Pinal City Cemetery

Update: January 23, 2013 — see Pinal City Cemetery Preservation for an update on the preservations efforts and upcoming dedication of the cemetery.

Near Superior, Arizona on a hill overlooking the old townsite of Pinal City lies an old cemetery that is all but forgotten. All that is left of many of the graves are scattered stone piles, tattered flowers and a few headstones that lie haphazard on the rocky ground. As far as we can tell the last person was buried here in 1916. The cemetery gets more visitors than one might expect though, as it claims a famous permanent resident.

Celia Ann Blaylock (or Mattie to her friends) died in Pinal City on July 4th, 1888. At thirty-eight she succumbed to her addiction to alcohol and laudanum (an opiate).

Mattie and Wyatt met in Dodge City in 1879, where Wyatt was an Assistant Marshall. Though not officially married, Mattie introduced herself as Wyatt Earp’s second wife.

In 1879 Wyatt, Mattie, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday and his wife “Big Nose” Kate Elder left Dodge City for Tombstone, Arizona. Wyatt’s brothers and their wives were living there and Wyatt wanted to be near them.

On the way to Tombstone the party stopped for several months to try prospecting at the booming silver town of Pinal City. Wyatt decided the silver badge was the only kind of silver for him and the group moved on to make history at Tombstone.

In 1881, shortly after the famous “Shootout at the OK Corral” Wyatt left Mattie for the last time. Heartbroken, Mattie returned to Pinal City to live out her days. The boom was long over in Pinal City and the town died less than a year after Mattie.

As Lance and I walked the hillside we tried to imagine what the missing headstones would say. A short grave might signal a small child, a cluster of graves might be a family plot. The most heart-wrenching was a small wooden cross that simply said Mom.

It seems like we are losing something valuable, perhaps the only remaining proof of that person’s existence. Or perhaps it is better this way, to let them fade into the earth, into the sunset.

View the Pinal City Cemetery photos.

[UPDATE Feb 2007: In case you are interested in visiting this cemetery, we have posted detailed directions to get there.]

[UPDATE Jan 2013: We have closed comments on this post because there is now an update here: http://fautrever.com/2013/01/23/pinal-city-cemetery-preservation/.]

87 thoughts on “Pinal City Cemetery

  1. Erin Post author

    Thanks for the information about Big Nose Kate, Lester. I had no idea she was also buried here in Arizona. Have fun in Colorado this summer!

    Michael, thank you for your recent update about Mattie Earp’s grave. After all the work you put into the memorial I understand how you must feel about its destruction! I have emailed the Superior Chamber of Commerce in hopes of finding out more about the status of the memorial and the Friends group (I will post all the details as soon as I find out more). Thanks again!

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  2. Stacie Reichwald

    Hello once again. We went back up yesterday April 20th to find the city of Pinal. I guess we where on the wrong side of the 60. We are going back up on Thursday to see if we get diffrent results. This place has really sparked an intrest in my family and we are trying to find as much information as we can. I did learn that the city was populated by 2000+. There was a news paper called “The Pinal Drill” I found a copy of one of the 1st ones for sale as well as copies held by ASU and some down in Tucson. There was also a census taken I found in 1880 1900. Also found 2 families looking for information on Middelton and Rutledge if anyone knows any thing on these families.
    Thanks
    Stacie

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  3. Lester M. Griffith

    I read an article in a book a friend of mine gave to me, and was surprised to find that Ike clanton was shot and killed by a detective Jonas V. Brighton for cattle-rustling. he was buried on june 1st, 1887 under a cotton-wood tree at Jim Wilson’s Ranch, on Eagle Creek, south of Springerville,Az… les

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  4. Vincent

    The Mattie Earp memorial at the Pinal Cemetery was not vandalized; it was removed. The cemetery is located on federal property and people are not free to erect whatever monuments they want. There is a process for dealing with gravesites and cemeteries, which are protected by state and federal laws. In this case, these laws have been repeatedly disregarded and continued activity at the Pinal Cemetery has led to further desecration of other graves within the cemetery. There is currently a proposal being developed that will assist in preservation of the cemetery. Unlike past efforts, this will be done legally and ethically. I would caution anyone planning anything at that site without obtaining proper permission. Please feel free to forward this message to Mr. Papaianni.

