History of Memory Lane Cemetery
Silver City, Grant County, NM
Compiled by Rev. & Mrs. Clifton H. Henderson, Jr.
Donated by the Silver City Museum by Beverly Taylor ©4 July 2001
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The earliest cemetery in Silver City was located between 10th and 12th Streets, and between Santa Rita and West Streets. John M. Bullard, who was killed by the Indians on February 23, 1871, was buried in the old cemetery and later moved to his present location. Mrs. Lettie B. Morrill, in a talk given to the Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter in Silver City on September 19, 1908, stated, "John Bullard, was placed in the first grave dug in Silver City, having been killed while punishing the Indians for an attack upon the new town; the brothers were Prospectors about the country for many years. The last one left for the old home about 1885 saying, ‘It is only a matter of time until the Indians get me if I stay here.’" John M. Bullard’s tombstone is in Section D, the East one-half of Lot 14, Space 1. It may be reached by entering the main gate and turning east on Lilac Lane for about 120’ until a white tombstone is seen at the head of a grave covered with pieces of old bricks. An old timer said that the bricks were put on the graves to keep the burros from walking on the graves. Just to the North of John Bullard’s tombstone, one can see the grave of Mrs. Henrieta J. Culver who appears to be the second person buried in Silver City. She was born September 10, 1846, and died November 8, 1871. She was the daughter of Sarah A. and Thomas J. Bull, Sr.
Another 20 yards South on Cypress Lane brings one to the grave of Mrs. Catherine Antrim (1829-1874). She was the mother of Billy the Kid and died of tuberculosis in Silver City on September 16, 1874. Originally there was a small weather-worn wooden slab over the grave, but it had about disintegrated in 1950 when Sidney H. Curtis and S. Ernest Pollock (then owners of what is now the Curtis-Bright Funeral Home in Silver City) donated the present small granite headstone.
It took a great deal of planning and many years to move the cemetery from its old location to the present one. In the November 1, 1873 issue of Mining Life, it was noted that the cemetery was in the path of the water lines to the main part of town, and a suggestion was made to move the location of the cemetery before others were buried there.
As a beginning effort to move the cemetery, the February 6, 1876 issue of the Grant County Herald had the following:
The Legislature having at the late session enacted a low prohibiting the use as a cemetery, of any grounds within the limits of any town or city; and our public burial grounds being within the townsite, it becomes necessary that the citizens of Silver City take immediate action in reference to the selection of a proper place and the removal thereto of the remains of persons who have been interred in the old cemetery, for which purpose all who feel interested in this matter are requested to meet at Van Epps’ Hall Monday evening, February 7th at 7 o’clock sharp. (Signed)
Like many changes, it took several years and in The New Southwest, September 10, 1881, it states, "As will be seen by the proceedings of the City Council, John A. Miller has made a proposition to move the bodies in the cemetery above town, and the proposition has been accepted."
PROCEEDINGS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
…A communication was received from
John A. Miller offering to remove at his own expense the
bodies buried in the cemetery at the north end of the
town, and to re-inter said bodies in a proper manner in
some cemetery, outside the city limits, designated by
the City Council; provided that the city would then deed
him the ground now occupied by said cemetery. On motion
was unanimously agreed to accept the proposition of Mr.
J.A. Miller, the time and place of removal to be
designated at a future meeting of the Council….
January 7, 1882—The New Southwest
The graves in cemetery flat are being removed to the second hill east of town.
January 14, 1882—The New Southwest
Upon exhumation of the body of Elijah Weeks in the removal of the remains from the old cemetery, it was found to be wonderfully well preserved, so well that his features were almost as recognizable as when living. The body of Parson Young lay face downward. But he did not turn in his coffin as he was for some reason buried in that posture, why we know not. Our readers will remember that after he was cut down from the gallows, an autopsy was performed on his body. His head was cut open and his brains dissected, and as Macbeth says, "when the brains are out, the man dies."
Mrs. Helen Lundwall provided the following information:
From the Deed Book #4 of the Town of Silver City, dated March 13, 1882—The Block known as "Cemetery" bound on the N. by 12th St.; on the E. by Santa Rita, on the S. by 10th St. and the W. by West St. deeded to Martha C. Miller. Her husband, John A. Miller agreed with the town to remove the persons buried in the cemetery and put them where families desired, in exchange for the land. He then built his home on the corner of 10th and Santa Rita Streets.
An effort was made to trace the ownership of the land of the present cemetery back to 1882. In 1945 Mr. and Mrs. Fiske Harsh made a gift to the Town of Silver City of 13 acres of land, which comprise the Memory Lane Cemetery. The map of the Memory Lane Cemetery shows the cemetery to be just over 16 acres today, and the graves from before 1900 are located in every section of the 16 acres. Three different organizations, Ancient Order of United Workmen, Knights of Pythias and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, had cemeteries located here and apparently Mr. Miller had the bodies removed from the old cemetery to location in and near these existing cemeteries.
Mr. P.H. Harsh came to Grant County in October of 1908, and bought the Rosedale Dairy from Mrs. Agnes Morely Cleaveland. Apparently the City Cemetery was on this land at that time and was owned by the Harsh family until 1945 when Mr. and Mrs. Fiske Harsh gave it to the city. Mrs. Harsh stated that she did not know when they started burying people on the land and she thought that Mr. P.H. Harsh (her father-in-law) and Mr. Pollock of Cox Mortuary had some sort of arrangement.
Further information has been gleaned, since the start of the recording of this cemetery, which supports the above theory. Since the early graves are located all over the present 16-acre cemetery, people were burying the remains of their loved one on the hill even though the area was not designated as an official cemetery.
