Raising money for Prescott’s historian

Improving a ‘mover and shaker’s’ gravesite

By Cindy Barks for the Daily Courier


Local historian and author Patricia Ireland-Williams points out the slightly neglected condition of the gravesite of Sharlot Hall, the founder and namesake for Prescott’s Sharlot Hall Museum. Ireland-Williams recently started a Gofundme.com campaign to raise money to refurbish Hall’s grave.


 For a woman whose name conjures up images of well-tended rose gardens and orderly museum displays, Sharlot Hall’s final resting place is looking decidedly disheveled these days.

Perched at the top of a hill in the Arizona Pioneers’ Home Cemetery off Iron Springs Road, Hall’s gravesite commands sweeping views of Thumb Butte and the surrounding granite formations.

But the views of the grave itself left something to be desired for local historian and author Patricia Ireland-Williams.

“I just thought it needed to be refurbished,” Ireland-Williams said, as she stood recently in front of the grave of Hall, the founder and namesake for the Sharlot Hall Museum.

Compared, for instance, with the grave of another notable Prescott pioneer, Big Nose Kate (also known as Mary K. Horony-Cummings) — a prostitute and longtime companion of gunfighter Doc Holliday — Ireland-Williams says Hall’s grave is nothing special.

Big Nose Kate also is buried at the Pioneers Home Cemetery, and Ireland-Williams pointed out that her grave is well-known in Prescott and is often decorated with flowers.

Dale Sams, administrative services officer for the Arizona Pioneers’ Home, which administers the cemetery, agrees: “I get calls all the time from people who want to visit (Big Nose Kate’s) grave,” he said this week.

On the other hand, Hall’s grave has a forlorn aura — bordered by a loose ring of river rocks, and covered with a green artificial-turf carpet.

Hall, who died April 9, 1943, was also Arizona’s poet laureate and historian, and Ireland-Williams says she deserves a more noteworthy gravesite.

“She was a mover and shaker in the community,” says Ireland-Williams. “I’m a feminist, and I like women who are very forward thinking. And (Hall) was one of the very first women historians (in Prescott).”

After consulting with Sams, Ireland-Williams developed a plan for Hall’s grave, and then started a Gofundme.com fundraising drive through charitable group Prescott Pines Questers to generate the money to carry it out.

The plan involves bordering the grave with an antique metal fence, which dates back to Hall’s era of the 1930s and 1940s. In a ddition, the grave will be covered with topsoil and copper rock.

The Gofundme site (gofundme.com/sharlot-halls-grave-improvement) has a goal of $600, and by Wednesday, Feb. 22, the effort had already raised $500.

Sams said the Pioneers’ Home reviewed the plans and determined that the improvements would be appropriate.

“The fake grass I don’t think is very attractive,” Sams said, pointing out that the artificial turf does not fit in with Hall’s era. He added: “We have to consider what fits with the period.”

Drew Desmond, a local history blogger, agreed that Hall deserves a more appropriate gravesite.

“She saved much of the state’s earliest history and played a very important role in persuading public opinion for Arizona to become the 48th state,” he wrote on the Gofundme.com site. “She deserves better than this tacky Astroturf.”

Along with the donations of money, Ireland-Williams said she also has received a number of offers for labor — a factor that has kept down the cost of the improvement plan. While $600 is a fairly minimal amount, she said it would cover the cost of buying the vintage fence and copper rock.

Ireland-Williams expects the improvements to be done over one workday in mid-March. Then, a ceremony to unveil the refurbished grave will take place, although the details are yet to be determined.

The deadline for contributing to the Gofundme effort is March 1.


                                                                     © Michelle Young 2012