VERDE HERITAGE 1913-1972: VALLEY VIEW CEMETERY

Tombstone inscriptions help tell the story of Clarkdale's past and present.

Originally built in 1913 by the United Verde Copper Company "that also built and owned the town of Clarkdale, the cemetery's rules and regulations were established by the company."

"The first rule set the standards of lot sales, which were originally $36 a plot. 'No lot shall be sold below the scheduled price, nor without perpetual care,' and in every instance 33 1/3 percent shall be added to the lot's price for its perpetual care."

"A $10 interment preparation of the ground was added to the original $36 lot during the cemetery's early years. In some of the rockier areas, penetrating the ground would take two men as long as ten hours."

[The United Verde Copper Company was sold to the Phelps Dodge Corporation early in 1935.] "In 1954, the Phelps Dodge Corporation transferred the 40-acre cemetery to Earl Halliburton. The cost of a lot was increased from $36 to $75. Much of the price increase was due to higher labor costs for workers to prepare the site for burial."

"Before Halliburton turned the cemetery over to the Town of Clarkdale in 1959, another $50 was added to the burial costs. Broken down, a lot cost $32.50, opening and closing costs were $62.50, and $30.00 was set aside for perpetual care."

"Thirteen years later, the price has stayed the same. With the Clarkdale Town Council serving as trustees of the cemetery, all proceeds which go to the town from each of the lot sales are put into a trust fund. Today, the fund amounts to $45,930."

"Unable to touch the trust fund, the council has invested approximately $25,000 of the money throughout the state for gathering interest on the otherwise untouched money. Much of this collected interest goes back into the care of the cemetery through the perpetual care regulation."

"One of the biggest advantages of the cemetery, for the sake of record keeping, is an itemized listing of all the 2,087 people buried there."

"Town Clerk Dorothy Benatz says, 'It's fantastic' how quickly a site can be located. In a matter of minutes, Mrs. Benatz can pull out old ledgers of names and sites and then refer to an up-to-date marked map for the exact location of anyone's grave or lot reservation."

"Mrs. Benatz says the records may be four to six names short because cremations do not require burial permits. But all burial permits can be located in the town clerk's files."

"Many people have been concerned about the possibility of the 59-year old cemetery running out of room and where it will expand, if at all. After researching the ground plan, Mrs. Benatz says, there's no immediate danger of running out of space. The cemetery is slightly more than half-used."

"From 1913 to 1940, 1,001 graves were filled. Since then there have been 1,085 burials. Mrs. Benatz says there is still room for a minimum of 1,800 more graves."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, November 9, 1972; "Cemeteries" by Janis Marston; page 3.)

"MARKERS OF THE PAST"

"Walking through the older sections of graves in the Valley View Cemetery in Clarkdale can be as educational as thumbing through pages of a history book."

"Once a prospering company town, much of Clarkdale's story can be visualized by reading inscriptions on old tombstones."

"The first person buried there was Cornelius G. Shea, an Irish immigrant who worked in the Jerome mines. He was buried in 1913, less than a year after the United Verde Copper Company developed the 40-acre cemetery. 1913 was also the date of the first lot reservation made by Shea's brother at the time of Shea's death. Today, the reservation is still on record and the plot of ground will remain unused until a person can claim ownership."

"At the time of these earliest burials, 15 specific rules and regulations governed the cemetery. Those reaching the cemetery were under the company's superintendent's or his assistant's charge."

"Drivers were to remain on their carriages or stand by their horses during funeral services. No vehicle was to be driven in the cemetery faster than a walk, and no horse was to be left unfastened without a driver."

"Persons with firearms or dogs were not permitted inside the cemetery."

"Sunday funerals were not permitted, and any person in the cemetery after dark was considered a trespasser."

"Since then, many of the original 15 rules have been either amended or rejected entirely to fit the changing times."

"A noticeable number of graves have the year 1918 inscribed on them. This was the year of the wide-spread flu epidemic in the Valley. To keep people from traveling between Clarkdale and Cottonwood, a 'pest house' was established at Clarkdale."

"Nearly 50 people were buried between the months of October and November of that year, all dying from the epidemic." During October 19 people were buried, with another 27 in November."

"The headstones, weathered smooth by rains and wind, are often illegible. Clusters of them rest in the older sections of the cemetery."

Since 1940, many of the graves "belong to the war dead" and those who served in the military. "Larger headstones overshadow the older graves" and there are colorful flowers.

"The story on each tombstone forms the story of Clarkdale's beginnings and what it is today."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, November 9, 1972; page 18.)

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