Arizona Governor Howard Pyle called the Double Butte Cemetery “Tempe’s Arlington” because so many prominent and influential people from famous Tempe families are buried there. (The Haydens, the Millers, the Moeurs, the Greggs, the Lairds, the Gillilands, to name a few.) There are streets, neighborhoods, major roads and schools named after these families throughout Tempe, and especially in my neighborhood.
The Double Butte Cemetery is today located at the base of a mountain, near a resort, near a minor league baseball field and an interstate constantly humming with traffic. But that wasn’t always the case and Double Butte Cemetery is historically important and a significant element of the development of Tempe as a community. It’s an excellent example of 19th century cemetery planning with its tree-lined avenues and headstones significant for their artistry and craftsmanship.
The cemetery began in September 1887 when citizens formed the the Tempe Cemetery Association. Land was donated in 1888 and has survived for over 100 years as the final resting place of Arizona’s politicians, soldiers, notable residents, farmers, teachers, and merchants.
12,000 people are buried in this cemetery, people whose land and vision and achievements colonized a harsh terrain and led to the development of the Salt River Valley. The Double Butte Cemetery is one of our only links to these people and their lives yet few people today could even locate the Double Butte Cemetery on a map.
But on Sunday, October 31 the city of Tempe is hosting the inaugural narrated walking tour of Tempe Double Butte Cemetery. The journey begins at 2 p.m. and will highlight some of Tempe’s most famous residents. Guides will also answer questions like how Burmeuda grass got to Arizona, why the names Honor, Thanks, and Guests are important and which Arizona Governor declared war on California. (Surprisingly, it was not Jan Brewer, although I wouldn’t put it past her.)
Tickets are a mere 15 bucks and can be purchased at any of the locations listed here.
I can’t think of a better way to spend Halloween aftertnoon than walking through a century old cemetery.