GOLD BUTTE, Nevada — Amid a dispute between ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management, the desecration of a grave in the area may have gone unnoticed.
The damage done to a grave in the Gold Butte ghost town was discovered April 18 by an outdoor enthusiast, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. She said the dirt appeared to still be fresh when she arrived, but the exact time of the robbery is unknown.
“It looks like they burrowed right into the coffin for sure,” BLM archaeologist Mark Boatwright told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “They were probably looking for historic artifacts.”
The grave robbers struck the resting place of Arthur Coleman, who died in 1958. A deep hole was left at the grave site, although it is unknown whether anything was taken. Coleman was buried in a small, fenced-off grave site next to his business partner Bill Garrett, who was the only other person buried in the area.
Coleman and Garrett are an important part of local folklore, according to Friends of Gold Butte executive director Nancy Hall. She described the pair as "colorful characters" and their intertwined history includes stories of Old West-style self-defense, brewing moonshine, mining, ranching and prospecting for gold. Garrett was rumored to be the nephew of the man who shot Billy the Kid, according to an article written by Rex Jensen.
"The loss of our irreplaceable historical and cultural resources is always painful," Hall said.
The Gold Butte area is managed by the BLM. The area was temporarily closed during the dispute between the BLM and rancher Cliven Bundy over grazing rights.
The BLM said it will investigate the damage at the grave site once it determines the area is safe enough for BLM agents to enter, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Attempts made by KSL to reach the BLM for comment were unsuccessful.
Those in the area said they are worried about the current conditions in Gold Butte.
"We are very concerned about the recent chaos surrounding Gold Butte," Hall said. "We hope the BLM will be able to resolve the issue safely and quickly and restore protection at Gold Butte for hikers, off-roaders, history enthusiasts and all who enjoy its splendor."
The loss of our irreplaceable historical and cultural resources is always painful.
The reason so many locals and visitors enjoy Gold Butte is because it is steeped in Western American history, she said. The group is concerned about ongoing damage to historical sites in the area. Hall said the corral at the site was destroyed in 2008 for firewood.
The Friends of Gold Butte is an organization dedicated to working for protection of the area. It supports legislation introduced by Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Steven Horsford that would designate Gold Butte as a national conservation area with wilderness, Hall said.
"This legislation would protect the access and recreation we presently enjoy while adding the needed management and funding to ensure visitors' safety, education and recreation of this national treasure," she said.