In the middle of City/Loosley Cemetery stands a solitary marble headstone bearing an inscription in Chinese. It is testimony to the fact that, for a brief time, Chinese immigrants made up nearly 10% of the population of early Phoenix . Some were railroad workers who had been laid off after construction on local rail lines was completed. Others came because the political climate for Chinese was better in sparsely populated Arizona than it was in the gold-mining towns of California and Nevada. They worked in small, family-run businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores, hand laundries and vegetable farms . Although many of Phoenix's early Chinese residents eventually returned to China, about fifty were buried in the Pioneer & Military Memorial Park.
In 1993, archaeologist K. J. Schroeder asked William Tang, an associate professor at Arizona State University, to translate the inscription on the marble headstone in Loosley. Tang, a Mandarin speaker from northern China, translated it as that of Tang Xian Yuan, born in Canton province, Hoiping district, Da Lou village .
Years later, PCA researchers discovered the death certificate of Ong Sing Yuen, aged about 51, who died 8 June 1913 and was buried in Loosley . Since the man buried in Loosley had been born in province, he would almost certainly have been a speaker of Cantonese, and 'Ong Sing Yuen' is in fact the Cantonese equivalent of the Mandarin 'Tang Xian Yuan'.
At the time of his death from esophageal cancer, Ong was a merchant living at 529 S. 7th Avenue . Although the pronouncing doctor listed opium smoking as a contributory cause of death , it is probable that Ong was simply using opium to dull the pain of the malignancy that was taking his life.
In 1997, K. C. Tang of Phoenix produced a family tree that identified Ong Sing Yuen as a collateral relative of Tang Shing . It is even possible that Ong Sing Yuen invited Tang Shing to come to Phoenix and take over his business when his health began to fail. Tang Shing became one of Phoenix's foremost Chinese-American businessmen. In 1929 he built the historic Sun Mercantile Building which still stands in downtown Phoenix . He and his wife Lucy Sing were the parents of eleven children, including Father Emery Tang and Judge Thomas Tang.
The Ong family has since revived its practice of honoring Ong Sing Yuen as one of its family members with a short ceremony on Ching Ming, a Chinese holiday which occurs in early April.
© 2017 by Donna L. Carr. Last revised 8/29/2017.
 Keane, Melissa. The Chinese in Arizona, 1870-1950 : a context for historic preservation planning. Phoenix: Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, 1992.
 Schroeder, K. J., editor. Pioneer & Military Memorial Park Archaeological Project in Phoenix, Arizona, 1990-1992. Phoenix: Roadrunner Publications, 1994.
 "Arizona Deaths, 1870-1951," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FLVL-8HF : 12 December 2014), Ong. Sing Yuen, 1913; citing Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona, reference , Department of Library and Archives, Phoenix, Arizona; FHL microfilm 2,114,407.
 Tang, Kwong Chue. Seventeen Generations of Tangs. Computer-generated printout, 1997.
 Murray, Vince, and Scott Solliday. City of Phoenix Asian American Historic Property Survey. Prepared for the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office. Phoenix: Arizona Historical Research, 2007
Nathaniel Sharp was born about 1816 in Tennessee . Very little is known about his early life. Apparently he served in the Mexican War, since his obituary says that he first came through Arizona as a member of an invading army in charge of a company . McClintock also mentions him as being in Arizona by 1856 .
Sharp settled first in Calabasas, intending to raise cattle . However, the outbreak of the Civil War and the expected arrival of Union troops from California caused Sharp, along with Thomas Farrell and Jack Pennington, to pack up and head for Mesilla, New Mexico, in August of 1861 . Their wagon train, which would become known as the Ake-Wadsworth Party, was accompanied by herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. This temptation proved to be too much for the Chiricahua Apaches. Under the leadership of Cochise and/or his son-in-law Mangas Coloradas, the Chiricahuas attacked the Ake-Wadsworth party in Cooke’s Canyon . During the running battle, Nathaniel Sharp received an arrow through the neck, but witnesses said that he simply broke the arrow in half and pulled the pieces out . Sharp was described as being about sixty years old at the time (he was actually 45) .
After Sharp recovered from his injuries, he and Thomas Farrell journeyed to Pinos Altos, where they enlisted in the Confederate Army . Both served as privates in Helms' Company, Herbert’s Arizona Battalion . Farrell was taken prisoner during the unit’s Trans-Mississippi campaign and did not see Sharp again until 1871 .
After the Civil War, Sharp went to California and was for a time a lawyer in Sacramento . However, he returned to Arizona around 1869, where he helped to dig the Tempe Canal. Thus assured of water, he started a cattle ranch south of the Salt River . After James T. Priest resigned as zanjero of the Tempe Canal Company to pursue other ambitions, Sharp was elected zanjero, a position of some importance in the community .
Nathaniel Sharp’s name appears on the Territorial Census of 1872  and in that year he ran for Maricopa County surveyor on the Democratic ticket. He also appears in the Maricopa County Great Register of 1876 .
Around 1879, Sharp married Emeline Stickney, a widow with three grown children . The 1880 federal census of Phoenix lists Nathan Sharp, aged sixty, living in Phoenix with his wife Emeline, aged fifty-three .
In March 1883, the couple sold their ranch in Tempe to George Crismon for $6000 and moved to a ranch on the Verde River north of Phoenix. On 5 September 1883, they came to Phoenix to pay their taxes, and Mrs. Sharp was heard to remark jokingly to the sheriff, “Now you will not have a chance to rob us again for another year.” 
On July 2, 1884, the Sharps were in Phoenix again to propose that a mail route be established to serve the growing communities along the Verde River .
On 14 July 1894, Captain Sharp bought several lots in the Capitol addition with the intention of making his home there .
Sharp’s wife Emeline died 2 February 1904 of pneumonia and was buried in Rosedale Cemetery . Chaplain Scott conducted the funeral service. A Mr. Frank Alkin, acting as an agent for Mrs. Sharp, paid the undertaker’s bill, so it would appear that the Sharps had turned over management of their financial affairs to him. Sharp himself was living in Los Angeles, California, when he died on 29 September 1906 .
On 30 September 1906, his remains were returned by rail to Phoenix, accompanied by his late wife’s daughters, Mrs. Burgher and Mrs. Grubbings. Easterling & Whitney, undertakers, were in charge of the funeral arrangements. The service took place at 2:30 PM on 2 October 1906, with Rev. Harold Govette officiating. Burial was in the Rosedale Cemetery .
Story courtesy of Donna L. Carr, last revised April 29, 2015. Sources are available upon request.
Welcome to a new website feature where we'll share short stories about some of the pioneers buried in our cemeteries and provide ways you can learn more about them! This is where we'll work to bring their stories to life - and maybe connect you with a long-lost relative!