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  5. les

    where did you aquire your information from ? may I ask…This cemetery was here long before there was any Federal or State rules, regulation, and laws were established.

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  6. Patricia Welch

    Has anyone seen a grave marking or headstone for a Matthews; I”m not sure of the first name. Maybe James or John. I recently learned my Great Grandfather died in Miami and was buried in Pinal City. Please foreward any info. Thank You. Patricia

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  7. Vincent

    Replying to Les. It doesn’t matter if a site located on public lands existed prior to Federal or State laws. Those laws are designed to protect these cultural resources.

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  8. Erin Post author

    I have long delayed replying to these most recent comments because I was hoping to get some definitive answers about some of the issues surrounding the Pinal City Cemetery. Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed, though I have not given up.

    Stacie – Thanks for sharing the information about the “Pinal Drill” paper. I bet that could come in handy for people trying to find family members. I hope someone can help with information about Middleton and Rutledge.

    Wow, Les, with all your help we will have all of the information about the involved parties from that infamous day at the OK Corral. Thank you for sharing these tidbits.

    Patricia, it sure doesn’t sound like Mr. Matthews would have been buried in this cemetery. You might have better luck at the similarly named Pinal Cemetery which is near Miami, AZ. There is a local historian, George Brunson, who might be able to help you – he has been photographing the headstones at Pinal Cemetery in order to create a record of burials. Perhaps you can e-mail him for assistance: dadbruns@msn.com

    And last but not least, it is great news that there is a proposal in the works for the preservation of Pinal City Cemetery. Vincent and Les (and the rest of us) share an enthusiasm for the site and its story which is wonderful. Vincent, we’d all sure love to have more information about the proposal.

    I know that when concerned and interested citizens work with government entities they can accomplish amazing things. So, if you have an avid interest in this cemetery, and the history that is entombed there, please let the land managers know. You can call the District Office in Phoenix at (602) 225-5200.

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  9. Tisha

    I am planning on going to the cementary soon and was wondering if the directions are the same. I am from Kansas and have followed the Earp members since he was a lawman in Wichita. This cementary is just another piece of the puzzle.

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  10. Erin Post author

    To the best of our knowledge the directions are still the same, Tisha. It has been about a year since our last visit and the plastic bag “marker” was missing but all the directions up until that point were the same.

    Please note that for various reasons the Tonto National Forest has removed Mattie’s marker (though her grave is still there).

    Hope you find it with ease – enjoy your journey!

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  11. Donna

    I am very interested in the restoration process of this cemetery. Any ideas of who to contact in regards to getting something legal done?? I feel it is very important to get the proper monuments up for the deceased. It also needs to be respected, as with any cemetery.

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  12. Erin Post author

    So glad to hear of your interest in the old Pinal City Cemetery, Donna. We completely agree with you about respecting this special place. We’ve heard from numerous other folks who feel the same way. Unfortunately, though we have heard rumors about different agencies and groups working to protect and preserve this site we have not had any luck getting any solid information about these plans.

    We’ve contacted the town of Superior to no avail and our repeated attempts to contact the Tonto Forest Service have also failed. We’ve left numerous messages at the headquarters in Phoenix as well as sent in several emails in the past several years and still have yet to hear back from anyone.

    As you can tell, we are a bit frustrated! We certainly wish we had better information about the cemetery and its future…

    If you find out anything, please share it with all of us here. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!

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  13. Leslie Martin

    Unfortunately the Town of Superior and the Superior Chamber of Commerce have other priorities right now, so don’t count on any help from them at this time. If you want to see improvement at the cemetary, it will be up to private parties to make that happen. It would be great if this historical area could be cleaned up and preserved.

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  14. Erin Post author

    While I am disappointed to hear this it certainly doesn’t surprise me, Leslie. As a former resident of Superior it seems that they are missing out on the opportunities associated with this potential tourist/history attraction.

