The historic Wickenburg-Boetto house sits at the end of Washington Street in Wickenburg, Arizona—alone and yet surrounded by a thriving neighborhood. The house was built in 1903 by Henry Wickenburg, the town’s namesake.
The original structure was a mere three room adobe house heated by wood burning stoves. As years went by, sleep porches, a kitchen, and a bathroom were added on. The house is named after Henry Wickenburg, and the Boetto Family who purchased the property in 1913.
Henry Wickenburg was born in November 1819 and was a native of Austria. He sailed to the United States in 1847 and settled briefly in New York. Before long, the excitement of the Gold Rush in the West drew him out to the San Francisco area where he learned to pan for gold. His travels brought him to the Arizona Territory in 1862 near Fort Yuma.
Wickenburg eventually traveled along the La Paz River and ended up near the Hassayampa River with several other prospectors in hopes of locating a gold mine. Leaving the other men behind, Henry Wickenburg traveled back to an area of big white cropping near Vulture City. It was there he discovered the Vulture Mine in 1863. Vulture City, reportedly haunted, is about fifteen miles from the town of Wickenburg.
He later settled in Wickenburg and tried his hand at ranching and farming. Flood waters destroyed his crops and livestock which unfortunately brought his ranching dream to an end. The life long bachelor resided at his small adobe ranch house near the Hassayampa until he died in May 1905 by a self inflicted gunshot wound to his head. They found him in the late afternoon near the house still grasping a 32 caliber revolver in his right hand. Wickenburg did not possess much property or valuables at the time of his death. His obituary states he was “quite melancholy due to old age, weakening mental vigor, and the lack of family ties that bind one more strongly than anything to this world.”
The town of Wickenburg now surrounds his gravesite perched on top of a hill in a local neighborhood. It is a bit tricky to locate the first time—or even the second time—but well worth the search. Henry Wickenburg is buried near the graves of the town’s first mayor and other local pioneers.
John and Mary Boetto were immigrants from Italy who arrived in the US around 1892-1895. The couple lived in Colorado and Mexico before settling in Arizona. Their only child, Anthony, was born in Tucson in 1903. The family arrived in Wickenburg in 1907 and acquired the old Wickenburg property in 1913. The Boetto’s paid $2,500 for the house and 17 acres of land. Mr. Boetto was in the mining business. After he was retired, he spent his time raising chickens and bees. He was the first fire chief in Wickenburg.
The Boetto family owned the property for over 80 years. Mary Boetto died in the home in 1945. Son Anthony, a teacher, died in 1955, and John Boetto followed them in death in 1957. The Boetto’s are all buried in the Wickenburg Cemetery. In 2000, the Wickenburg-Boetto House was sold to the Town of Wickenburg. The Town of Wickenburg sold the property to the Wickenburg Historical Preservation Society. The vacant house was in need of many repairs. The first steps were to restore the windows and doors, stabilized the crawl space, and paint the exterior. The preservationists hope the house will soon be opened as a Wickenburg history museum.
With the renovation of historic property comes the question, is the house haunted? Eight paranormal investigators, along with the Mayor of Wickenburg—Kelly Blunt, recently spent 24 hours at the remote location testing the environment with cameras and scientific equipment to find the answers. The Ghosts of Arizona team organized the investigation. Debe Branning of the MVD Ghostchasers and Cindy Lee stopped by to learn the history of the location and to do a bit of ghost hunting of their own.
There were reports of footsteps, voices, and personal experiences on the premises which are being further analyzed at this writing. Some of the actions were found to be non paranormal and debunked on site. As more information on the lives of the pioneers who lived on and near the land is discovered, it should open new windows to the ghosts of its past.
The Wickenburg-Boetto House can be visited at 225 S Washington sometime in the near future.
Wickenburg Tourism www.outwickenburgway.com
Debe Branning [email protected]