Monday, June 11, 2007

Gisela's Pioneer Cemetery

Fabulous weather today! Overcast skies with temperatures this morning staying at 72º making it a perfect time to get our for some badly needed Jeeping.
We'd been reading about the history of the early pioneer town of Gisela (guy-see-la) located below Payson, so we thought we'd go check it out.
Gisela was first settled by miners around 1876 just about the same time Mormon settlers came to the area. Finding plentiful water from the Tonto Creek and lots of fertile bottom land to grow their crops they decided to settle. When you see the mountains and hills surrounding Gisela, it's easy to understand why they decided to stay. Prettier places are hard to find.
We also looked for and found the Gisela Pioneer Cemetery, a peaceful place located on a hill overlooking the freshly plowed fields of a cattle ranch.  
One of the more famous inhabitants of the cemetery was Juan Vigil, a 17 year old Mexican sheepherder who was cruelly murdered in 1903 by Zechariah Booth for doing nothing more than tending the flock. Just as we've all seen in western movies, there wasn't any love lost between cattle ranchers and sheepherders. The cold-blooded shooting of young Juan Vigil along with Wiley Berry, the son of the owner of the sheep ranch, was just such an incident. Zechariah Booth was convicted of the murders and hanged in Globe, Arizona in 1905. Booth was known to be an outlaw and ruffian who had already served time in the Yuma Territorial Prison for burglary and grand larceny. He was as tough and mean as they come, often bragging to others about how many horses he'd ridden to death.
Wandering through the cemetery we noticed the seemingly inordinate number of children's and babies' graves, many either being stillborn or barely making it through their first few years of life. As we listened to the sad song of the Whippoorwill, perched amid the scrub, we could only speculate on the harsh existence these early settlers must have faced, their graves are still bearing silent testimony.
                      The grave of young Juan Vigil
         The murderer of Juan Vigil