DISCLAIMER: There’s nary a week gone by since we wrote this article in 2016 that someone hasn’t sent us an email or post about this beautiful cemetery. While we are saddened about their loss, unfortunately we have nothing at all to do with the daily business of the cemetery, past or present. To complicate things more, apparently the cemetery manager shares our same last name. We are not related, nor have we ever met the gentleman. We were merely tourists passing through.
Sedona, Arizona is equal parts rugged, equal parts resort. Regarded by Native Americans as sacred, Sedona continues to be recognized as a place of healing and spiritual renewal.
Sedona is nestled amid striking red sandstone formations at the south end of the 16-mile gorge that is Oak Creek Canyon. Many come to experience the vortex energy centers of Sedona. The town of Sedona, Arizona is in both Yavapai and Coconino counties.
Sedona was named after Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly (1877–1950), the wife of Theodore Carlton Schnebly, the city’s first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness. Her mother, Amanda Miller, claimed to have made the name up because “it sounded pretty.” We’d have to agree.
After the death of their daughter, Pearl, Carl and Sedona moved back to Missouri and later homesteaded in Colorado. Three more children were born. When their cattle died in a blizzard and of anthrax, and Carl became ill with influenza, Carl and Sedona moved back to the community that bore Sedona’s name.
They both worked. Sedona administrated the Sunday School and helped establish the Wayside Chapel. Carl was often called the town’s ‘honorary’ mayor. They lived the rest of their days here and are buried in the Cook Cedar Glade Cemetery in town.
The first documented human presence in Sedona area dates to between 11,500 and 9000 B.C. Around 9000 B.C., the pre-historic Archaic people appeared in the Verde Valley. Around 650 A.D., the Sinaqua people entered the Verde Valley. Their culture is known for its art such as pottery, basketry and their masonry. The Yavapai came from the west when the Sinaqua were still there in the Verde Valley around 1300 A.D.
It’s not a pretty part of history but it was a harsh reality shared by most tribes throughout the 1800s in the United States. The Yavapai and Apache tribes were forcibly removed from the Verde Valley in 1876 to the San Carlos Indian Reservation, 180 miles southeast.
About 1,500 people were marched in midwinter to San Carlos, reminiscent of the forced Trail of Tears from the Eastern States to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) almost 30 years before. My Great, Great Cherokee Grandmother, Mariah Ross Mulkey, died on the Trail of Tears, where 4,000 Cherokees perished.
Several hundred Yavapai and Apache lost their lives. The survivors were interned for 25 years. About 200 Yavapai and Apache people returned to the Verde Valley in 1900 and have since intermingled as a single political entity although culturally distinct residing in the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
The first Anglo settler, John J. Thompson, moved to Oak Creek Canyon in 1876. The early settlers were farmers and ranchers. Oak Creek Canyon was well known for its peach and apple orchards. In 1902, when the Sedona post office was established, there were 55 residents. In the mid-1950s, the first telephone directory listed 155 names.
Some parts of the Sedona area were not electrified until the 1960s. Sedona began to develop as a tourist destination, vacation-home and retirement center in the 1950s. Most of the development seen today was constructed in the 1980s and 1990s. As of 2007, there are no large tracts of undeveloped land remaining.
The amazing scenery made up for the traffic we encountered on John’s July birthday weekend when we visited. We really can’t be angry that so many other folks love this area as much as we do. My husband’s grandparents lived at the base of Coffee Pot Rock when he was a teenager. John has fond memories of visiting his grandparents on his way to Fort Carson, Colorado, between Army deployments, when he was twenty.
John recalled there was very little in the way of conveniences, and there was wide open country wherever you looked. My, my, how things have changed, all in the name of so-called progress, although we can’t blame anyone for loving it so much. We finally decided to find a place to ourselves and was not disappointed.
There are very few cemeteries in the world with such spectacular scenery as the Sedona Community Cemetery. The red ochre and terra cotta colored sandstone cliffs of the Schnebly Hill Formation can be seen in the distance overlying the mudstone layers of the Hermit Formation. The markers are surrounded by fragrant oak, juniper trees and blooming cacti. The community cemetery is on Pine Drive to the south in Coconino County and east of Oak Creek.
According to the Find a Grave site, there are 2,139 graves in the cemetery. Among the famous interred here is Raul Hector Castro. June 12, 1916 d. April 10, 2015. Raúl Héctor Castro served in both elected and non-elected public offices, including United States Ambassador to El Salvador (1964-68), Bolivia (1968-69), and Argentina (1977-80), and the 14th Governor of Arizona (1975–77). He was the first Mexican American to be elected governor of Arizona. (not pictured.)
Another famous burial located here belongs to James Gregory b. December 23, 1911 d. September 16, 2002. He appeared in motion pictures and on television, most notably playing ‘Inspector Luger’ on the popular 1970s and 1980s television series “Barney Miller.” In films he is best remembered for playing the “Gorilla General” in the original “Planet of the Apes Movie” motion picture. (not pictured.)
We began to stroll around and soak up all the grandeur. First off, we were struck by the clean fresh air and the warm wind. Overhead, trees undulated in the breeze. Not at all like we are used to in the high desert, where winds can sometimes make you feel like your hair could be pulled out by its roots.
The views were breathtaking. Stunning, in fact. Many times it stopped us right in our tracks as we drank in the scenery. Lucky for us, we had the place all to ourselves. We enjoyed the serenity. Sedona Community Cemetery is really something special. Yes, you could even say sacred.
You can get all your positive vortices, New Age vibes, crystal readings, hot rock massages and breathtaking adventures you want, but you’re not likely to find a place in Sedona more peaceful. But while you’re there, check out Sedona’s other cemeteries, as well. We will be covering those in future articles.
Directions to Sedona From Las Vegas
Start: Las Vegas, Nevada End: Sedona, Arizona Total Distance: 278.0 Miles Estimated Total Time: 5 hours
Turn LEFT (North-West) onto US-93 78.8 Miles
Take Ramp (LEFT)
Road name changes to US-93 [US-95] 6.0 Miles
nto I-40 [US-93] 145.6 Miles
At exit 195, take Ramp (RIGHT) onto I-17 [SR-89A] 2.6 Miles
At exit 337, take Ramp (RIGHT) onto SR-89A [Fairgrounds Rd] 0.2 Miles
Turn LEFT (South) onto SR-89A [S HWY-89A] 22.8 Miles
Keep STRAIGHT onto SR-89A [N HWY-89A] 1.7 Miles
Take I-515 [US-93] towards I-515 / US-93 20.3 Miles