“Show me your cemeteries and I will tell you what kind of people you have.” — Benjamin Franklin
Lying peacefully at the north end of E Street, Hawthorne’s cemetery is getting a fresh face. Thanks to the Mineral County Public Works Department, installation of a new white picket fence is nearing completion of Phase 1 at the front or south end of the cemetery’s grounds.
The vision of how to replace an old and dying hedge that for decades lined the cemetery’s south boundary was promoted by Eric Hamrey, Public Works foreman. He knew the hedge needed to be pulled out because, as Hamrey related, “its life was done.” Dying and nearly dead, it was an unsightly welcome to the town’s burying ground.
Hamrey explored various fence options and the Board of Commissioners approved the department’s budget for the fencing. Nearly seven months passed after the fencing was purchased before manpower was available for work to begin, but over the past month the effort has been progressing.
The department’s workers, Matt Madrid and Brian Munden were assigned the task of removing the hedge and preparing the ground for the installation. They then began to work on erecting the fence to exact level. Support posts are being concreted and the posts will be filled with a measurement of rock to prevent potential wind damage.
Installation of the new fence provides a bright, fresh face for Hawthorne’s cemetery. It will be visible to motorists traveling on E Street, the Freedom Road bypass and eastbound Highway 95 coming into Hawthorne. The view from Lady Bird Park (now called Veteran’s Park) at the intersection of the three roads will be pleasing to travelers, visitors and residents alike.
The town of Hawthorne was established by the Carson & Colorado Railroad in April of 1881. The first documented death in the town occurred on May 8, 1881 when David McKinney, a teamster was crushed to death while loading machinery at D. W. Earl’s warehouse near the C&CRR’s freight depot at Fifth and F streets. McKinney’s body was taken to Bodie for burial.
About a week later, on May 14, 1881, Charles C. Carter committed suicide at Steven’s Station, at the summit of the new Bodie toll road grade south of Hawthorne. Carter’s body was removed to Hawthorne where he was buried under the auspices of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Carter’s burial marks the documented beginning of the Hawthorne cemetery.
By 1911, some residents were noticing that the cemetery was being neglected. A movement was promoted to “improve the City of the Dead” and it was suggested that there was “some money with which to build a fence…” It isn’t known if that effort was successful.
Some twenty years later the Hawthorne Cemetery Trustees were working to beautify the cemetery. Water lines were installed in 1934. Trees were donated and planted in 1935 by the Naval Ammunition Depot. The dirt driveways had been cleared of brush growth and the Hawthorne 20-30 Club was to install a tool house.
Afterwards, news accounts of efforts to care for Hawthorne’s cemetery were occasionally published. In 1944, a wooden flagpole erected in 1892 in the old town of Candelaria was donated by the Knights of Pythias and was installed at the cemetery. Senator John H. Miller’s family loaned a flag to be flown on the pole which was the flag that had been used for the ground breaking ceremony for the Naval Ammunition Depot. (This wooden pole was later donated to the Mineral County Museum.)
Hamrey’s vision for beautifying the cemetery speaks well of the people of Hawthorne. Phase 2 of the project is being planned and will complete the span across the south boundary for a full line of the fencing. This phase is dependent upon budgetary restraints.