This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Timeline for pioneer cemeteries in the Phoenix, Arizona area


1870 - The Phoenix town site was created October 20, 1870. Phoenix incorporated February 25, 1881.

1871- The first City Cemetery is located on the SW corner of the 1871. Original Phoenix town site plat map, Blocks 57 and 58 between Jackson and Madison Streets and Fifth and Seventh Avenues. The area contained the remains of people who died in Phoenix between 1868, when the city was founded, and 1884, when the cemeteries at 14th Avenue and Madison Street, Phoenix, officially opened. City Fathers deemed the first City Cemetery unsightly and ordered it closed in 1884. All known remains were removed by mid 1880s.

1877 - Williams (also known as Crosscut) Cemetery, first burial, at today's NW corner of 48th St. & Van Buren St.

1880 March - Neahr Addition, City of Phoenix, filed for record March 6, 1880.

1881 - “A.D. Lemon spoke of the necessity of a suitable and decent place of interment, and of the shameful place of depositing the dead of this city at present” - March 4, 1881 editorial.

1884 May - Citizens and community leaders complain about the first City Cemetery “right at the door of our beautiful city and in the most irregular, dilapidated, and disgraceful condition…a disgrace to the town” - Phoenix Daily Herald May 27, 1884.

1884 July - Fraternal Cemeteries: Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F), Knights of Pythias (K of P), Ancient Order of United Workmen (A.O.U.W.) - E 1/2 Block 32, Neahr Addition, surveyed by Captain William Hancock and filed for recording July 19, 1884.

1884 July - Jerry Millay, attorney, moved bodies from potter's field of first city cemetery to W 1/2 Block 32, Neahr Addition. Contract entered into July 17, 1884 and paid off on October 6, 1884 by common council.

1884 September - The fraternal orders of the city bought Block 32, Neahr Addition, keeping the east half of the Block to establish their cemeteries, sold the west half to others for use as the City Cemetery. The new “City Cemetery” was surveyed by Thomas W. Hine and recorded September 3, 1884. These five cemeteries lie south of Madison Street comprising four acres of fraternal grounds and four acres dedicated to public and City burials.

1884 October - Jerry Millay deeded to John R. Loosley, a City Councilman, some of W ½ of Block 32, Neahr Addition. Referred to as “Loosley Cemetery".

1884 - Families move their burials from the first City Cemetery (also known as "old Phoenix" cemetery) to one of the newly established cemeteries. City officials contracted to move unclaimed remains to the new City Cemetery (aka Loosley).

1885 - John R. Loosley moved more remains circa 1885. First burials were in north part near Madison Street. A great many remains were beyond ID so they were buried in two large common graves at the north end of City Cemetery (sites unknown due to lost records).

1887 October 3 - Blocks 57 and 58, the "old Phoenix cemetery" of original town site, ordered to other uses. No burials there for two years.

1887 - November Porter Cemetery established. Lulu G. (Cotton) Porter received quit claim deed from J.M. Evans for S 1/2 Block 22, Neahr Addition, including lots 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 in November of 1887. Surveyed by William M. Breakenridge and presented for recording March 24, 1891.

1888 - Blocks 57 & 58 of old Phoenix town site deeded to School District No. 1 on April 26, 1888. West End School built. During the construction of foundation trenches additional graves were found. These remains were reinterred at the new City Cemetery.*
*Note: this Timeline identifies six different periods of burials being removed from first City Cemetery to the new City/Loosely cemeteries. Most of these became unmarked and unknown grave locations.

1889/1896 - Loosley filed June 5, 1889 and February 12, 1896 for further subdivision of City Cemetery W ½ Block 32, Neahr Addition.

1891 - Mesa Cemetery established in Mesa, Arizona.

1894 September - W.S. Allbright filed September 28, 1894 for a subdivision of W 1/2 Block 32 Neahr Addition.

1895 - Glendale Cemetery established in Glendale, Arizona.

1896 - Double Butte Cemetery established in Tempe, Arizona.

1898 - St. Francis Cemetery established in Phoenix, Arizona.

1898 - Rosedale Cemetery was laid out by J.W. Walker at Lots 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of S ½ Block 21, Neahr Addition; plat recorded April 30, 1898. Surveyed by C. (Jim) Dobbins. The N 1/2 of Block 21 also used for burials but no plat filing has been found.

1906 - Greenwood Cemetery opened (Van Buren St. west of I-17). From 1906 –1920s as many as 190 total removals from these seven cemeteries occurred with the majority going to Greenwood.

1909 - The seven cemeteries at 14th Avenue and Madison/Jefferson declared abandoned in 1909. By 1914 new burials were barred and prohibited there.

1930s - Preservation, restoration, and research was begun in the late 1930s by the original Pioneers' Cemetery Association but was interrupted by the sudden death, on Dec. 23, 1940, of lead researcher Thomas A. Hayden and then World War II.

1983 - The present Pioneers' Cemetery Association (PCA) was formed and created a working relationship with the City of Phoenix to further work at these seven cemeteries.

1988- May The seven historic cemeteries were officially designated as the Pioneer & Military Memorial Park (PMMP).

1993 - The Pioneer & Military Memorial Park received “Historic District” status by the City of Phoenix.

1994 - The historic Smurthwaite House, designed by James M. Creighton and built in 1897, made a landmark journey of 26 city blocks from its original site at 602 N. 7th Street, NW corner of 7th and Fillmore, to its current location at Pioneer & Military Memorial Park.

2001 May 17 - Smurthwaite House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It now serves as the Visitors Center and Archival Library for the State’s burial records.

2007- The Pioneer & Military Memorial Park (PMMP) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 1, 2007.

2012 May - Historic remains found at site of first City Cemetery, curated by State Repatriation Coordinator.

2013 June - These remains interred at City Cemetery section of Pioneer & Military Memorial Park.

Image above: Greenwood Cemetery in the 1940s, 27th Avenue and Polk, Phoenix, Arizona. The view is looking northeast.

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