Evergreen Cemetery in Old Bisbee was established in 1892 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It replaced the original site which was built on a higher slope and eventually drew concerns about contamination of water. The remains of those buried in the old cemetery were moved to the new site around 1914. Bisbee was a vibrant mining town from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Phelps Dodge, the mining company who owned the Copper Queen Mine, took care of the cemetery for many years. The final stages of closing the mine occurred in the 1970s, and the once-green oasis of peace began to crumble. There are no longer plots available for purchase.
Recently there has been a torrent of vandalism. The vandals break wings and heads off angels, knock down crosses, and smash the old-fashioned photograph insets on the headstones and destroy the irreplaceable old photos. The cemetery is the resting place for many immigrants who came to Bisbee for work. Russian, Swedish, Irish, Mexican names abound. When the mines closed many people moved away and the headstones were no longer cared for. There aren’t many residents left here of Russian or Swedish ancestry—why would they stay?
The articles in the local papers state that descendents of the deceased no longer live here or “just don’t care.” There are very few residents left here who worked the mines, if there are they are very old. I can’t think of anyone here who has a Russian surname. Most of the residents who actually live in Old Bisbee moved here later, when the town was sort of resurrected as an artists’ colony and LGBT haven in the ’70s. I live on the outskirts of town in a mostly Spanish neighborhood, closer to the Port of Entry of Naco, AZ/Mexico.
A group of people volunteer to maintain the cemetery, but they are older folks and can’t do the heavy work. The century-old Italian cypress trees are being attacked by a blight of bark beetles and are no longer watered. Recently there have been some repair attempts by the city, but years of neglect have taken their toll. I grew up in New England and spent many happy hours in ancient burial grounds scattered all over what’s left of the countryside, but never saw gravemarkers like these back home. Evergreen Cemetery is unique with its simple handmade iron or wood crosses, symbolizing hard lives and unspeakable grief.
Shame on all us who complain. Shame on the politicians, the Occupiers, the Black Friday frenzy, the Air Jordan mobs. Everybody says they don’t have any money but they’re willing to trample people and break down doors to get some stupid gadget or clothing. We wouldn’t last a day living a hundred years ago. No government handouts, no welfare, no foodstamps—no nothing but each other.
A good number of pictures follow, out of a hundred photos I took the other day, choosing ones to publish was hard.