Mr. Hubert Robertson said that several years ago members of the American Legion Post, 18, were concerned about having no proper place to bury the dead in the area and that no one was responsible for the place where the remains were being buried. The American Legion appointed Jimmy Ryan, Josh Brent, and Hubert Robertson as a committee to see what could be done. Mr. Robertson said that he was appointed to handle the legal end of the problem and the first thing to do was to find out who owned the land. It was found that the Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) the Knights of Pythias and the Ancient Order of United Workmen (according to the Quit-claim Deed), each owned 1.095 acres and that Fiske Harsh owned the surrounding land. The three organizations had deeds on their land dating back to November 1904, and had acquired the land from Thomas Allen and Joshiah H. Feagles at that time.
The American Legion solicited funds from the public and was able to obtain the three cemeteries for a small amount and the remainder from Mr. Fiske Harsh. In Book 103, pp. 356-7. One sees a warranty deed transferring "13.150 acres more or less, excepting about 3 acres owned by I.O.O.F. and Knights of Pythias therein…." From Fiske Harsh and Annie F. Harsh to the Town of Silver City. The deed is dated December 31, 1944.
The information stated before, that the Harsh’s gave the land, was taken from Fiske Harsh’s Obituary in a March 1974 newspaper clipping. The deeds transferring the three cemeteries of the organizations are dated in early March of 1945. All four deeds may be found in Book 103 of Grant County Deed Records.
Mr. Robertson said that the American Legion acquired the deeds and turned them over to the Town of Silver City along with a balance of money that was left over after paying for the land and expenses. This was the beginning of the City Cemetery.
After 1947, the city started selling cemetery spaces and kept records of who purchased the lots. Their concern at City Hall seems to be with who owns a lot and records who is buried there if the information is given to them. The concern of this study was to determine who is buried in the various places in the cemetery and very little could have been achieved without the full cooperation of the personnel of the Town of Silver City. Their help and resources are certainly appreciated.
The following advertisement appeared in The Silver City Enterprise on August 1, 1957:
Notice to the Public
Silver City Cemetery
The Town of Silver City
Effective August 16, 1957
Miss Stella Vaughn did the research and won the approval from the State Cultural Properties Review Committee to put an historic marker for Memory Lane Cemetery. It reads as follows:
Old Silver City
In this pioneer cemetery lie the remains of early settlers, merchants, miners, politicians, and railroad men who contributed to the development of southwestern New Mexico. Among those buried here are Katherine Antrim (1829-1874), mother of Billy the Kid, and Ben V. Lilly (1856-1937), well-known hunter and guide for Theodore Roosevelt.
Ben Lilly’s grave may be visited by entering the main gate and going for about 20 yards south on the Avenue of Memories. Rose Lane angles off of this in the southwesterly direction. Go down Rose Lane until the road intersects to the right. Go on down Rose Lane about 30 feet and Ben Lilly’s grave is in the third lot (about 50 feet) to the west in section G, Lot 6, Space 1. His marker is not large and reads as follows:
Lover of the Great Outdoors
Dec. 31, 1853, Hazelhurst, Miss.
Dec. 17, 1936, Buckhorn, N.M.
Courtesy: Town Country Garden Club
Mr. Sidney H. Curtis should be given a great vote of thanks from the entire community for the care and for what orderliness there is today in Memory Lane Cemetery. He came to Silver City in February of 1937 and worked for O.C. Hinman Funeral Home for four and one-half years. He then started working for W.S. Cox, Inc. in June of 1941 and by 1953 was able to buy out Mr. Pollock’s interest in Cox Mortuary when Mr. Pollock died. Mr. Curtis kept the only existing map of the cemetery that showed the name of the buried person and he should be thanked for the records in existence today. Excellent records were found from 1947 until the present time. Mr. Harry Bright was concerned about keeping careful records after Mr. Curtis could no longer do so, and today, The Rev. C. M. Henderson, Jr., is careful to keep a clear record of where people are buried. Note: Reverend Clifton M. Henderson, born August 6, 1918, died April 14, 1992.
Another big vote of thanks should go to The Town and Country Garden Club of Silver City for adopting the Memory Lane Cemetery as its project. The Club has made many improvements to the Cemetery…chain link fencing, adequate surface drainage, roads, permanent vegetation, beautification of Baby Land and other improvements. The Town and Country Garden Club has contributed equipment and facilities in the amount of $20,000 since they have taken the Cemetery as their project in 1960. Special thanks should be given to Mrs. Rider Rhinehardt who was the President of the Town and Country Garden Club when the Club instigated the beautification of Memory Lane Cemetery. The past and present members of the Cemetery Board have been of great service and deserve praise for improving the cemetery.
The Curtis-Bright Funeral Home (Cox Mortuary) records cover the years 1901-1912, and 1917-1978. The Hinman Funeral Home records include the years 1911-1938. The attached list has only about fifty known names before 1900. Many people were buried her before 1900 and the grave markers have long since gone to dust and there is no way of knowing who is buried in many of the locations. In an effort to determine who they may have been, the obituaries and death notices of the early newspapers are included with this list (noted: location unknown). To date (approx. 1978), all that is available is 1874-1882, but in the future, it is hoped to have this completed through 1917.
Many people think that Curtis-Bright owns the cemetery or makes a profit on the sale of spaces in the cemetery. This is not true. At times in the past, the city has paid a small expense fund of $5.00 or such to Curtis-Bright for the staff there to locate spaces in the cemetery for patrons, but at the present time it is a free service given by Curtis-Bright Funeral Home. Neither Curtis-Bright nor its employees receives any remuneration at all for locating grave spaces.