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Angels of the old Pioneer Cemeteries- Part four ‘Alice Vail’

Alice Vail has a lovely tombstone in Porter Cemtery
Alice Vail has a lovely tombstone in Porter CemteryPhoto by Debe Branning

Through the years there have been rumors that the old Pioneer & Military Memorial Park cemeteries in downtown Phoenix are haunted by its early residents. As the final resting place to many of Phoenix’s early pioneers, some of the more tragic tales involve the children who came to the desert city with their parents seeking a better life, or were born in Arizona before it became a state.

Alice Vail was born in 1883 in the unruly Arizona Territory. Her family lived in a house near 5th Street and Washington here in Phoenix. If you drive past that neighborhood now, you will find the Arizona Science Center. Her family attended St. Mary's Church which was near their home and she was involved in many church activities.

Alice loved attending school and her teachers were proud to report that she was a very bright child. She went to the first school in Phoenix which was located at Central Avenue and Monroe Street. These days the famous haunted San Carlos Hotel stands in its place. Some paranormal experts say the seven story hotel is haunted by some of the early school children.

Alice’s mother's name was Fannie Nixon and she was married to John Nixon. They were one happy family until Alice suddenly became very sick. After about a week the doctor diagnosed that she had an abscess of her intestines and bowels. Alice’s mother was overjoyed to finally learn what was wrong with her daughter and an operation was immediately scheduled to remove the abscess. But...suddenly Alice’s fever picked up and she began to sink rapidly. They could not break the fever and Alice Vail passed away on June 20, 1895 about 7:30 in the evening. She was only twelve years old.

Her funeral was held the next day at St. Mary's Church at 4:30 in the afternoon. The funeral procession brought Alice to the Porter Cemetery and a beautiful tombstone was placed there by her parents. Her mother paid a mere $15 for a burial plot. She was buried not far from their home, so her mother came to see her quite often--and sometimes, on quiet Sunday mornings...she can still hear the bells ringing at St. Mary's Church.

Alice Vail had lots of friends at school, and one can only imagine that she still sees some of the spirits of her classmates at the old cemetery. Do they still play together from time to time?

For more information:

Pioneers’ Cemetery Association www.azhistcemeteries.org pioneercem@yahoo.com