The Jewish Area 
In Tombstone's Boothill Cemetery

Tombstone, Arizona


Boothill Graveyard in historic Tombstone is known throughout the world as the final resting place of the wild west's most legendary characters. The Clantons and McLowrys, Billy Claiborne, Billy Grounds, China Mary, Dutch Annie, Quong Kee, Red River tom and dozens of other famous and infamous are buried here.

Boothill was established as Tombstone's cemetery in 1879 It was closed in 1884 because it was full. Located on a hill facing the Dragoon Mountains, Boothill is designed in long narrow piles of stones marking its occupants. One area of the graveyard was reserved for Chinese citizens. Another isolated area in the far northeast corner is a space once dedicated as a Jewish cemetery.

Local Jews were buried some distance from the good and the bad who had died naturally or violently in the rip-roaring days of Tombstone's silver rush. Boothill has been visited by thousands, but the existence of the Jewish cemetery was recalled by only a few.

In Hebrew, a cemetery is variously termed as "bet kevarot," a place of sepulchers, or "bet olam," the house of eternity The general custom prior to Talmudic times was to be buried in family sepulchers. The institution of a cemetery as a common burial ground is post-Biblical.

The earliest Jewish cemetery in the U.S. was recorded in 1656 in New Amsterdam where authorities granted the Shearith Israel Congregation "a little hook of land situated outside of this city for a burial place." Its exact location is now unknown. The Congregation's second cemetery, purchased in 1682, is still in existence.

Our cemetery, the historic Jewish cemetery at Boothill, was recently come upon by Judge C. Lawrence Huerta when Tombstone author A1 Turner showed the site to him and his Jewish visitors from Maryland, Israel Rubin and his family. Defined only by a crumbling adobe brick wall, now only about four-feet high, the approximately 2,500-square foot burial ground was generally unnoticed for more than 100 years.

Huerta, a full-blooded Yaqui Indian from Tucson, was spiritually affected when Israel Rubin recited the traditional kaddish prayer at the abandoned site. He was moved to restore the now desolate graveyard in memory of those who lay there and all the departed who are now forgotten. "I'm an American Indian who spent many years in Washington, D.C., working on behalf of my people," he says. "There the Rubin family made me a part of them. The state of the Jewish cemetery at Boothill moved me deeply. A burial place is sacred to my people, and I wanted this place to be treated with the respect it once had. In honoring my Jewish brothers I feel I am also honoring the lost and forgotten bones of my own people who lay where they fell when the west was being settled."

In March 1983, the Tombstone City Council gave its wholehearted approval to Huerta's restoration efforts. His plans received the instant endorsement of the Jewish Friendship Club of Green Valley, Arizona, and a non-profit Arizona corporation was formed to carry out the work involved. The officers and directors of the corporation have acted to clean the site, build the wrought iron fence that protects the remaining adobe brick wall, and to erect a simple monument to commemorate all Jewish pioneers who helped to settle the west before the turn of the century -- rededicating the site to that purpose in October 1983.

The monument stands on a platform faced with rock from nearby silver mines. It bears on its east and west sides the Star of David. On the south side is a HoHoKam Indian sun-symbol -- the word meaning "those who vanished" in the Papago Indian language. Inside are representative Jewish and Indian religious items donated by the officers and directors of the corporation. Included is soil from Israel so that those who lie there can "dwell in the house of the Lord forever." The flames of the especially designed "menorah" atop the monument spell "Shalom," (Peace), symbolizing the hope that all who share Mother Earth can dwell together in harmony. Appropriate ceremonies marked the dedication of the monument in February 1984.

To provide easier access to Boothill's historic Jewish cemetery, the director of the compound has cleared a path and marked it with an appropriate sign.

Permission was given in 1987 by The Tombstone Historical Jewish Graveyard, Inc., Tombstone, AZ., to reprint or use the information in any positive manner. 

Transcribed by Wilola Follett.




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