Genealogy Trails

Sacramento County, California

Cemetery Articles

Website updated with new data

02/27/2012 22:52:30 -0800


(now Quiet Haven Memorial Park Cemetery)

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 12-16-1993

No Rest for the Dead – Critics Assail Cemetery Neglect, Vandalism

Many of the dead are not resting so peacefully at Sacramento's Arlington Memorial Cemetery.
At least one casket has been vandalized and dozens of others are noticeably sinking into the wet ground of the old cemetery on Elder Creek Road east of Bradshaw. L. Cuffie Joslin, a member of the state Cemetery Board for 11 years, said she learned about the situation only recently. "I am absolutely furious about Arlington Cemetery," Joslin said. "No one amily members or neighbors - has come before our board to speak to the issue. So I was totally unaware of the problems out there. It's a deplorable situation." The Sheriff's Department estimates the vandalized casket was dug up and torn apart earlier this week, department spokesman John McGinness said Wednesday. It appeared that most of the remains were removed, and a cross and candle placed in front of the grave. "We are inclined to believe it was done in some type of ritual," McGinness said, although experts said the cross was not consistent with those used in satanic rituals. In one section of the cemetery, many of the graves are sinking into the rain-saturated soil. Most of the caskets were buried during the early 1970s, McGinness said, when current safeguards, such as concrete vaults, were not used. Jim Diaz, executive officer of the state Cemetery Board, said Arlington came under the charge of the state board in June 1986 when the owner defaulted on the property. The cemetery has an endowment care fund of less than $25,000, which produces only a few hundred dollars a month for upkeep, Diaz said. "This isn't normal," Diaz said. "The state shouldn't be responsible. It should be transferred to private sector hands." It would cost more than $10,000 to restore the cemetery, Diaz said. Arlington's problems are expected to be brought to the board at its next meeting in February, he said. In the section where many of the graves are caving in, most did not appear to have been tampered with. In an older section of the cemetery, however, nearly all the headstones had been knocked to the ground and several were extensively cracked. The situation at Arlington is not unusual, said Susan Reece, a Sacramento member of The Relatives Urging Sacred Treatments, a consumer watchdog group. "This is unfortunately a commonplace occurrence with the atrocious treatment of the dead," Reece said. "It's happening all across the state and all across this nation. It has been going on in this state for the last 30 years or so." Joslin said the six-member state board regulates most of the cemeteries in the state with the exception of district, religious and some county cemeteries. The board and its staff has not had a full-time inspector since July 1992, Joslin said.


Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 11-20-1994

Cemetery Restoration A Great Relief To Kin of Deceased – Abandoned; Elements Take Their Toll

