Tales from the crypt

Fairview Ceme­tery Tales

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Head­ing west on Cer­ril­los Road, Fairview Ceme­tery i s on t he right, be­tween Cor­dova Road and Baca Street. Stuck at a red light, you might glance over and read the names on the mon­u­ments and larger head­stones. Ca­tron, Rene­han, Selig­man. If you’re fa­mil­iar with Santa Fe his­tory, you rec­og­nize them as prom­i­nent late-19th and early-20th-cen­tury citizens — a gov­er­nor here, an at­tor­ney there. But very lit­tle of Fairview is vis­i­ble from the street. If you’ve never ven­tured through the gates, you haven’t vis­ited the grave of Ju­lia Staab, the in­fa­mous Ger­man-Jewish im­mi­grant and be­reaved mother who sup­pos­edly haunts La Posada down­town. If you haven’t walked the grounds, you’ve never stum­bled into the sec­tion that, of­fi­cially or oth­er­wise, is ded­i­cated to chil­dren. You haven’t traced your fingers across the He­brew let­ters on the mar­ble mon­u­ment to Abra­ham Gold or won­dered who put the re­cent Easter dec­o­ra­tion on Paul “Pee Wee” Romero’s wooden marker. You haven’t seen t he crabap­ple trees in bloom in the spring or stepped off the path onto dirt so soft it causes you to ques­tion how firm the bar­rier is be­tween the liv­ing and the dead.

Orig­i­nally es­tab­lished in 1884, Fairview re­mains a fully op­er­a­tional non­de­nom­i­na­tional ceme­tery, though there have been hic­cups along the way. The Odd Fel­lows and Ma­sons pro­vided non-Catholic burial op­tions in 19th-cen­tury Santa Fe, but as the pop­u­la­tion grew, more space was needed, so two en­ter­pris­ing young busi­ness­men sought land at the quickly de­vel­op­ing out­skirts of town. At the time, most Catholics were in­terred at Rosario Ceme­tery on Guadalupe Street — founded in 1868, and still in use — or at Guadalupe Ceme­tery, which was con­se­crated on ru­ral land in 1886, be­tween what is now St. Fran­cis Drive and Early Street. Guadalupe ceased oper­a­tions in the 1940s; to­day the graves are over­grown by weeds and pro­tected by a locked gate. James T. Ne­whall and Pre­ston H. Kuhn raised the money to build Fairview by sell­ing $25 shares to prom­i­nent Protes­tant and Jewish citizens in­clud­ing, ac­cord­ing to the his­tory of the ceme­tery writ­ten by Corinne P. Sze, “the ed­i­tor of the lead­ing ter­ri­to­rial news­pa­per, lawyers, bankers, mer­chants, a physi­cian, baker, plum­ber, florist, and bar­ber-un­der­taker.” Max­i­m­il­ian Frost, a one­time ed­i­tor of The Santa Fe

New Mex­i­can, was elected pres­i­dent of the ceme­tery com­pany. Kuhn was the sec­re­tary-trea­surer and Ne­whall the su­per­in­ten­dent. Un­for­tu­nately, “mis­man­age­ment is the most char­i­ta­ble in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what fol­lowed,” Sze writes. Af­ter a year of pre­par­ing the land, Fairview was in the red and no lots or buri­als had been sold. Over­sight and own­er­ship of Fairview were tu­mul­tuous for sev­eral years, with turnover of the com­pany’s board, and dis­crep­an­cies over fi­nances and ceme­tery main­te­nance. In 1898, the Woman’s Board of Trade and Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion, led by Ida Riven­burg, took over man­age­ment of Fairview. The busi­ness com­mu­nity had faith in the WBT be­cause of the work they’d done to beau­tify the down­town Plaza and es­tab­lish a li­brary for Santa Fe. They also worked on be­half of the poor; at Fairview they main­tained a sec­tion for burial of the in­di­gent.

As the 20th cen­tury wore on, the city took over care of the Plaza and bought the li­brary from the WBT, which had merged with the Santa Fe Woman’s Club in 1930 and changed its name to the Santa Fe Woman’s Club and Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion. In 1978, af­ter al­most a cen­tury of look­ing af­ter it, the Woman’s Club gave Fairview to Santa Fe County. Sub­se­quently the county stopped sell­ing lots and de­voted the ceme­tery to burial of the poor, with pri­vate buri­als al­lowed on pre- owned lots only. The grounds and fi­nances quickly de­te­ri­o­rated. Just three years later, the county tried to turn the ceme­tery back over to the Woman’s Club — but the Woman’s Club re­fused. Af­ter a year­long stale­mate, the county re­tained own­er­ship and the Fairview Ceme­tery Preser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion was formed. Fairview was at­tacked by van­dals in 1988. They top­pled 67 head­stones, break­ing many of them. Though the stones were put back to­gether by the as­so­ci­a­tion and vol­un­teers they re­cruited, the cracks are still vis­i­ble.

The Fairview Ceme­tery Preser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion took own­er­ship of the ceme­tery from the county in 1998 and con­tin­ues to over­see busi­ness and main­te­nance there. The as­so­ci­a­tion’s pres­i­dent, Dave Ma­son, told Pasatiempo that the big­gest cost is and al­ways has been wa­ter. A sprin­kler sys­tem that was in­stalled af­ter the as­so­ci­a­tion took over for the county im­me­di­ately pro­duced bills in the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars, so they con­verted to drip ir­ri­ga­tion. Main­tain­ing the ceme­tery grounds is a con­stant ef­fort, and the as­so­ci­a­tion has man­aged to keep the prairie dogs at bay. Ground squir­rels and go­phers, how­ever, tend to make them­selves at home.

