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Volume 1, Number 3, Spring 1993

An Old Jewish Cemetery Restored

The old cemetery was in shambles and the members of the Cochise County Historical Society were not going to let it remain in that shameful condition. Jeanne Williams, a noted western writer who was president of the group at that time, called Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives. Could we help?

Could we help? We responded immediately and on November 22 we took students who were members of Hillel's Challenge organization at the University of Arizona and headed for Douglas. When we reached the cemetery members of the Cochise Society, a surprising number of volunteers, and probationers under the professional leadership of Edward E. Skinner were already at the work of restoring the old Bisbee-Douglas Jewish Cemetery. Throughout that day in 1992 the work went on--weeds were uprooted, broken headstones replaced and now the area, only a couple of hundred yards from the Mexican border, was gaining a look of respectability.

Several names on the headstones were identifiable and now some families have been traced and have contributed funds to aid the cleanup. Contributions also came in from throughout Southern Arizona, from people who had read of the project in newspapers. One woman--not Jewish--walked up to me in the cemetery. She said she had a very special feeling that she must help Jews and she wanted to contribute to the cleanup project. Her gift was substantial and will aid the restoration work.

David Eppele, who has a cactus nursery at Bisbee, decided the cemetery would hold its southwestern look if it was planted with cacti; he carried out the project himself. Tom Campbell, Superintendent of Schools for Cochise County, took it upon himself to do the grueling work of re-fencing the cemetery. Again the southwestern look was retained by restoring the barbed wire fence.

Cochise County has a long and colorful pioneer Jewish history. In that county before the turn of the century Jews were deputy sheriffs, mining entrepreneurs, cattlemen, lawyers, bankers and mayors. We shall tell that story in a future issue of Southwest Jewish History. Meanwhile on Sunday, April 25 at 1 p.m. the old Bisbee-Douglas Jewish cemetery will be re-dedicated. You are invited. For directions call the Southwest Jewish Archives, 621-5774.

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