    People from all over the world are fascinated by the myths and legends of the old west and for better or worse anything associated with Wyatt Earp is incredibly popular.

    While I agree that concerned citizens and interested individuals could make a huge difference, I must caution that since the cemetery is on forest service property all efforts would need proper approval and permits.

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  15. Magda Lena Martinez

    Hi, love to read all about my relatives. My grandmother’s great grandmother, was Matilda Earp. Wyatt’s aunt. I’m related to Wyatt as a cousin, 5X removed. How exciting is that? I feel so thrilled to be related to the famous cowboy. Thanks for publishing. Anyone who wishes to get in touch with me……….e-mail address: wyattearpkin@hotmail.com

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  16. Erin Post author

    Wow – thanks for sharing your story with us, Magda Lena. There is certainly a lot of worldwide interest in your famous relative. Perhaps you’ll have a chance to visit some of the places in Arizona where Wyatt once lived…

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  17. Tom Kelly

    Followed the trail to the cemetary and marked the traie with yellow tape to the left of the fiber optic marker. May make it weasier for those yet to follow. While it was great to find the cemetary i was very disappointed that the grave marker to Matties alleged site was removed. Would like to follow up with more info on the remains of Pinal City. Any directions would be appreciated.

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  18. Erin Post author

    Thanks, Tom for taking the time to mark the turnoff – I’m sure it will be a big help. As for the removal of Mattie’s marker we have learned that the Forest Service removed it since it was not an approved marker. Still do not know exactly where her gravesite is or whether a marker will ever be allowed.

    As for others buried there we do not have that info either. Hopefully, somebody has the info – sad to think that their names might be lost. Have you checked with the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (APCRP) http://www.apcrp.org/ ?

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  19. Connie and Jay

    We have both been long interested in Arizona’s history and spend many hours treking through this beautiful state’s backroads. We always get so excited when we come across footings or remnants of a settlement. After finally finding the Pinal Cemetary about 8 years ago we have made several trips and tidied up Mattie’s marker. Yesterday we found ourselves going through Superior and decided to stop by and visit again. We were so distressed to find the beautiful monument and marker missing. All we could think of were vandals. After finding this website, I think we are even more upset to know the government removed it. They can remove all traces of Mattie I suppose, but they can’t remove her from our hearts. I’m so glad we have pictures of how it was.

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  20. Erin Post author

    Thanks for your comment – we share your interest and enthusiasm for Arizona history, Connie and Jay! We too, lament the missing marker.

    While there have been some exciting developments celebrating history in the Superior area recently, like the opening of the Legends of Superior Trail (that connects Superior to the nearby Arizona Trail), it is still unfathomable why the Forest Service remains so dead set against acknowledging the final resting place of Mattie Earp.

    True, she only lived in Pinal City for two short stints but it is where she chose to live out the rest of her unhappy existence and let’s face it, she’s famous because of her association with that character Wyatt.

    In my experience (years of interpretive work with national parks, state parks, and museums), if there is an angle (a hook as we call it) that grabs the public’s interest then use it to bring them in and expand their understanding. Apparently the folks running this section of the Tonto Forest haven’t learned this yet…I’m still hoping they will.

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  21. Sonny

    In the 1940’s as a young boy I walked and climbed all over the hills west of superior. I climbed up and sat on the edge of Apache Leap and looked at the landscape far below while eating some prickley pears.I remember coming upon an old cemetery, some where in those hills. I usually ended up going over the the top of the hills and ending up in Globe. one of my other spots was Ray Arizona.It usually took 2 days and a night to reach it. Nothing there now,just a mine dump.
    Anyway, thanks for the memories.

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  22. Erin Post author

    Wow, Sonny – it sounds like you really did quite a bit of exploring around there. I’d like to get back up there and do some more myself, one of these days.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  23. Chas

    you would think with all the attention given to this particular cemetary, in matties name , that even if superior did not want to pony up the money for improvements , a collection could be taken , website charity? where people such as i could donate from long distance to provide this historical figure , along with the other souls buried there, a proper place of respect. which i will surely visit one day. I actually tried in vane to fine it last jan/february one weekend, with my inlaws , then went into superior where they had a small festival on main street at a little park . with crafs people selling their wares. it was such a quaint old town . i loved it thinking about who has walked those same streets over the years.

