Goodyear-Ocotillo Cemetery is hiding in Fulton Ranch Chandler

Goodyear-Ocotillo Cemetery, Chandler’s little secret


Nestled in the midst Ocotillo’s 520 Acre Fulton Ranch  Community is a little piece of history.

What many don’t know is that Chandler’s Ocotillo area was the original Goodyear.  Goodyear Ranch to be exact and was built by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.  The town existed from around 1917 -1943 and consisted of homes and cotton farms, along with amenities including a hospital, school, chapel, pool hall and movie theater.  The cotton grown was used for the cotton cords in Goodyear tires.

Chandler’s very first master planned community

In 1917, Goodyear struck a deal with AJ Chandler to lease 8,000 acres of land at Alma School and Ocotillo Rds.  Over 2000 men and 1300 mules (I’m pretty sure that’s actual mules and not a commentary on the men’s wives) were working at Goodyear Ranch.  Initially the community was called Little Egypt and Cotton City and could be called Chandler’s very first master planned community with it’s parks, homes, adobe’s and tents situated along the palm lined streets.  The community was segregated by Hispanic, Yaqui Indian and Anglo and was one of the largest agricultural projects in the state during that time. (Check out the “Roots of Ocotillo” video made by the City of Chandler to get a glimpse of Ocotillo’s history.)

Cemetary in Fulton RanchAn interesting sidenote~ By the 1930’s, the Basha brothers, Eddie and Ike, managed the Goodyear General Store.  They sold furniture and general merchandise, but it was their sister, Camille (yes, behind every successful man…) who suggested groceries were the wave of the future, so they started specializing and the rest, as they say, is history.  The Basha Warehouse is still located at the site.

When Goodyear moved its operations to the West Valley in 1943, the community pretty much ceased to exist.  All that remains are the water tower and the 200 to 300 graves that lie in an neglected 3 acre plot of land right across the street from the Fulton Ranch Elementary School.  The final resting place for many of the workers at Goodyear Ranch who died between 1920 and 1962.  But there is one more.  Jose Romero used to visit the cemetery regularly.  Both of his parents are buried there.  So, when Jose died in December of 2008, he was buried beside his parents.

Fulton Ranch has built a pretty wall and gate around the cemetery and there’s a tranquil park-like seating area outside the gate, but step inside the gate and you’re transported to another world.  No landscaping here. Just a jumble of dried tumbleweeds and grave markers that have fallen with neglect.

goodyear ocotillo cemetaryIt’s really kinda sad but then I remember the words of my mom who died in 2001.  She said “When I am gone, don’t weep over my grave, for I am not there.  Don’t leave flowers on the dirt over my head, instead warm the heart of a living soul and give the flowers to them.  When you want to talk to me, speak for I am there right beside you.”

So as I left this desolate scrap of land I thought about all the souls who are no longer there.  Acknowledging their lives as I gently closed the gate behind me, I whispered “you are not forgotten” and they won’t be.  Not by me.

Comments

  1. I have lived in Chandler for years and did not know about this, thank you so much for sharing! Kudos to you for finding out about it and bringing it to light! It is a great piece of history that should not be forgotten. And the words of your mother are absolutely beautiful.

  2. Thanks Juliet, I had heard about the cemetery but could never find it. I happened upon it a couple days ago and started investigating what proved to be a very interesting story. Thanks for reading and your comments!

  3. WOW, great article. I live by Fulton Ranch and had no idea there was a historic cemetary there! I will have to check it out. You would never know it, but there is so much great history in AZ even though we are not that old of a state! The wild west is still alive. I enjoyed reading your post and will check out the rest of your blog….well done!

