For more than 20 years I have studied over 100 cemeteries in both California and Nevada as a means of identifying persons now buried in unmarked and unknown graves. From 1997 to 2002 I was the sexton for a cemetery that was founded in 1849. While there I researched some 600 unmarked graves in the cemetery, most of which were unknown to the cemetery association.
Since 2009 I have researched and documented the history of the Hawthorne Cemetery and the many burials made in the cemetery, of which there is no prior or official record kept by the County. Here are just a few pieces of the background information I’ve found:
The Hawthorne Cemetery was first used in 1881 and was continually used without benefit of formal map or burial register until sometime in the mid-1930s. The county has no record of some 321 burials were made within the original portion of the cemetery grounds between the years 1881 and 1930.
In February of 1931, the Hawthorne News reported that an effort to improve the cemetery had revealed that the
county did not own the cemetery. At this same time, a suggestion had been made that “that an extension to the present ground be requested.” The paper reported that, “Hawthorne’s list of dead has practically filled the present cemetery…”
The cemetery was enlarged in November 1931 by a donation of land made by the Navy Ammunition Depot, which at that time owned all of the land that comprised Hawthorne’s cemetery. In the above map image, the area of the cemetery that was used between 1881 and 1931 is shown as “Present Fenced Area of Cemetery.” This area is what to-
day is often called the “sand area,” and is the historic section of today’s cemetery grounds. It was within this area that the earliest burials at Hawthorne were made.
In 1933, the county commissioners appointed a board of trustees for the Hawthorne Cemetery. The trustees worked diligently to improve the cemetery grounds by installing water lines, planting trees and doing general upkeep. Work was primarily done around May of each year, in preparation for Memorial Day observances.
The work of the cemetery trustees continued sporadically. At one time it was suspended altogether. Work resumed again in 1939 and likely continued in the spring of each year thereafter.
In 1937, a children’s vocational class of the Works Project Administration undertook to make “one hundred grave markers for use at the Hawthorne cemetery.” The name on each wooden marker would be painted in white and those requesting a marker were to contact Gerald Kirkpatrick, the cemetery caretaker.
In 1940, Kirkpatrick announced that for “the benefit of persons desiring to locate plots and graves in the Hawthorne cemetery, a list of unmarked graves has been posted on the tool house at the cemetery.” He also noted that “while most of the unmarked graves are included in this list, there are still some undetermined because surviving relatives have failed to assist the committee in making the check complete.” The list held by Kirkpatrick is no longer to be found.
In 1955, Kirkpatrick advised the public through the pages of the local paper as to who to contact “regarding the selection of grave location and placing of headstones and curbing at the Hawthorne cemetery…” He advised that the proper authorities could be contacted through the office of the County Clerk or himself, at his home address.
In 1962 the county finally acquired title to the land on which the cemetery exists.
The “sand area” or historic section of the cemetery is the section surrounded by trees in the center of the aerial photo above. It is this area, the one with the oldest marked and unmarked graves, that I believe the County needs to close to future burials. Further use of this area will only risk desecrating older graves, the presence of which are unknown to anyone living today.
If there are any questions I may be able to answer, please feel free to stop by or call the Mineral County Museum and I will be happy to speak with you. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The phone number is 775-945-5142.
If are any concerns about this request, you are encouraged to attend the Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, May 4, or write to the Commissioners about your concerns.