Cedarvale Cemetery in White Oaks, New Mexico

The most historically important gravesites in Lincoln County, New Mexico, are in the Cedarvale Cemetery in White Oaks.  The first graves were dug around 1880 and lots were sold. The Knights of Pythias acquired the property about 1892.

Graveyards were not a high priority on the frontier, but White Oaks was really created by easterners attracted to the gold that was discovered here.  It’s been said that there were as many lawyers as miners in White Oaks at one time. A cemetery was an expected part of civilization to them.  “Most historic figures are buried on private land…except for White Oaks,”  says historian Drew Gomber.

The cemetery contains the graves of many important people in the development of New Mexico, including the recently discovered grave of Deputy Sheriff James Bell, killed by Billy the Kid when he made his famous escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse.

Grave Of Deputy James W. Bell

Grave Of Deputy James W. Bell

Other participants of the Lincoln County Wars include Susan McSween Barber, Paul Mayer, Dave Jackson and W. C. McDonald, the first governor after statehood.

In the southwest part of the cemetery you will find the grave of John V. Winters, who was one of the discoverers of the “Mother Lode” of gold in 1879. His grave is in a north-south direction rather than the traditional east-west direction. Why? Thinking ahead he had requested this so that he could be overlooking his strike in perpetuity.

Cedarvale Cemetery is on the National Historic Register.

White Oaks, New Mexico

Here is an amateur video that captures some of the sites and sounds of the New Mexico’s most historically signifcant old graveyard:

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2 Responses to Cedarvale Cemetery in White Oaks, New Mexico

  1. Carol Meyer says:

    I find it interesting that this cemetery is located near White Oaks NM but is named
    Cedarvale cemetery. The village of Cedarvale is located more than 50 miles away,
    approximately 12 miles west of Corona. I wonder why the cemetery in White Oaks
    isn’t called White Oaks cemetery. I have asked many people including NM history teachers and they don’t know. Any ideas?

    • Gatekeeper says:

      It’s likely that the remains were moved at some point for reasons unbeknownst to us. That’s a comparatively common occurrence throughout history. A relatively rural area. No written records. And the those who did the moving are long gone.

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