet court, frightening the players. The justice of the peace advised him to put his gun away and settle down. He replied by aiming his gun at the man and then turning it on Bill Colcord and Sam Stewart. Colcord's Luger blasted and Lane fell dead from his horse. In Globe, in Superior Court, Colcord was cleared.
W.H. "Billy" Hilligass, one of the owners of the famous 16 to 1 Saloon in Payson, lies to rest in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery. The 16 to 1 was the saloon that catered to the needs of the mining people. The name was derived from the relative values of gold and silver: one ounce of gold being worth 16 ounces of silver. Billy owned Hilligass Mercantile and several other businesses in Payson. He was also postmaster for a while. The old Hilligass home is now the Lone Pine Hotel, located across the street from where the Winchester Saloon stood before it burned.
Champion ropers, Dick Robbins and Lee Barkdoll were laid to rest side by side in the cemetery. Both were once married to Delsie Dee "Datie" Journigan.
There are several graves of babies in the cemetery: Nash Baby, Camp Ground Baby, Brunson Baby, Norris Twin Babies and others. Many of the babies needed more medical attention than Payson had when they were born.
The empty, hollow word "unknown" also marks several graves in the cemetery. These stories can never be told.
Many, many more names such as Randall, Franklin, Wilbanks, Solomon, Journigan, Pieper, Pyle, Chilson, Barkdoll, Robbins, Powers, Goodfellow, Garrels and Lovelady can be found scattered throughout the cemetery. Volumes could be written about them.