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A Dig that led to a Ghostly Discovery
Posted by emily on October 18, 2012
The following is written by Sangye Hawke, Evergreen Volunteer and Historical Researcher at the MAH.
Research is my adventure. It led me to the Ghost of Arana Gulch. His real name was Andrew Jackson Sloan and he was buried at Evergreen Cemetery. I needed clues about his life, I told myself, as I wandered into this cemetery looking for his ghost.
Time to get my hands dirty because the truth was buried there, I thought. I had no idea how literal this phrase would become in the next few months working as a Cemetery Cleanup volunteer. This renovation project was a renewed ambition of preservation that started back in the late 1970’s.
Several historians, over the course of forty years, organized information gleaned from collections and old media. They did on-the-ground surveying and had compiled an extensive file system that outlined plots, their owners, and their relationship to each other. Little did I know how valuable this information would be until I joined the Archival Volunteers to help with an event called Legacy Day. The Internet tool Ancestry.com assisted our efforts in locating LIVING descendants of those buried there! Imagine, someone related to the Ghost, still alive! I was hooked.
My personal quest was to understand who Andrew Jackson Sloan really was. I’d spent a year in research. (The newspapers called him “Jack”. My gut told me he might have gone by AJ.) The Veteran’s Memorial headstone, placed in 2007 was all that remained of this legendary figure. The original headstone had broken off, its top, lost to the elements.
AJ was buried next to his mother, whose headstone had also suffered a similar fate. From its stylistic structural components, the same maker carved both of them. They held their shape and incised information clearly as if carved yesterday. It was expensive material, both back in the 1860’s and today.
Legacy Day produced satellite descendants, but no interest in AJ’s specific plot, except for Evergreen historians Joan and Bob Nelson. When they learned of my research interest, they shared some incredible information about AJ and his mother’s site.
“You’ll find the headstones buried just under the mud between the newer one and the old one, but closer to the Veteran’s memorial,” they added emphatically: “That was back in the 80’s.”
I showed up at Monday work party ready to dig by Sloan’s Veteran’s headstone. After six inches of hardpan, there was nothing. I wasn’t surprised. This wasn’t the first time stones had gone missing.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder and said: “Other side.” I turned, startled. No one was there.
Heart pounding, I lost my balance, bumping into to AJ’s original headstone. Breathless, I studied it again. The Other Side!! Falling to my knees, I excavated frantically past six inches. Fearing failure, I wondered if, after a year of digging into AJ’s life, this was proof to let things be? Then I hit rock.
Using my hands , the dirt gave way to smooth red stone. Letters appeared: A.J. A final caress of my rough, dirt caked fingers revealed the rest: SLOAN.
©Sangye Hawke 2012