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Cemetery Walk features characters from Prescott's past
Some of the historic characters visitors will encounter at Saturday’s Citizens’ Cemetery Walk include, left to right, Yavapai County Sheriff James Nichols (John Larkin), Judge J.H. Wright (Tom Anderson), and the judge’s wife Mary (Kate Anderson).
10/4/2012 10:57:00 PM
By Joanna Dodder Nellans
The legendary Earp brothers and Doc Holliday had a strong connection to territorial Prescott, but a lesser-known OK Corral character and his family had a connection that was even stronger.
Johnny Behan was Cochise County's sheriff leading up to the infamous OK Corral shootout, and was a key player in the incident. Despite the fact that he was a lawman, he sided with the "Cowboys" on the other side of the shootout with the Earps and Holliday.
The sour connection between Johnny Behan and the Earps didn't stop there, since Earp ended up with Behan's girlfriend.
Before arriving in Tombstone in 1880, Johnnie Behan spent 16 years in Yavapai County.
He came to Prescott in the year of its founding in 1864. Three years later he was a deputy sheriff under Sheriff John Bourke, who just a few years earlier was managing the Quartz Rock Saloon on Granite Street in Prescott.
After a few years as Yavapai County sheriff, John Bourke became county recorder but soon died while in office at the age of 41 in 1868. He was the first in a list of family members to be buried in Prescott's historic Citizens' Cemetery.
Behan was county recorder and clerk of the Board of Supervisors in 1869, then became sheriff himself in 1871-72 before moving on to the territorial Legislature for two terms.
In between government stints, Behan delved into mining and saloons. He owned a saloon in Tip Top in southern Yavapai County, which now is a ghost town.
At age 25, Johnny Behan married John Bourke's 17-year-old step-daughter Victoria in 1869. Their daughter Henrietta was born three months later. They then had a son named Albert in 1872.
But Victoria divorced Johnny in 1875 because of his fling with Josephine "Sadie" Marcus, who soon left Johnny for cheating on her, too. Sadie ended up becoming Wyatt Earp's common-law wife for nearly a half-century.
Little Henrietta tragically died of cerebral spinal meningitis at the age of 7, and was buried in Citizens' Cemetery in Prescott in 1877. Her brother survived the disease but lost much of his hearing.
More than a century later, Yavapai Cemetery Association volunteer Marion Arrington asked YCA founder Pat Atchison for a recommendation about which grave to adopt in Citizens' Cemetery. Atchison suggested Henrietta Behan and Arrington, a history buff, immediately recognized the last name and asked if Henrietta was related to Johnny.
"In their time period, Behan was just as or more important than the Earps," Arrington said.
Arrington ended up adopting Henrietta's grave as well as the graves of all her relatives at Citizens' Cemetery, since they all were buried near each other.
She keeps an eye out for tombstone vandals and keeps weeds at bay.
Arrington researched the Behan family history through old newspapers and other original documents at the
Sharlot Hall Museum
and the Arizona Historical Society. She provided a copy of her written information for this story.
Arrington even found an interesting local story about Johnny Behan's father. He got on a stagecoach with Prescott's favorite son, Buckey O'Neill, and ended up taking the reins away from the drunken driver while O'Neill handcuffed the man. Behan ended up driving the stage all the way to Gillette, now a Yavapai County ghost town.
Victoria Behan remarried in 1881 to a Prescott hardware merchant and mine bookkeeper named Charles Randall, and they had three children. Tragically, all their children died before reaching the age of 2, and all were buried at Citizens Cemetery in 1884 and 1886.
Victoria was a prominent woman in the Prescott community. Arrington found references to Victoria in the diary of Lily Fremont, daughter of well-known explorer and Arizona Territorial Gov. John Fremont. Victoria died at age 37 after a short illness. Among the pallbearers at her 1889 funeral were Buckey O'Neill and Morris Goldwater, uncle of Barry Goldwater. Victoria then joined her step-father and four of her five children at Citizens' Cemetery.
Victoria's mother Harriett Bourke was the last to be buried in the family plot in 1900.
While Victoria's son Albert spent much of his life in Yuma, he ended up being buried in Prescott at the Arizona Pioneers' Home Cemetery in 1947 because he spent his last years at the home.
Johnny Behan is buried in Tucson but his brother Silas, a store clerk and legislator, also spent part of his life in Prescott and is buried at the Oddfellows Cemetery with his infant son.
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