    Cody Sperber
    KleverInvestor.com

  4. Hey Cody~
    Pretty cool to find a bit of history right smack in the middle of new development, huh? Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. Bianca Romero says:

    Just to clear this up my grandfather didn’t died in December of 08 he died in November 2008 and he was not buried along side his parents he was actually buried at the Valley of the Sun Cemetery. the reason he was buried there was because he wants to be buried with his wife and she was not allowed to be buried there. He work hard to keep the cemetery up and our family is grateful that Fulton homes recognized the cemetery for my grandfather’s sake he loved going over there and cleaning up the place for his parents Thanks to the Historical Society for helping this cemetery stay alive and let people know my grandfather appreciates all the help from everyone that was involved i n cemetery clean ups. Thank you From the Romero Family of Chandler,AZ. He also helped name 182 of the 200 people buried at this site.

  6. Hi Bianca~ Thanks so much for the clarification. Just goes to prove, you can’t believe everything you hear and I’m sorry for repeating something that wasn’t accurate. I very much respect the role your grandfather played in this part of Chandler’s history. May his legacy never fade away. God bless~

  7. Pat Livecchi says:

    My wife and I just stumbled across this place today. Hats off to Fulton for keeping the memory alive, but something inside me believes more could be done for the site. This is a significant piece of our local history.

  8. I agree Pat. So few people even know it exists.

  9. George Cordova Espindola jr, says:

    To whom it may concern, and Az. History.. I will start this way for i know not how to start except , That i would like to thank whom every is responsable for this site. You see my grandfahter Florencio Cordova was about 94 @ time of death.and 3 Brothers Vcente,Martin,Anthony, My brothers died from ages 1 1/2 to 4. All died between 1939 to 1942. .I was told by my perants that they lived across the street from Bashas Store/ whse. Back in the late 70s i delivered to the Bashes whse. Then there where small house 4 or 5 of them . My eldest brother who has pasted said 1 or 2 of the buildings were class rms. 1 to 3 then 4 to 8 , Any way yes my perants were migrant field workers origanily from Deming N.M. .Well my perants have been died for sometime. I have been to the cemetery i would say 12 yrs ago. then it was not fenced . i should of taken pictures of the old school and homes that were there then just N. of Cemetery. and across from Basha whse. I did enquier at the Cemetery off. but all i got was we can’t Help you. Well I have grand children now that are asking about our family history. I hope i am not to late I would be willing to pay for Markers and be able to take my grand children there.. I live in N.east az. now and i plan to go enquier again. I would greatly appriceate any help to locate . my family.
    Sincerly George Cordova Espindol jr.
    God Bless.

  10. Dear George~ You are really a part of history! I’m hoping someone will read this and be able to help you locate the graves of your family. The Sun Lakes Genealogy Club was doing research at one time about the graves and about getting them marked. I will email you the number of someone in the club who may be able to help you. Good luck & God bless~

  11. George Cordova Espindola jr, says:

    hi Amy , just an up date . My elder brother and i meet with Rich Bailey a wonderful man who himself has spent a lot
    of time reserching and working keeping O.cemetery in good condition. I Thank him so much . He helped me locate 2 / two of our 3 brothers grave cite’s . Still i have hope to find our Grandfather and another baby brother.
    Amy again i thank you so much and many of Gods Blessing to you , and those who have worked so hard to save
    our family’s and other family’s Memory’s ,
    I too Plan to spend time helping keep it clean , as soon as i recover from surgery. . would be the least i can do.

  12. frank leyvas says:

    My father has been looking for this cemetery for a long time we finally found it, his grand father Jose Soza is buried their. we were happy we found it but were very disappointed on how neglected it is. it seem the big wall around it is just their to hide it from the beautiful landscape around the neighborhood what can be done to have the cemetery maintained just like the one south from their i will also ask the media for some help with this thank you for the history but lets also preserve it.

  13. I agree, Frank. I really wish there was more being done to preserve this cemetary.

  14. frank leyvas says:

    Thanks for replying to my message,can you give me information on who to contact about preserving the cemetery because i wouldn’t mind volunteering on clean up if that’s possible.

