history research–visit to Mt. Calvary Cemetery

In my quest to find out more about the Bottger family, my search led me to the Mt. Calvary Cemetery.  I had–entirely accidentally–found the grave of Dorothy Bottger Ortiz on www.findagrave.com by following a link from somewhere else.  I had hoped that perhaps it was a family plot and there might be other family members buried nearby.  No such luck.

However, I did find out some interesting things about the Mt. Calvary Cemetery and cemeteries in general.  The original cemetery there was called Santa Barbara and is in the southwest corner, at the corner of Edith Blvd. and Indian School Road (entrance to the cemetery is at 1900 Edith Blvd. NE). I had been confused because in Dorothy’s obituary it talked about the “family plot in Santa Barbara Cemetery,” and yet on findagrave.com it listed Mt. Calvary Cemetery.  It turns out that Santa Barbara was taken over by Mt. Calvary.

I was hoping that all of the records at Mt. Calvary had been computerized and numerous searches could be done in minutes, like at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe, but everything at Mt. Calvary is still in big ledgers, and that’s why the lady at the counter spends her whole day looking through books and maps.  She was very helpful, but I didn’t want to ask her too many questions.  I know there are more members of the Ortiz family buried there, as well as other members of the Bottger family.  Those could be searches for another day.  (I have to admit that I’d be the type who, if I worked at Mt. Calvary, would be tempted to start typing all that information into a database coded to a map of the cemetery.)

She also told me that searching for old graves is a difficult and often impossible task since many of the graves were unmarked or were missing information.  Also, the cemetery is on a hillside, and years of flooding and erosion have caused damage.  In fact, a massive flood actually washed away graves at one time, causing remains to be unearthed.  Those were relocated to a mass grave in another area of Mt. Calvary since they couldn’t be identified.

On this sunny January day, I strolled among by every grave in the old Santa Barbara area, and I could see bare spots on the hillside where erosion and flooding have washed away graves.  While I’ve always considered graves to be “permanent” resting places, they do not last for all eternity.  Crude wooden crosses with names and dates can’t stand up to New Mexico weather for even one generation.  Concrete markers crumble.  Even the engraved names on white marble headstones of WWII veterans have become somewhat blurred with the abrasion of windswept sand.

The marker at Dorothy’s grave appears modern and sharp and appears as if some mindful descendant has recently had it placed there immediately in front of the old marker.  Someone has recently inserted a white silk flower in the crevice between the two markers.

Whether Dorothy was buried alone in the cemetery or other family members’ graves were among those which have disappeared, I don’t know.  But her grave marker serves as a landmark on the map of the old Santa Barbara Cemetery for others like me to find the final resting places of those they seek.

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