Guest Commentary

A piece of history: The humble cemetery on McDonald Drive

Posted 3/12/21

Welcome to the second in a series of articles authored by committee members of The Town of Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee.

The mission of the advisory committee is to, …

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Guest Commentary

A piece of history: The humble cemetery on McDonald Drive

A view of Camelback Cemetery, 6914 E. McDonald Drive, which has a long history of being the final resting spot for many Paradise Valley and Scottsdale residents.
A view of Camelback Cemetery, 6914 E. McDonald Drive, which has a long history of being the final resting spot for many Paradise Valley and Scottsdale residents.
(Photo courtesy of Town of Paradise Valley)
Posted

Welcome to the second in a series of articles authored by committee members of The Town of Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee.

The mission of the advisory committee is to, “Establish, compile, archive and maintain a historical record of the Town of Paradise Valley and produce appropriate literature to commemorate the town’s major anniversary dates.”

In keeping with this mission, a series of articles are being compiled to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Paradise Valley, May 25, 1961.

Many people who drive by 6914 E. McDonald Drive wonder what it is. There’s no sign, so it’s easy to miss this tucked away piece of Paradise Valley history, the small Camelback Cemetery.

Early Scottsdale pioneers, Hans Weaver and his wife Mary, originally homesteaded the 160 acres of land. When their son-in-law, Adolf Poenicke, died in 1915 two weeks after his wedding, the Weavers buried him on the property. After this, the family dedicated two acres of the property for a cemetery, enough for 124 plots or 992 grave sites.

Two years later, Mary Weaver was buried in lot 123. The first resident outside of the family to be buried was a baby girl from Mexico, Dominquez, in 1919.

With a simple hand-written document, the land was donated by the Weavers to a governing body called the Camelback Cemetery Association. Over the years many locals served on its board. Today, the board is led by Jo Ann Handley and Paul Messinger who run the cemetery.

Many families wanted to be buried in the desert. Several prominent citizens are buried at Camelback Cemetery, including judges, a postmaster, and Joe “Cheyenne” Kiser, the World Champion Cowboy of 1923.

Aside from Scottsdale residents, one third of the cemetery is set aside for Catholics who came from Mexico. The crude wooden crosses scattered at the rear of the cemetery identify these graves. Many babies are buried there.

Today, all the plots in Camelback Cemetery are sold and owned by individuals. Plot and space owners are responsible for upkeep of their graves.

On Memorial Day, the Camelback Cemetery Associations puts flags out on all of the military graves. Recently, a young man working on his Eagle Scout badge raised money and replaced the base of the flagpole, as well installed two benches on either side.

Occasionally, volunteers replace the small white crosses or refresh them with a fresh coat of paint.

Now when you drive by the humble cemetery at 6914 E. McDonald Drive, you have some knowledge about how it was established.

The source of this material was an interview with Jo Ann Handley on June 13, 2019 by the Town of Paradise Valley Historical Committee, which can be found here.

Mark your calendars for Sunday, Oct. 17, for our 60th Anniversary Family Celebration at Camelback Inn.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted on behalf of the Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee. The members of the committee are: Chair Catherine Kauffman, Kathryn Gasser, Katrina Lessard, Maureen Strom, Beth Wickstrom, John Wintersteen and Anna Thomasson serves as the City Council liaison.

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