  15. Sandy Schimitis says:

    I use to work for Valley of the Sun Mortuary in the later 90’s. I remember people called about the abandoned cemetery. I had no idea what they were talking about. A co worker said there’s one behind the mortuary. I got on the golf cart and she took me there. I remember candles, and cement squares were homemade dates were written in them. If I remember right some dates of death didn’t seem as far back as I thought they would, up to the 60’s. It was very interesting. There were homemade crosses. There was a bird sitting on one.

  16. It really is a special hidden place, Sandy. Thanks for your comment!

  17. I also am looking for someone that I think may be buried in this cemetery. If there is a listing will it be possible to forward to me? Also, does anyone have any information on the Goodyear Camp 2 cemetery in Maricopa az?

  18. Kathie Karpinen says:

    I had lived in the valley for a good 55 yrs. Our last residence was Sun-lakes phase 1. My husband’s parents ashes are at the Valley of the Sun Cemetery and we went to visit their plot. We were also geocaching yesterday when we came across this place. I love to read about the history of the site and its people. The outside of the this little cemetery is so lovely but I so wish that a community group or two or three could go in and clean up as much as possible. If I still lived here I would try and organize a cleanup date. However we moved to Iowa 8 yrs ago so that is not possible. I would hope that people could could take sometime out of their busy lives to help in the clean up. These people were hard working families and should not be forgotten in their final resting place should not be left in ruins.
    I so hope that a clean up project can become a reality.
    Thanks, Kathie Karpinen

  19. Thanks, Kathie! I totally agree!

  20. Hi Carla,
    I’m not sure. Maybe do some searching online. I know there used to be a person in Sun Lakes AZ who was doing this.

  21. Bonnie says:

    Hello, I am a photo contributor for a website whose mission is to find, record and present final disposition information. I’m currently working on an assignment to photograph 2 graves in the Goodyear-Ocotillo Cemetery. No easy task considering most of the markers are either missing, broken, or otherwise illegible. I’ve reached out to a couple of local genealogical groups to ask for assistance in locating these 2 specific plots but haven’t heard back from them yet. Does anyone else know where I might find a layout/plot plan for the cemetery? Much thanks!

  22. Victor Dozal says:

    Hi,
    My son will be doing his Boy Scout’s Eagle project in this cemetery within a month, cleaning weeds and restoring some of the grave markers. If you have any information about relatives of the people buried here please email us at ocotillo.cemetery@gmail.com, we would very much like to be in contact with them.

    Thanks,
    Victor

  23. M Romero says:

    Hi Vicotor Dozal,
    Our Grandfather Joe Romero took care of the cemetery for many years on a daily and eventually a weekly basis as he grew older He has since passed. We go once a year to clean the cemetery also. We have noticed that times we have went to clean it and it was clean. We are so greatful that your son and the other boyscouts have stepped in to help. It means a whole lot to us and I am sure to others who relatives are buried there in the cemetery. The chandler historical society does have a list and may have pictures of some of the markers before they were broken. We do know of some names but not all just those that our nana can help us with and of some relatives. Our Tata would replace the broken wood crosses with new white painted wood crosses and would not put name because he did not know then but could tell where the broken markers where in the dirt.

  24. Hi, Victor,
    How wonderful that your son’s Boy Scout Troop is doing this. Thank you for posting this information!

  25. Marta says:

    My mother was raised in at that area.
    she remembers that she had to cross the cemetery to get to school and hide from the indians. She tells us stories about living there

  26. Ellie Cruz says:

    Does anyone know how I can find more info on there people buried there? My great grandfather Isidro Torres is buried there but having a hard time finding the exact location.

Trackbacks

  1. […] There’s even a cool little secret in the middle of the community…The Old Goodyear-Ocotillo Cemetary right across the street from the elementary school.  Step through those gates on one of your walks and it’s like stepping back in time. For a video and more about the Goodyear-Ocotillo Cemetary. […]