Our friends met up on San Jaun Island in late September to celebrate birthdays. One of our stops, besides the search for foxes at American Camp, was Roche Harbor Cemetery and the McMillin Mausoleum.
Parking is on the edge of the Roche Harbor airport. The entrance has you wind your way on narrow paths through a small pioneer cemetery before coming to the gates of “Afterglow Vista”.
The McMillin family incorporated this name as their final resting place in relation to the beautiful summer sunsets in the harbor.John Stafford McMillin was born on October 28th 1855 in Indiana. He is a 32° Mason – Knight Templar – Noble of Mystic Shrine Sigma Chi – Methodist – Republican.
The tomb has a replica of the McMillians dining room table. The table is made of limestone to reflect the business the family ran in Roche Harbor along with fellow investors.
The 6 seats are actual crypts for the McMillin family ashes.The mausoleum was designed to have an intentional broken pillar that allows the sun light to shine during the vernal equinox (1st day of spring) which I assume is sybolic for “born again”.
The placement of the chairs was also symbolic and in June the sun shines specifically on the crypts of McMillin and his wife.Buried in the cemetery is over 27 employees and thier children from the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company.
This pioneer cemetery is one of a select few in the United States that resides in a national park. Managed by the 128 American Legion, there are 400 souls buried here.
Many of the people laid to rest were pioneers in the development of Grand Canyon National Park and have many trails named after them. What’s interesting about this cemetery is the headstones. Most of them are made of the local rock with placards mounted to them.
Many of the headstones also have an inscription as to who the person was and their role in the development of the park. I find this odd since other cemeteries do not have these types of inscriptions. I wonder if at some point, the cemetery was abandoned with broken or missing headstones?
From what I’ve found on the American Legion website, in the 1950s there were very few headstone markers and more mounds of ponderosa pinecones and needles that made up the grave sites.
Renovations to the grounds also resulted in new markers on some of the headstones.
Another uniqueness to these graves is that there is a headstone and a footstone.
The cemetery also had a few wooden headstones, which handle the dry/hot weather compared to other sites in the pacific northwest where they decompose quicker.
The Pioneer Cemetery is located near the Shrine of the Ages Church. As of July 2017, this pioneer cemetery is closed to new burials due to lack of space.
Before this closure, you would have had to lived at the canyon for at least three years, be a family member of someone already interred or have made a “significant contribution” to the Canyon in some way to be buried in this cemetery.
John Hance – Was the first non-indigenous resident of the Grand Canyon and also the first person buried in the cemetery.
There is a headstone for William Wallace Bass who helped develop the stage line in the area. Further research has identified this headstone as a monument because in 1933 Bass was cremated in Phoenix AZ and then his ashes were scattered by plane over Holy Grail Temple in the Grand Canyon.
Pete Berry – One of the only miners that had a few paying copper mines in the Grand Canyon. His most successful copper mine was called Grandview or Last Chance mine. After 1907, the mine was acquired by William Randolph Hearst who sold it to the national park service in 1940. In 2009 the mines were gated.
Twenty-nine unidentified victims were interred in four coffins here from the June 30th, 1956 United/TWA Grand Canyon crash. At the time this event, it was sited as the worst disaster on record and prompted the formation of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).