On Fri­day, April 22, t he Fairview Ceme­tery Preser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and the Santa Fe Woman’s Club and Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion present Fairview

Ceme­tery Tales at the Santa Fe Woman’s Club The­ater —

The Fairview Ceme­tery Preser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and the Santa Fe Woman’s Club and Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion present Fairview Ceme­tery Tales at the Santa Fe Woman’s Club The­ater — the­atri­cal vi­gnettes about his­toric peo­ple who are buried at Fairview.

the­atri­cal vi­gnettes about his­toric peo­ple who are buried at Fairview, writ­ten by mem­bers of the two or­ga­ni­za­tions, di­rected by Kathi Collins, and per­formed by lo­cal ac­tors.

“I don’t know very much about this ceme­tery, but I go past it all the time,” said Har­ri­ett Levine, who is play­ing the role of An­nika in “In­de­pen­dence Day,” writ­ten by Joan Golden. Set in 1927, the piece is about the Mu­gler Millinery Shop and its owner, Anna Mu­gler (1857-1927), who is get­ting too old and sick to run the place by her­self. An­nika is her niece. In the vi­gnette, times and fash­ions are chang­ing, but Anna is re­sis­tant to new things, par­tic­u­larly to hats that are made for bobbed hair. “I’d like to do those rub­bings peo­ple do of graves, but I haven’t ac­tu­ally been in here to do this,” Levine said dur­ing a walk through Fairview with Pasatiempo. “It seems peace­ful here,” she added be­fore ex­plain­ing that the Mu­gler Millinery Shop was “a real hat shop on the plaza, once upon a time. It was re­ally some­thing that ex­isted here. It’s nice to be a part of that.”

Though the vi­gnettes are based on real peo­ple, the writ­ers took great lib­er­ties in cre­at­ing their nar­ra­tives, some­times in­vent­ing sit­u­a­tions out of whole cloth to give voice to his­tor­i­cal di­a­logue. Among those fea­tured are Col. Ralph Emer­son Twitchell (18591925), a Ma­son and his­to­rian who served as mayor of Santa Fe; ar­chi­tect Wil­lard Kruger (1910-1984); jour­nal­ist Laura B. Marsh (1851-1898) and the Fif­teen Club, the pre­cur­sor to the Woman’s Board of Trade; poet Alice Corbin Hen­der­son (1881-1949); Sara McComb (1868-1963), an ac­tivist for Amer­i­can In­dian rights; and Mary Par­sons, an African-Amer­i­can Civil War nurse from Las Ve­gas, New Mex­ico.

Jeff Nell plays Al­bert Ba­con Fall (1861-1944), an un­der­handed lawyer, in “Dec­o­ra­tion Day,” also by Golden, in which he judges a pie- eat­ing con­test with Judge Frank Parker (1860-1932) — a fan­ci­ful scene that al­lows them to ex­plore one an­other’s per­ceived bi­ases and strength of char­ac­ter. Parker presided over t he 1899 t rial of ranch­ers Oliver Lee, Jim Gilliland, and Billy McNew for the pre­sumed mur­der of Col. Al­bert J. Foun­tain and his son, who had been miss­ing for three years. Fall was the de­fense at­tor­ney, and he played a va­ri­ety of po­lit­i­cal games to get his clients ac­quit­ted. Ten years later, Parker presided over the trial of Wayne Brazil for the mur­der of Pat Gar­rett, and Fall, the de­fense at­tor­ney, got a not- guilty ver­dict for the ac­cused. Fall, who served as a United States senator from New Mex­ico and as Sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior, later went to prison for bribery in a se­ries of oil­lease scan­dals known as the Teapot Dome. He isn’t buried at Fairview.

“Fall was a bit on the jerky side,” Nell said. “He would have fit in well with to­day’s politi­cians. He was self-serv­ing, very as­tute, and very aware of who held the power.”

As he walked through the ceme­tery look­ing for Parker’s grave, Nell men­tioned that be­fore he moved to Santa Fe he spent about a decade as a para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tor in Penn­syl­va­nia. He worked with psy­chics and ghost hunters who fol­lowed up on word-of-mouth haunt­ings. Some of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions took place in ceme­ter­ies, in­clud­ing at the Na­tional Mil­i­tary Park in Get­tys­burg. Parker’s grave is a small stone marker with a sur­face so worn it’s im­pos­si­ble to read the let­ter­ing. Nell ran his hands over it to iden­tify the en­graved birth and death years. “Some­one must have messed with this at some point,” he said. “This says 1860 to 1982, which can’t be right.”

de­tails

Fairview Ceme­tery Tales 7 p.m. Fri­day, April 22 Santa Fe Woman’s Club The­ater, 1616 Old Pe­cos Trail $20 with post-per­for­mance re­cep­tion; reser­va­tions ad­vis­able, 505-982- 0560 Fairview Ceme­tery Clean- Up Day 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Satur­day, May 21 For more in­for­ma­tion, email info@fairviewceme­terysantafe.org.

Clock­wise from top left, Thomas S. Crook grave marker; wooden cross; grave marker, CUY or GUY; Cather­ine E. Gor­man grave marker; op­po­site page, Abra­ham and Julie Staab grave marker and Julius Staab grave marker; all Fairview Ceme­tery, images cour­tesy Palace of the Gov­er­nors Photo Archives

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