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Jack Bell - God's Acre in the Desert
Nevada State Journal - December 1, 1926, Page 7


Smoke wreaths by the desert camp fire in the twilight brings back the reveries, strained faces at the gaming tables, big deals in prospects and mines: the dance halls and the hundreds of members of the half-world striving, striving; the barks of a hundred hoists, the fevered calls of stocks on the exchanges, maelstroms of desert and city traffic, fourteens and twenties bringing in their assortment of merchandise in trailers: all bustle, all orderly confusion, and a popular of 30,000 in a few short months! This is, in part, a brief picture of the desert mining camp of Rawhide, Nev., in 1907-8. Then came the million-dollar fire loss on September 3, 1907: rebuilt, and a cloudburst just one year to the day following the fire, devastating the new camp, is but a brief - very brief - sketch of this world-famous camp.

25 Residents Now

Now the population is but a scant 25 souls. The same that one finds in every abandoned mining camp that had the flurry and high temperature excitement, all alike, the sore spots on the colored hills. Here and there where fortunes were taken from the ground at grass roots, broken-down buildings, a number of gallows frames that still stand the desert elements, skeletons of heydey boom. The outlines of the streets that were at one time gorged with hurrying throngs, men and women alike. Frenzier real estate purchases and trades that ran into the five figures. Thirty five gaming saloons, each with a premier orchestra. Five bands, all doing a rushing business. Great general stores. Everything could be had that can be found in any city anywhere.

Standing alone, forsaken, forgotten, the most soul-stirring, heart-sickening sight that a mind can build under any circumstances anywhere on earth. Forlorn, the home of the dead, two miles east on the early overland trail from Rawhide, Nev., and far removed from the highway, the home of the long-forgotten dead.

The cemetery was given by a prospector, a part of his claim. It lies in a desert wash where the waters from cloudbursts rage down in sweeps of sand and sagebrush debris. The board head-markers, storm-sand blasted, names unrecognizable. Here the faint marks of a child's grave! Loving hands that have gone far away outlined the little spot with heavier rock that one can see. Now where the wooden marker has been turned to the east the dim-painted name can with difficulty be deciphered. God! What desolation! NOt a blade of grass, the very nearest tree 40 miles away, and the closest water 25 miles in the soap-bubble distance on the vast area of alkali flats. Barren hills, no living thing, not even a lizard, the graves forgotten. No loving hands to keep them green; no visitor, with the single exception of the stray coyota, and even he, the desert sneak, swerves and does not cross the sacred ground.

Notables Here

There are some notables buried here. A famous titled Irishman, in ill health, took the short way out, and lies in a space flat and gravel-covered. Over yonder are the last resting places of three scarlet women who took the nearest way to rest. Here is what had been an old-time prospector, aged and bent in his quest for riches. He made it and subcombed to the alurements of a city slicker, who robbed him, the slicker soon afterward meeting a just demise from the hands of an old partner, who smoked the non-producer into the other world with a timeworn old Frontier .45 Colts, and was never held by the jury. Justifiable homicide. He lies beside a Frenchman who could not stand the hardships and lack of the comforts of his former environment. Pneumonia. So on it goes, here whee a bad gunman lies, and next to him the toil-hardened body of the old washerwoman who followed excitements and stampedes all her life. Pneumonia took most of these three score and ten. The newest grave, marked by a wooden cross, was taken to this desert resting place three years ago, one single mourner following - a woman.


In the evening the night birds seem to sing a sweeter lullaby, the magnificent stars come out, and one can imagine the gentle halo that spreads over this, the most desolate spot of its kind on the face of the earth. The mockingbirds, desert starlings and desert sparrows awaken the world as they strain their throats in melody and harmony to the opening of the day, a religious fervor apparently given by the feathered songsters to remind any wandered of the sage wastes that these bodies are not forgotten, that the unmarked graves are remembered by them, and that each and every day they foregather and sing processional and recessional the departed souls. But one only finds the birds there in the late evening and in the steel gray of the morning. Ghastly! A heart wrench is in each and every little marker in this wash where the elements hold sway in sand storm and cloudburst.

In all the United States, in each and every phantom city of mine stampede, glory and rush, in any mining camp there is no such view. One has desires for hasty departure, to get as far as possible away from this forgotten mid-desert where winds and sun glare hold carnival, while they sleep on and on.

Of course, there are heartaches in the places of comfort and amid pleasures and plenty. These graves are probably green in the memories of many. Even the unknown dead resting there in the great bleakness are remembered by many of the old-time prospectors when they smudge their fires in the worlds of gray sage. Some one they knew. An old prospector never forgets. No warped mixtures of grinds of flowing town and city strife and life assail his brain. His mind is clear, with the clearness of religious decency, honesty and liberality for his fellow man. All men are good and all women are pure to him. The thousands of miles of hill, mountain and desert give him confirmation to the great Creator of all things. No priest or candle is his need out there in the great world of primal things.

A Sermon

So it is with those who lie in this lonely place. Their souls went marching on. Again the extreme horror of it all forces an argument into the mind that these people are not forgotten, but are just as close to their Maker as those who lie among the green trees and velvet lawns, with costly headstones and marble shafts.

To visit this forsaken burial ground teaches one who wanders in the unsurveyed, uninhabited, unknown, the fallacy of wordly things. There is a sermon, there is food for thought that takes one back to Mother's knee. There is a sort of fear, a feeling of aloneness, that prompts immediate correspondence with those who have become almost strangers to him, all because of his wanderings in the outlands, alone.

Right away one wants companionship. His burros seem to feel the atmosphere and remain near, and seem anxious to leave the vicinity at first break of dawn. One's mind, for hours afterward is in turmoil with a thousand queries, and for days dissatisfied and uneasy. Uncanny! Weird!

Don't visit this place or you will be out of sorts for days and days with the pity of it all.

(Copyright, 1923, by Jack Bell.)

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