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  24. Erin Post author

    We couldn’t agree with you more, Chas! We love the Superior area and tried digging up as much historical information as we could when we lived up there.

    Which is how we found out that Mattie’s grave was in the Pinal City Cemetery. So of course, we just had to visit it.

    As for donations to help with the upkeep/restoration of this site I am not sure of any group that is dedicated to Pinal City Cemetery. However, the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project specializes in identifying, researching, and restoring/protecting our historic cemeteries. From what I understand they are a non-profit group that would gladly accept donations to support their work (see Neal Du Shane’s comment above). Full disclosure: I have no affiliation with this group.

    Check out their web page to see the information APCRP has compiled on the Pinal City Cemetery:

    http://www.apcrp.org/PINAL/Pinal_Cemetery_111207.htm

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  25. Richard Muscio

    I finally found the cemetery today on my third try in a period of one week. It took a combination of various directions and some trial and error to find the cemetery. After I did get there it took a combination of looking at different angles of various pictures to pinpoint the exact grave location. There is actually a small depression in the ground where the railroad tie was taken out by the forest service (thanks a lot guys). I tied out the location being a land surveyor by profession so the location will not be lost in the future.

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  26. Erin Post author

    Glad your persistence and determination paid off and that you finally found the cemetery, Richard. As you’ve probably read in the above comments there is a lot of consternation about Tonto National Forest’s decision to remove Mattie’s marker. I do hope that someday a suitable marker is put in place.

    One other point, there are several sources that claim that Mattie’s marker did not mark her actual burial site. Everything I’ve read corroborates that she is buried in the Pinal City Cemetery it is just not clear exactly where.

    Someone mentioned that they believed her to be buried a few yards north of the now removed marker’s location.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

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  27. mike sixsmith

    I live in superior and have for all of my life. Ive been to pinal cemetary many times, also to the silver king cemetary. If you find yourself in the area of superior please feel free to stop by my house, I will gladly guide you to some pretty cool sites that history has forgotten, like Pinals mine, cemetary and wagon tracks along with the belmont mine, and some others. i live on the corner of stone and terrace directly behind the church. I believe more people should know of these areas so they arent just lost in time.

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  28. mike sixsmith

    also to elaborate on Mattieqjs grave: to begin with it was a wooden railroad tie structure that someone decided to set on fire for fun,(disgusting), so hearing this a few local people decided to re-build her site in an all steel welded ornate structure to quash that problem, however pinal county and the town of superior stopped them as they began to build because they didnt have a permit to do so, (always over money,) so they abandoned the good hearted idea unfortunately. Cant always believe what the papers say.

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  29. Smokeydebar

    I’ve followed the postings on this site for some time with a mixture of amusement to head shaking astonishment but after Mike’s May 20 posting I have to comment. The Pinal Cemetery is located on lands administered by the Tonto National Forest (FS). Pinal Co. has nothing to do with the development of the cemetery. The Town of Superior has been working with the FS in a partnership capacity towards this end. LOST Trail is a great example of this. All previous “work” done at the cemetery, from the Papaianni monument to the “ornate structure,” was done without FS consultation or concurrence. The guy making the ornate structure was caught by the FS during its construction and told to remove his work. I’ve inspected the cemetery numerous times and have never noticed the railroad ties having been burned or any attempt to burn them. They were removed in late summer 2009 by the FS. For a different perspective on the cemetery, log on to the True West Magazine web site and reread the 6/9/10 and 7/12/10 by Vincent posted on this site.

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  30. Erin Post author

    I share your enthusiasm for the history of the Superior area as well as your desire to keep the stories of these places alive, Mike Sixsmith. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to take you up on your offer to explore one of these days.