For decades, the Bellview Cemetery, which sits on a portion of the Arlington Cemetery on Elder Creek Road, was abandoned to the elements, both natural and unnatural. Time took its toll. Since many of the plots, some more than 100 years old, had no vaults, the graves sank, exposing caskets and remains. Trespassers dumped appliances and furniture and used the site as a shooting range. Vandals overturned and broke headstones. And grave robbers, using metal detectors, pilfered the burial sites.
In April, when Ray Giunta of Laguna Creek stepped into his new position as executive officer with the State Cemetery Board, he had his work cut out for him. The Bellview Cemetery became his first priority.
"I felt it was time we took care of the property," Giunta said. "I feel these people have a right, and that we have a duty to bring the cemetery up to a level of decency and dignity. A lot of people think of cemeteries as macabre places, but they are historical sites," said Giunta. "There's a life behind every stone and a family behind every name." The old county cemetery began burials in 1847 shortly after the land was donated by the Ellis and Bell families. The site contains graves of all types of people, from indigents to the wealthy. Giunta said the place was kept up nicely until a man, whose name he did not know, purchased the 8-acre cemetery from the county in the early 1960s. The man continued with regular burials as well as the burials of indigents, or those who couldn't afford a burial site or had no next of kin, he said. The owner, added Giunta, sold individual plots to the county for the indigents, but instead of burying the dead in individual graves, he placed numerous bodies in the same gravesite. "In one week, the man would bill the county for seven or eight gravesites, but we found later that he had piled all of those remains on top of each other in one grave," said Giunta. The potter's field holds more than 6,000 bodies. "He walked away with $800,000," said Giunta. The man was later convicted of embezzlement and spent four years in the Vacaville State Prison. The property was then sold to a woman living in Studio City, Pauline Rust. "For the past 20 years, she's been an absentee owner," said Giunta. It was during those past 20 years that the cemetery has been abused and neglected, he said. "A lot of the families of those buried here just gave up," said Giunta. "One woman, who couldn't find the grave of her mother for 20 years, came out recently. She thought the headstone had been stolen. We found it, and she was very grateful." Another person who is happy with the restoration is longtime Elk Grove resident Fran Cumpston, whose great grandparents, the Ellises, donated half the land for the cemetery and are buried at the site in a family plot.
Last week, Cumpston visited the cemetery after nearly 15 years. She not only located the unmarked family plot, but also was surprised to find another great-grandmother buried there. "I didn't know where she was," she said. Imogene A. Casey died in 1916 at the age of 77. Cumpston was 3 at the time. "I remember the day she died in our front parlor," she said. "My parents hurried me into the back and told me that she had gone to sleep. She was one of the old-fashioned women from Tennessee. She used to sit on the front porch and smoke her pipe." Cumpston said she was delighted to see the cemetery shaping up. "I think this is absolutely wonderful," she said. "I'm thankful they're taking care of things for me. They've done a heck of a lot of work out here. Now I'll go buy more headstones so my kids know where their family is buried." Giunta said the first phase of the project is nearly complete. The entire project is projected to be finished by next spring. Before work began at the site, the cemetery's maintenance was like "putting a Band-aid on a major wound," said Giunta. "We went in and performed major surgery. We've been able to accomplish a lot so far, but we have much more to go. I love that it's coming together." Two hundred yards of dirt and 300 yards of rock were used to fill in the sunken graves. Every day for nearly a month, laborers, many from the county work project program, have been cleaning up the site. Also, numerous community members have donated materials. Giunta wants people to know "that someone cares. If people have loved ones buried here, they can come and find them. There's also still room left in the cemetery, if people want to be buried next to relatives." Last Saturday, about 25 family members converged at the site to help with the restoration effort, but there's still a need for volunteers to participate, especially in resetting the heavy headstones. Individuals or service organizations interested in lending a hand should call Giunta at 296-5578 or the State Cemetery Board at 296-0083.

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 12-21-2000

Cemetery Cleanup Leads to Mix-Up - Workers Knock Over Old Bellview Headstones; Managers Seek to Correct Problem

A 30-year period of mismanagement had things at Old Bellview Cemetery looking pretty grim, but when the new owners tried to spruce things up, they stirred up a storm of criticism. While trying to clean up an area of the cemetery with a small tractor, workers knocked over some headstones, said Valintin Kalinovskiy, the cemetery's executive director. Old Bellview Cemetery is a small portion of Arlington Cemetery which was bought by Bethany Missionary Slavic Church less than two years ago. "We were cleaning up," said Kalinovskiy. The problem was not easily solved, however, because the cemetery does not have an accurate map of where all the headstones belong or where all the bodies are buried, Kalinovskiy said. Critics and cemetery management met Wednesday in an attempt to solve the problem. The two groups are looking for family members of those buried at the old cemetery to come forward and help figure out where the headstones belong. "Unfortunately for them," said Bob LaPerriere, chairman of Sacramento's Old City Cemetery Committee, "they inherited a cemetery with 30 years of problems." The cemetery on Elder Creek Road between Bradshaw and Excelsior roads "had been vandalized, unkempt, and in really poor shape before the Slavic Missionary Church bought it," LaPerriere said. Kalinovskiy said that the number of headstones disturbed by the cleanup efforts had been grossly exaggerated and that most of the displaced stones had been out of place before the church took ownership. "Only two headstones were moved by us," Kalinovskiy said. The cemetery is looking forward to working with the families to correct matters, he said. "We want to work together and do the right thing," Kalinovskiy said. Margie Porteous is one of the handfuls of Sacramento residents who attended the meeting with the church. Porteous said she has many family members buried in the cemetery, including her grandparents and great-grandparents. She was among those upset with the condition of the cemetery. "You would not be happy if you went into the cemetery and found that grave markers were not in the right spot. It is very upsetting," Porteous said. She repeated the call for those with family members buried in the cemetery to come forward to help identify grave sites and eventually rehabilitate the cemetery. She also said there ought to be better laws governing cemetery record-keeping. "There is really nobody to oversee what is going on," she said. LaPerriere said there was no malicious intent on the part of the church. "I don't think the church meant to do anything out of bounds. They weren't aware of how to approach this. They have done some good out there," he said. LaPerriere said he thinks that ultimately more good than bad will come from the situation. "Sometimes it takes something like this to draw enough public attention so some good can come from it," he said. Anyone with a family member buried in Old Bellview is asked to call the Old City Cemetery Committee at (916)448-5665.


Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 10-22-1972

Funeral Homes Move to Acquire Cemetery

Thirteen Sacramento area funeral homes announced they are joining to buy the five-year-old Pioneer Memorial Lawn Cemetery on Jackson Road, one of two local cemeteries operated by the Odd Fellows Lodge. The funeral homes are purchasing the property from Sutter Realty, owner of both Odd Fellows cemeteries, for $250,000, and will share equally in its ownership, according to the announcement. Robert Carnes, owner of Sierra View Cemetery in Marysville, will manage the facility in association with his son Stephen. The new owners will change the name to Camellia Memorial Lawn, install a crematory and modernize the cemetery offices. The Odd Fellows will continue to operate their cemetery on Riverside Boulevard. Listed as the purchasers are the following funeral homes: George L. Klumpp, Harry A. Nauman & Son, Lombard & Co., N. G. Culjis & Son, Miller-Skelton & Herberger, Morgan-Jones, Nightingales’s, Price, Sierra View, Thompson, Davis, North Sacramento, and Cochrane’s. Carnes, the manager, is also an owner and director of the group which has incorporated as Pioneer Management Co.



Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 5-4-1995

Folsom Seeks Historical Recognition for Its Chinese Cemeteries

The California Historic Commission Friday will consider whether one of Folsom's two Chinese cemeteries qualifies for the National Register. The commission, meeting in Monterey, will review an application submitted by the city of Folsom regarding the Chung Wah Cemetery west of Folsom Boulevard adjacent to Lake Natoma. The application is designed to recognize Folsom's Chinese history. The last burial in the cemetery took place in 1946. "Folsom's Chinese community once contained the houses, businesses, and gardens of hundreds of people," according to an application submitted to the California Historic Commission. "Today, only this cemetery remains as the last visual reminder of a rich heritage and a viable Chinese population that once flourished in town." Attracted by gold, about 3,000 Chinese mined in the Folsom area. The community had a flourishing Chinese district that included stores, restaurants, barber shops, gaming houses, gardens, homes, churches and Chinese association halls, according to a report to the California Historic Commission by Maryln Bourne Lortie, a staff historian with the state Office of Historic Preservation. Chinese miners and laborers found Folsom a desirable location after experiencing racial violence in areas like Roseville, Rocklin, and Penryn, according to an 1878 report in the San Francisco Alta newspaper. Like Placer County, El Dorado County didn't appear to be friendly toward the Chinese. "Our neighbors at Folsom are silent on the Mongolian question, but if El Dorado County should succeed in getting rid of the Chinamen, Folsom will probably welcome them as in the case of the Rocklin drive," a Clarksville correspondent for the Placerville Republican said in an 1886 Folsom Telegraph article. "Our citizens here are talking seriously of boycotting Folsom businessmen if they do not do something to rid the place of the presence of Chinese," the correspondent said. In 1901, a fire wiped out half of Folsom's Chinese district, and by 1920 the Chinese population had declined to 26, Lortie said. While the 2.6-acre Chung Wah Cemetery is being considered for the National Register, Folsom's other Chinese cemetery, Yeong Wo, is being considered for designation as a point of historic interest, a less significant classification. Yeong Wo, adjacent to Lakeside Memorial Cemetery west of Folsom Boulevard and south of Sutter Street, doesn't qualify for the National Register because it hasn't retained the appearance it had in the 19th and early 20th centuries, said Lortie and Cindy Baker, historian for PAR Environmental Services and a resident of Folsom's historic district. "Abandoned as a cemetery in 1912, the lot presently contains a number of modern buildings, playground equipment, parking lot and barbecue facilities, none of which are related to the historic function of the property," Lortie said in her report to the California Historic Commission. Yeong Wo also is surrounded by The Preserve, a new housing development. On the other hand, Chung Wah, also known as Sze Yup and Sam Yup Cemetery, contains many burial mounds and pits where remains have been exhumed, Lortie said in her report to the commission. "Also on the site are brick-lined vaults, the remains of a shrine and a burning pit where the deceased's personal belongings were burned to ensure that they could be used in the afterlife," Lortie said. A Chinese custom, Baker said, was to bury people 18 to 20 inches deep rather than the traditional 6 feet. Exhumers from San Francisco returned to the grave about five years after the death, removed the body, cleaned the bones, and placed them in a container about the size of a thigh bone and return them to the family's home in China, Baker said. Chung Wah's "irregular shape suggests it was haphazardly planned, perhaps beginning with a few Chinese burials and then spreading out as more Chinese died in Folsom over the years," Lortie said in her report. "Graves were dug wherever there was room, with no specific orientation or layout." Vandals desecrated Chung Wah in 1967, Lortie said. Three graves were uncovered, and the coffins were smashed. Bones were left scattered on the ground, and jewelry was stolen and later traced to San Francisco pawn shops, Lortie said. Folsom's Chinese cemeteries are unique in Sacramento County, Lortie said, because all other known Chinese burial sites lie within community cemeteries shared by Asians and non-Asians. The New Helvetia, Elder Creek, and Sacramento city cemeteries contain Chinese sections dating back to the Gold Rush, the report says. Lortie found it unusual that Folsom has two Chinese cemeteries instead of one. The cemeteries were established by people from different areas of China, she said, and representatives of three Chinese factions in Folsom didn't get along with one another. The Chung Wah Cemetery consists of Chinese from the Heungshan dialect group and served the Sam Yup-and Sze Yup-speaking people. Meanwhile, Yeong Wo was established by people from the Chungshan district in the coastal province of Guangdong. If the California Historic Commission recommends that the Chung Wah Cemetery be designated in the National Register, the final decision will be with the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, Lortie said. The "keeper's" staff approves California's recommendations 99.9 percent of the time, Lortie said. The decision to designate the Yeong Wo Cemetery as a point of historic interest lies with the California Historic Commission, Lortie said, because it would be a state site and not a national site like Chung Wah.




Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 4-28-1994

Cemetery Thrives – Elk Grove Operation Grows with Times

Due to the growth of the south area, decades of sound business practices and, well, the inevitable, Elk Grove's South East Lawn Cemetery has upgraded and expanded to match the community's architectural flair for the modern. "Our forefathers in East Lawn forecast back in the 1950s that Elk Grove would be a major community someday," said Don Hart, president of East Lawn, which owns five memorial parks/ mortuaries around Sacramento, including South East Lawn. "It looks like their prediction was right," said Hart. South East Lawn's 143 acres, which once sat as a forlorn parcel whose only company was State Highway 99, now rests comfortably, pardon the expression, between some of Elk Grove's largest new developments. And on April 8, South East Lawn's eight-person staff moved into a dazzling 13,000-square-foot building that borders the Stockton Boulevard frontage road along Highway 99. "We don't compete in a commercial sense with other funeral homes around town," says South East Lawn manager Rod Noble, lowering his voice, "but we have the nicest place in town now." Certainly a world away from the original building erected on the property in the mid-1960s. By the time services were moved to the new quarters earlier this month, the old funeral home was used for body storage, embalming, preparation, viewing, and religious services, with many of those taking place in the same room. It also served as a mausoleum, chapel, and administrative and sales office, all of this after expansion in 1988. "It was getting really cramped. Of course, it wasn't like we couldn't do our jobs or anything," said Noble. But the new building, which reflects the bright stucco architecture of homes in nearby developments, has plenty of space for all services. There are conference rooms for families, display rooms for headstones and caskets (22 different models), a chapel with CD sound system that can seat up to 180, separate areas for flower arranging and a room where beauticians fix the deceased's hair and makeup. The improvements are not lost on grieving families. "We lost a lot of business at the old facility because our chapel was right in the middle of the (mausoleum) crypts," said Noble. "When they've lost a loved one, people are very, very sensitive to those things." Because the area was so desolate when construction began 30 years ago, the original funeral home was only about 3,000 square feet. South East Lawn today remains the only funeral home south of Sacramento Memorial Park in the Elder Creek area. The new state-of-the-art facility came about, in part, because of Elk Grove's expanding stature as well as its expanded size. "I live just on the other side of Calvine Road and I wish I was on this side because I would be in the Elk Grove zip code," said Janice Martin, a secretary at South East Lawn. "People love Elk Grove because it's a million miles away from Sacramento, so I just tell people I live in the Elk Grove area," said Martin, who commutes five minutes to work. South East Lawn has also benefited from the visibility brought by the 1993 construction of Marketplace 99, an adjacent shopping center anchored by Mervyn's, Raley's, and Ross Dress for Less. And since the funeral home business, like most others, makes money on volume as well as visibility, it didn't hurt when the First Baptist Church opened a huge tile-roofed facility next to South East Lawn last January. "You never try to pry customers in our business, but I will say we've done a few funerals from them (First Baptist Church), and it's because they see our new facility and then come and find out what we have to offer," said Noble, a former free-lance embalmer who has seen for himself what other funeral homes have to offer. Said Hart: "Our success or failure is not dependent, obviously, on retail business being near our facility, but the fact that they are moving in tells us that our physical population base is growing, and that's where our business is." And as Elk Grove has plenty of space for growth so, too, does South East Lawn. Only 13 acres are currently used for burial, with about 50 to 60 percent occupied. Noble says full occupancy of the plots in the entire 143 acres is not in the foreseeable future. "We've seen reports that Elk Grove is one of the fastest-growing areas in California," said Noble. "And we'll just keep growing as the needs of our community grow."


Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 7-7-2005

East Lawn Cemetery Marks 101 Years of History

Cemeteries tend to be low-key places. Some historic places in Sacramento mark a birthday with parades, music and speeches by area people of note. A group of 50 people - mostly members of the Sacramento Historical Society and neighbors - marked East Lawn Memorial Park's 101st anniversary last week with a walking tour. The most famous people in attendance were in the ground. "In 1904, East Lawn indeed was a new concept in Sacramento," said Bob LaPerriere, a guide for the tour and curator of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Museum of Medical History. A private cemetery with perpetual care of the grounds was a new concept, but one that was growing in popularity across the country at the time, LaPerriere said. "As we walk through East Lawn ... recall its 101-year history but also remember that within its confines lie those whose history goes back well beyond 101 years," LaPerriere said. "Back to the Gold Rush, back to the settlement before the Gold Rush, back to the time before white man arrived in this area." The East Lawn cemetery opened in 1904 on what was then 40 acres of farmland west of town. Sacramento had only 30 registered automobiles then. The cemetery was built on some of the highest ground in the area, just like the Old Sacramento City Cemetery was in 1849. But there are many city pioneers in East Lawn, thanks to the relocation of one of the city's early cemeteries. In 1956, the city completed the removal of remains of 5,235 people who were buried in the New Helvetia Cemetery, once located east of Sutter's Fort. Most of the remains were buried in the Helvetia section of East Lawn Cemetery because they came from unmarked graves in the old cemetery. Among the remains in the mass burial area are those belonging to Joseph McKinney, Sacramento County's first sheriff, who was killed four months after taking office in what was called the "squatter riots" of 1850. A stone marker at the site was dedicated to him in 1995. Other stops along the tour included a visit to the final resting spots of Newton J. Earp, the older brother of Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp of the legendary shootout in Tombstone, Ariz.; and William Land, early hotel owner and landowner who donated the money to start the park named after him. One of the more unusual grave sites in the cemetery belongs to four British Royal Air Force pilots who died while test-flying American fighter planes during World War II. Rather than shipping the remains of the men home after the war, British soil was shipped to Sacramento to cover their graves. New chapters in local history are still being added at East Lawn. Outspoken Vietnam veteran and Assemblyman B.T. Collins was buried there in 1993. Congressman Robert Matsui was buried there last year. "We are 101 and still not full and not fully developed," said Alan Fisher, senior vice president of East Lawn. He said tours for children and adults continue throughout the year.



Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 10-4-1992

Grave Matters in Elder Creek

On a sun-baked afternoon, standing under the stingy shade of a cypress tree, Darrell Davies and S.W. Toots Sunzeri are trying to recall the last time someone was actually buried at Elder Creek Cemetery. The two survey the rows of crumbling plots looking for a fresh clue. “We are really a dead cemetery,” says Toots Sunzeri, whose sense of mordant good humor comes naturally. “Nobody comes here to bury anybody anymore.” That's not entirely true. Suddenly it dawns on Sunzeri. Sure, it was his sister-in-law, Alice. “She died just last year. September 18,” he says. “She passed away on the 15th. We buried her on the 18th. Her husband was a World War II veteran. She wanted to be buried next to him. She was 92 years old. Just a young girl,” he says irreverently. “Seven years older than me.” “Let me show you something,” interrupts Darrell Davies, eager to tell his own family tale. “See that tall spire in back. It's the tallest monument in the cemetery. It marks my great-grandfather's grave O.T. Davies. My father always liked to point that that monument cost $1,500 in its day.” That day was an eternity ago. Old O.T. Davies (Native of Wales) died Nov. 4, 1880. “What do you think it would cost today?” wonders Sunzeri, a fancier of angelic statuary. He peers at the prominent marble obelisk, pitted by time, bleached fossil-white by a century of sun. “Probably $30,000 or more.” They stand in the shade and ponder the price of antiquity. The Elder Creek Cemetery, a relic of the past, is encircled by new subdivisions in the city's south area. Just two lonely acres, it is bordered by a chain-link fence and dotted by clumps of pyracantha, oleander, and wild blackberries that run rampant over now illegible headstones. The pioneer cemetery made room for its first soul in 1869. “We don't know where that grave is,” says Sunzeri, looking distressed. It's disappeared. Other graves, too, their pine coffins long ago expired, have left poignant hollows in the earth. Yet what knowledge the rustic cemetery yields is possessed exclusively by these two. Darrell Davies is nearly 80 years old, a tall, distinguished-looking man, who was born and raised in the Elder Creek area. S.W. Sunzeri is 85 years old, a short, dark, outspoken man wearing a floppy cap. Together the odd-sized duo preside over the cemetery board that governs Elder Creek Cemetery. They also sit on the area Tokay Water Board. “Some people think we monopolize things around here,” says Sunzeri, shrugging off such life and death issues. Asked about the people buried here, Davies notes, “There are no murderers buried here. Nobody murdered. Oh, one guy went out and got a haircut one morning and then came home and blew his head off with a shotgun. But most of the people here were simple farmers. No one illustrious.” The two stroll along the brick-bordered plos. Dust stirs, weeds creep, the sound of gravel crunches beneath their feet. “Is old man Rutter buried here?” Davies suddenly bellows to Sunzeri. Sure enough, there's old man Rutter's grave 1827-1912. “The year I was born,” informs Davies. He was the man who first brought Tokay grapes to the Florin area. He ponders that long-forgotten accomplishment. Davies and Sunzeri manage small epitaphs for other graves, too. A woman who died in childbirth; a man who invented a washing machine; the first black buried at Elder Creek, his grave marked by a hand-chiseled marble tablet; a whole memorial grove dedicated to the early Japanese. “Elder Creek was the only cemetery that would accept Japanese bodies back then,” claims Sunzeri. Even graves that bear no headstone, Davies and Sunzeri seem to know something of their inhabitants. “I'm interested in that it looks respectable,” says Sunzeri, when asked of his years of devotion to the cemetery board. “And if things aren't right here, I raise hell.” “So many people buried here,” says Davies, whose father served on the cemetery board before him. “So many people I knew. All their names mean something to me.” Even now, in spite of the appearance of decay and congestion, about 50 plots are left in the cemetery. Most of them spoken for by local folks. But there will be no graves for these two. Curiously enough, both Sunzeri and Davies plan on being buried elsewhere. A final irony of sorts. “My wife has a plot here,” says a mock-peeved Sunzeri (her family, the Murphys, going back multi-generations). “But I'm going to be left out.” “Maybe we can double you up with somebody,” jokes Davies. Davies, whose descendants take up a lot of turf here, as he puts it, prefers to be interred in a crypt at East Lawn. The notion of being planted in the ground disturbs him. “What if someone pulls a fast one on you?” needles Toots Sunzeri, capable of pulling such a lasting prank. “What are you going to do then?“

Davies smiles sagely. “I'm not going to argue,” he replies.



Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 11-10-2005

Local History Unearthed in Area Cemetery

Elk Grove's history lies under shady trees and along worn walkways. Marble headstones give a thumbnail story of pioneers, soldiers and settlers who laid the foundation of today's community... "William H. Cumpston, Civil War Veteran" "Rachel War, free slave" "The past is here," said Marilyn Ann Flemmer, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Elk Grove -Cosumnes Cemetery District. "I have strong feelings about this." Flemmer is slim and dresses in tailored suits. She wears her white hair in a short, full cut. Her heart and life has always been in Elk Grove where family ties go back to the merging of the Flemmer-Frickert families, both well established in the area generations ago. "My parents and grandparents are buried here," she says of the 5-acre Elk Grove Cemetery just south of Highway 99. It's a quick turn off busy Elk Grove Boulevard onto the gravel driveway to the resting place of the community founders. "Natives here talk in a language of old houses and ranches," Flemmer said. "Names of the people who lived there are now on street signs and schools. Many of them are buried here." The first person interred on this site was John Irons, a Mason. He died in 1865 and was buried in the Ebernezor Baptist Church cemetery at Sheldon Road and Highway 99. In 1891, he was exhumed and buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Elk Grove. In 1951, the Masonic Lodge deeded this cemetery to the newly formed Elk Grove - Cosumnes Cemetery District. Once a simple 2-acre parcel, the district has grown to include Elk Grove, Franklin, Pleasant Grove, San Joaquin, Hilltop, and Elder Creek cemeteries. "This represents America," Flemmer said of small cemeteries. There are famous names among those who rest in the six cemeteries, and some not so famous. Five Civil War veterans lie in Elk Grove, one in Hilltop. "Three years ago, I read the Gettysburg Address at the Memorial Day services in their honor," Flemmer said. In Elder Creek, Japanese farmers and their families are buried in a fenced area. James Rutter, an early sheriff who raised Tokay grapes, is there also, on the other side of the fence. In Franklin, a multicultural mélange of Chinese, Japanese, German and Swedish immigrants are interred side by side. In Elk Grove Cemetery, there is Joseph Kerr, who donated the land where a middle school named for him was built. Also in that cemetery lies Obediah Shank Freeman, who crossed the Plains in 1861 to become a farmer in Elk Grove. He is buried in Lot 42. The most famous and most-sought-out grave site of all is that of Elitha Donner Wilder, survivor of the ill-fated Donner Party wagon train. Elitha was rescued and taken to Sutter's Fort. Debra Gale, the district secretary, has devised a walking tour of Elk Grove Cemetery that she takes with school or Scouting groups. She says the children like the story of Edward Cadjew, who had his dog buried beside him - the only dog known to be buried at the cemetery. People often come to Gale to ask for names for a family history or research papers. "People share their stories with us. Debbie talks with them and gives them what information we have," Flemmer said. "I love the connection with people." Last year, there were 72 burials in the district. This year, there have been 89 so far. A few cents annually from each county tax bill supports the district with a budget of $942,000. "As the community grows, so does the revenue," Flemmer said. "Because of that, we are able make improvements, such as getting water to Hilltop." A board oversees the cemetery district, but it is the staff members who are charged with the care and maintenance of its cemeteries. "I am so proud of my fellow board members and my office staff and the groundsmen who work so hard to make the parks so beautiful," Flemmer said. "The board is very proud of its employees." Closely governed by special district law, board members must live within the cemetery district. Those wishing to be buried in one of the plots must also be a resident or have roots in the area. Arnie Zimbelman, Sterling Kloss, and Flemmer comprise the three-member board of directors. They were appointed by county officials and receive $100 a meeting. It is their job to oversee and form policy for the district, organized in 1951. The directors met in a garage until 1990, when an administration building was constructed on the Elk Grove site. "Each cemetery has a master plan," Flemmer said. "At every meeting, we decide priorities. There is no problem we can't solve." Looking forward, the board has acquired more land and plans to have "niche banks" for ashes in all cemeteries, Flemmer said. An avenue of American flags is planned, with a nameplate for each pole. Members of the public can purchase a plaque for a donation of $100. "I want people to come to our Memorial Day ceremonies and honor our American middle-class values and the people who supported us," Flemmer said. "I want children to come." On Veterans Day, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post places flags on the grave of everyone who served in the U.S. armed forces. "I know my roots and love them," Flemmer said. "I want to protect and honor the past."


Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 5-1-2005

Fair Oaks Cemetery Grows in Size - District Widens its Boundaries to Accommodate More Residents

