Did You Know: Pioneer And Military Memorial Park A Territory-Era Cemetery

June 27, 2014

(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
Pioneer and Military Memorial Park serves a monument to Arizona pioneers. The cemetery is located near the Arizona State Capitol at Jefferson Street and 15th Avenue.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
This area of the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park is called Porter Cemetery. It’s one of seven cemeteries in the Park. This is where many Arizona Territory veterans are buried.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
This memorial serves as a reminder of the wars in the mid- to late-1800s Arizona pioneer veterans served in.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
Darell Duppa is among the many notable Arizona pioneers buried here. Duppa is responsible for naming Phoenix and Tempe.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
The 14 people unearthed during 2012 construction near on 6th Avenue and Madison Street are now buried at Pioneer and Military Memorial Park. The fencing around the plot is from the time when the cemetery was established at Jefferson Street and 15th Avenue
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
The plaque commemorates the remains of the bodies of early Arizona pioneers unearthed in 2012.

Ever thought of digging up some history at a cemetery? No, not that kind of digging! It’s more like locating important people who once impacted a village, a city and even a state.  There’s such a place right here in the Valley

On the corner of Jefferson Street and 15thAvenue in downtown Phoenix, in between modern day government buildings, sits Pioneer and Military Memorial Park. Did You Know… this cemetery is the final resting place of thousands of Arizona pioneers?

“These are people that had influence all over the state of Arizona and their final resting place ended up here in Phoenix,” said Frank Barrios of the Pioneer Cemetery Association, the group that oversees and protects the history and the remains of early Arizona cemeteries.

“Unbelievably important, historical cemetery that most people don’t even realize is here,” he said.

The cemetery was originally located around Madison Street and what today is 7th Avenue. Barrios says residents back then didn’t want the town’s burial ground so close to the outskirts of its growing community. So, around 1884 this became the burial area for the townspeople.

The city purchased one cemetery, another was privately owned which included a military section for veterans. Several organizations also acquired land for their members. Ultimately there were seven cemeteries. It was referred to as Block 32 at the time. 

By 1914 the cemetery was abandoned and closed. The city of Phoenix took it over in the 1950s, then changed the name. And in the late 1980s city voters approved a bond to protect and restore the cemetery. 

“With the bond issue, they came in fixed the headstones, built the beautiful fence that you see around here,” Barrios said.

It also helped begin a restoration and preservation effort. Among those notable Arizona pioneers: John Alsap, the first mayor of Phoenix. Darell Duppa, who is credited with naming Phoenix and Tempe, and Jacob Waltz, the man who discovered a gold mine in the Superstition Mountains and kept the location a secret. Many others are buried here.

“It’s around 3,600 burials that we know of. And there’s only like 600 and something headstones. Many of the people that are buried we know they’re buried here but in some cases we don’t even know the exact location of their burial," Barrios said.

In 2012 the remains of 14 people were unearthed during construction near the original cemetery site — on 6th Avenue and Madison Street.  Those remains were reinterred in Pioneer and Military Memorial Park nearly 100 years after it was closed.