    Per Smokeydebar’s suggestion I searched the True West website for articles about Mattie’s grave, while I only found one it was pretty interesting. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it: http://www.truewestmagazine.com/jcontent/true-westerners/true-westerners/investigating-history/2852-a-grave-matter-for-mattie-earp

    The gist of the article is that several interested parties are working together in an effort to protect, preserve, and interpret the Pinal City Cemetery.

    And that, ought to make a whole bunch of people happy!

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  31. Vincent

    Donations made to the “Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project” are made directly to Neal Du Shane. Those funds do not go towards the preservation of cemeteries, but instead go towards grave dowsing and tampering with cemeteries. In fact, while it is commonly known that the railroad ties did not mark the gravesite of Celia Blaylock, Du Shane with his magic coathangers declared that it did and that a baby was buried at her feet, which is an absolute absurdity. It is quite common for Neal and his followers to enter into historic cemeteries and place markers on imaginary graves after the declaring the internee’s age, sex, etc. These acts cause a cultural resource management nightmare by creating a false historic landscape that others may interpret to be real. They also inadvertently desecrate real gravesites that their magical dowsers did not pick up. If someone is interested in supporting the preservation of historic cemeteries in Arizona the should contact the Pioneer’s Cemetery Association at http://www.azhistcemeteries.org. (Note the disclaimer at the bottom of their home page.) Since the PCA is a real 501(c)3 (and not just a Sun City retiree with a SUV, a GPS, and a magic wand) your donations are TRULY tax deductible. In fact, they are a partner in the current preservation project at the Pinal Cemetery. Du Shane’s group is not involved nor have they been on any level with this project. If you have any questions about the cemetery or information you’d like to share, contact the Tonto National Forest at (928) 402-6200.

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  32. Vincent

    Last August we finally had the materials together to implement the Pinal Cemetery preservation project. Aided by local ranchers and Forest Service Hot Shots (those brave individuals who fight fires in the forest) we erected the corner forms and pass through gate. We subsequently returned to complete the four wire fence and erected signage at the new entrance to the cemetery. This project was done with the financial assistance of the True West Preservation Society and the Arizona Pioneer Cemetery Association. The work was hard, the weather was hot, but we accomplished the job. There was no involvement from the grave dowsers or any other self-claimed preservationists.

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  33. Erin Willett Post author

    Thanks for the update on the fence and other restoration efforts at Pinal City Cemetery, Vincent. I have been in correspondence with Steve (Tonto archaeologist) and he sent over a few photos of all the hard work. It looks great! I’m certain all of the folks who have expressed interest in the cemetery on this blog are thrilled to hear about these improvements! I hope to stop by some day in order to appreciate it in person.

    Looking forward, perhaps the site could be adopted by some local citizens? There certainly seems to be enough enthusiasm for it. They could help out by picking up litter or pulling weeds at the site. And it is always valuable to have an extra few pairs of eyes looking around. We have adopted a site down here where I live and I think it is a great example of private citizens helping out government entities.

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    1. Vincent

      Site stewardship is certainly welcome, but it needs to be coordinated with the Forest Service. A key component of this project was to place signage at the cemetery informing people of the law governing archeological sites. For example, if you “pull weeds” you are making changes that could detrimentally affect the site since plants hinder erosion. Likewise, previous efforts to create a monument to Celia Blaylock, while well-meaning, were inappropriate. Hopefully, fencing the property and placing the signage will proactively assist in the cemetery’s preservation and counter the efforts of that have had a negative impact in the past.

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  34. Erin Willett Post author

    Completely agree, Vincent. Any activity would absolutely have to be under the aegis of the Forest Service.

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  35. Bryan

    I just visited the cemetery today and I must say the crew did phenomenal work with the fence and signage, it looks great. Thanks for helping protect the pioneer heritage of the area!

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  36. Erin Willett Post author

    Thanks for sharing about your visit, Bryan. We have only seen photos of the work but we are thrilled with the preservation efforts at the cemetery. We hope to get back up there and see all the improvements for ourselves.

    To read more about the improvements and the upcoming dedication of the cemetery, checkout our new post at Pinal City Cemetery Preservation.

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