Like so many pioneer towns in the Mojave Desert established by necessity for its connection to the railroads, Ludlow Cemetery is serenaded by the rumble of frequent trains.
The cemetery appears to have approximately 50 visible graves. All but three are marked by wooden crosses with no information. Only seven grave sites have been identified.
The oldest legible marker reads “Timothy R. Dailey. Died 12 June 1923. Aged 52 years.”
Ludlow was founded in 1882, brought about by the establishment of the Southern Pacific Railroad until May 4, 1897 when it became the Santa Fe Railway. This was the main line and connection with Los Angeles.
Ludlow was the “water stop” for all steam engines. Water was found here but proved to be too salty for overall use. So water was hauled by train tank cars from Newberry (later known as Newberry Springs) to permanent tanks in Ludlow.
A United States Post Office was founded in 1902. Originally called Stagg, in the honor of an engineer on the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, this office was officially changed to Ludlow in 1926. The post office was discontinued in 1974.
In 1905, the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad was started mainly for transportation of ore from Beatty, Nevada. It’s terminus was Ludlow.
Ludlow continued to prosper and through World War I, the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad remained in operation on its now 250 mile route. However, on June 14, 1940, it ceased all runs.
The railroad also ran from Ludlow to the Bagdad-Chase Mine, which had its own tiny cemetery.
Nowadays, the cemetery is carefully maintained by two of the Mojave Desert’s unsung heroes, Cyndi and Doug. Not only are they shareholders of the Bagdad-Chase Mine, which operated between 1889 through WWII, but they also own the road to the mine.
The original cemetery was pretty much in ruins when they took on the task of returning respect to the little cemetery by the tracks. They put up new crosses on the unmarked graves, pulled weeds, fixed the fence and completed other overlooked tasks.
Their friend, David Van Norman, a death investigator with the San Bernardino County Coroners Office, was very instrumental in helping identify the graves. There are 57 graves facing East to West, and 1/3 of them were children. Mr. Van Norman also built the largest database of graves in the county, which was adopted by the FBI.
Many of the names are still unknown. Doug and Cyndi commented records revealed there was “a man of color” in the far back corner buried in 1933, who was accidentally run over on Route 66. There is also a Mexican worker who was buried in 1922, on the outskirts of the cemetery.
When Doug and Cyndi first began restoring the cemetery, they fell under the scrutiny of the Bureau of Land Management. As it turned out, parts of Ludlow are divided between the Needles Office and the Barstow Office. The BLM informed the couple they could not resurrect a cross on BLM property and the dedicated couple were asked to desist.
Luckily, Doug and Cyndi found out the cemetery is actually on private property so the BLM had no further issues with them.
As an interesting aside, Doug is a former Hot Shot. Doug commented that many bees nowadays in the desert are of the Africanized variety. Bees are primarily attracted to your wrists, neck and ankles, so keep those body parts covered at all times. A bug net bonnet, long sleeves tucked into gloves and long trousers tucked into your boots are optimum even in hot weather.
Doug gave us tips how to survive if we noticed bees were beginning to swarm. First off, don’t run and do NOT swat. Injuring a bee emits pheromones alerting the other bees of danger which will set them into attack mode. Bees can fly at 25 mph speeds for 1/4 of a mile. Trying to outrun them is futile. Do not panic.
Take a bottle of water about 50 feet away opposite of where you want to escape, open the lid and lay it on its side on the ground so water can spill out. Bees are attracted to water. Walk calmly to safety. As a last ditch effort if all else fails, you can light a rolled up newspaper on fire and the bees will go to the ground when they sense smoke. Alert authorities and do not cause a wildfire.
As always, whenever in the desert, bring extra water, protective clothing, and emergency supplies with you, including an EPI-Pen, which needs to be prescribed by your physician. Thanks to Doug for his sage advice! Doug is renown for carrying a 40 lb. backpack whenever he ventures into the desert.
For more information about the town of Ludlow, please read our previous story HERE.
Directions: From Barstow, follow Interstate 40 East, take Exit 50 to Ludlow, and turn right. The cemetery lies on the South side of the railroad tracks.