Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009
We've got a controversy brewing here in Arizona (actually, it's been brewing for some time and just boiled over). Fueled by the popularity of movies like Tombstone and Wyatt Earp, history enthusiasts located the Pinal, Arizona cemetery where Mattie Earp, Wyatt’s second wife, was buried. Although the actual location of Mattie's grave is unknown, several years ago someone illegally erected a shrine for Mattie:

Of course, Mattie, who Wyatt deserted when he left Tombstone, resorted to her old trade as a soiled dove and in July of 1888, took an overdose of laudanum after telling a male companion "Earp had wrecked her life and she didn't want to live."

Last week we got word that the shrine was removed at the forest service site. Neal Du Shane, a self-professed grave dowser associated with the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project (APCRP), is upset about the removal. After he demanded from the Forest Service a reason for the removal of the memorial, he got a response, which in part states:

"That is news to me. The last decision that we made regarding the memorial was to leave it there, despite the fact that it was intrusive and was by no means an "historic artifact".... our long term goals for the management of the Pinal Cemetery (and others like it) are first and foremost protection and preservation. This includes intrusion by inappropriate, non-historic features (unless they can be shown to be compatible and capable of serving the larger purpose of preservation) as well as protection from vandalism, theft, and the wear and tear of visitation. Our second goal for that particular site is to develop it for interpretation in such a way as to provide accurate, informative history and protect the individual features - graves, markers, etc. - from visitor traffic. We are more than willing to work with anyone or any organization with a similar interest in the cemetery and that shares these goals."
— J. Scott Wood, Forest Archaeologist / Heritage Program Manager for Tonto National Forest Service

Although Du Shane is upset about what he sees as a desecration of a pioneer cemetery, not everyone is happy with the type of work that Du Shane and grave dowsers do in the state of Arizona:

"Grave dowsers have run rampant throughout historic cemeteries around the state. Dowsing has created a cultural resources nightmare because it involves marking and recording thousands of previously unknown and unmarked grave sites (mostly on public lands) through a method that is not scientifically approved."
—Vincent Murray, Historian, Arizona Historical Research

Here's how APCRP describes its method of dowsing to locate graves.

We'll keep you updated on these grave matters.

By the way, if you were following us on twitter via your mobile phone, you would have gotten this breaking news first. Be sure to sign up, so you don't miss our coverage! See our Managing Editor Meghan Saar's blog for how to do it.

"If you compare dreams of olden times with those of our time, you will note that the basic problems have remained the same."
—Emil A. Gutheil

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