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