On Oct. 21, the Mustangs 4-H Clover Buds met at an abandoned grave near the Sonoita Crossroads. Their goal was to restore the identity of the grave’s occupant which had been nearly lost for decades. Using rakes, paint brushes, shovels, and trowels, the Clover Buds started cleaning up the gravesite. A new coat of white paint was added to the marker post, weeds were cleared away, new reflectors were added, and 50 iris bulbs were planted around a new, donated cement headstone.
As we were working, community members stopped by to see what we were doing. Ted White, who lives the closest to the grave, told us about his years of wondering and researching about who was buried there. White volunteered to add mulch and a rock outline to the site. Plus, he volunteered to water the bulbs and keep watch over of the grave. A Clover Bud family volunteered to look into creating a metal fence around the grave. I was beyond touched by the hard work of the Clover Buds and the community support. It was one of those moments when your faith in humanity is restored.
As their 4-H leader, I wanted the Clover Buds to have a community service project that meant something and that they would remember. After the work was done, I told them about my search for the grave’s occupant.
In 2005, a friend mentioned the abandoned grave in downtown Sonoita. After a few trial and errors, I found the grave, but nothing was written on the wooden marker. That bothered me. I tried doing a rubbing with paper and chalk to bring up the letters, but nothing appeared. I took photos from different angles, but I still could not make out the name on the marker. On and off over the next 15 years, I would ask various historians and old timers about it. I never got a satisfactory answer. The identity of the grave owner seemed lost to time.
I did stumble across a local book with some information, but further internet sleuthing was a dead end. In 2021, I hit gold when a book about Southern Arizona railroads provided a photo of the grave marker. His information was legible in the photo. Finally, I knew his name and date of death! I was ecstatic.
I quickly dove into genealogical research, public records, and census data. Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with much solid information. No death certificate exists, which isn’t surprising, given the circumstances.
Even with my lack of information, at least now I could give him back his name. I contacted Arizona Pioneer and Cemetery Research Project (APCRP) and they donated a headstone. I purchased paint, brushes, reflectors, iris bulbs, and set to planning how to restore this gravesite and his memory. I also wanted to share his story. Here is the reconstruction of his last few days and the hundred plus years of his gravesite.
In 1914, Albert Hall started his day working for the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad Company. The railroad company had been sent to Sonoita to repair damage caused by recent flooding. In those days, railroad workers made campsites while they worked on damaged sections of track. On that day, Albert Hall was sent five to six miles west of the crossroads to repair a trestle. It was said that the infamous Sonoita winds were blowing and one tremendous gust blew Hall off the trestle. The fall from such a height broke his neck, killing him. His coworkers brought him back to Sonoita where they had set up camp.
Because the railroad didn’t have any next of kin information, he was buried near the campsite. A simple wooden marker in the shape of a headstone was inscribed ALBERT HALL 1914 and placed over his resting place.
As years passed, Ed LeGendre, who purchased the property from the railroad, maintained the gravesite. In the early 1960s, Ed Pruitt purchased the land and planted cottonwoods and Italian cypress trees near the grave to stop people from driving over it. Three of the original six Italian cypress trees still stand guard today. By 1975, the original wooden marker was nearly illegible. By 2005, it was barren of information. At some point, a rebar cross and a metal pole were added to the site. Reflectors were added, but time had removed the red reflectors and left only the metal casing.
That brought us to that October evening. Albert’s new cement headstone was installed. Everything was cleaned up and in place. Albert had his identity back and his story has been told.