The Fair Oaks Cemetery was founded Oct. 21, 1902, on 2.5 acres marked by gently sloping hills and oak trees. The park-like setting at Olive Street and New York Avenue now covers 13 acres, and cemetery officials perform about 200 burials there each year. But until recently, not all Fair Oaks residents could be buried there. Official action has changed that. The Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission last month approved a boundary adjustment for the Fair Oaks Cemetery District to incorporate Fair Oaks residents north of Madison Avenue in the 95628 zip code. Before the boundary adjustment, the Sylvan Cemetery District in Citrus Heights served those homes. Under the arrangement, part of the Fair Oaks district in Carmichael will be added to the Sylvan district. "We were getting a lot of requests from residents who weren't in the district but who wanted to be buried at the cemetery," district manager Ray Young said. He said it was difficult to explain that although the district served a greater population than Fair Oaks, not all Fair Oaks residents were in the district. The Fair Oaks and Sylvan cemetery districts started the process to adjust their boundaries two years ago, Young said. An engineering firm was hired, and a proposal was submitted to LAFCO in June 2004, according to a news release. The LAFCO process included a 60-day public comment period, during which no one protested. The new boundaries became official April 3. The process cost the two districts $33,500, Young said. The new boundaries affect about 1,100 acres and 18,000 residents. The Fair Oaks Cemetery District serves Fair Oaks and parts of Carmichael, Rancho Cordova and unincorporated Sacramento County. The district is bounded on the south by White Rock Road, on the west by Howe Avenue, by Natomas Lake to the east and by Madison Avenue to the north, except where the boundary adjustments added land north of Madison Avenue between Dewey Drive and San Juan Avenue and between Fair Oaks Boulevard and Main Avenue. Young said the district's cemetery and burial services typically cost half of what private cemeteries charge. Two of the earliest burials at the cemetery were of Lillian Maude Shelton and Nellie Williams, who both died in 1898, before the cemetery was part of an official district, according to the district's Web site. The first official burial was that of Sarah Vail in 1903. The Fair Oaks Cemetery also is the final resting place for many war veterans, including about a dozen who served in the Civil War. “There is a strong sense of community identity in Fair Oaks,” Young said. “Many people who have resided in Fair Oaks their entire lives want to be buried here. Now, that option is available to them.”

Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 9-11-2005

Cemetery Set for Final Construction

The Fair Oaks Cemetery District performs about 200 burials a year of area residents and veterans. But next week, district officials will break ground for reasons other than death. The district Tuesday will hold a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate construction of 211 vaults in the ground for burials and a new Patriotic Court of Honor that will house 500 niches for cremated remains. The developments will help meet burial needs for the next 10 years at the cemetery at Olive Street and New York Avenue, said Ray Young, district manager. Over the years, sections of the 11-acre facility have been developed as needed. “This groundbreaking ceremony will celebrate the development of the last remaining portion of the Fair Oaks Cemetery,” Young said, adding that current burial grounds are at capacity. The project will cost $480,000 and will be paid through a district surplus fund for land development, Young said. Construction of the vaults is expected to be complete within four weeks. The Patriotic Court of Honor should be finished by spring of 2006, Young said. The Patriotic Court will be designed as a pentagonal structure and will feature a Wall of Honor to commemorate veterans buried at the cemetery. Drawings will be on display at the groundbreaking ceremony, which will start at 11:30 a.m.

The Fair Oaks Cemetery is a public cemetery district established in 1903, according to The district’s services typically cost half of what private cemeteries charge, because it is subsidized by property taxes paid by district residents and property owners, Young said. In April, the district adjusted its boundaries to provide all Fair Oaks residents an opportunity to be buried there. The new boundaries affect about 1,100 acres and 18,000 residents. The district also includes parts of the city of Rancho Cordova, Carmichael, and other unincorporated county areas.


Sacramento Union, 10-25-1953

637 Forgotten Men Lie Buried In Folsom Prison Cemetery

A prison is a city behind walls – and in prison as in a city, death as well as life is a part of the routine to be met. Men die of violence in prison, and of natural causes – 637 men lie buried in the hillside cemetery of Folsom Prison overlooking the American River. In neat rows stand the grave markers, the older ones of granite, the newer ones of painted wood, memorials to forgotten men who died while paying their debts to society. Folsom Prison Cemetery is as old as the prison itself, but who was the first man to be interred there, or why he died, is lost in the musty records of another century. The identity of all who are buried there is known, but it is not known for sure which of the graves actually is the oldest. No exact date is known as to when the cemetery first was established, but it probably was in 1880, the same year the prison was built. The original prison cemetery was located where the prison dairy now stands. It was moved in the 1920s to its present location to make room for expansion of the actual prison plant. It is a neat, well-kept cemetery, and although too high on the river hill for water to be brought to it without excessive cost, the cemetery is much neater and better kept than many public cemeteries in rural areas. Graves were marked with stone, with the prison number of the deceased chisled into it, in the days when a prison stone yard was maintained. Since the prison rock quarry has been closed, plain white wooden markers, with the prisoner’s name and prison number, have been used. Actually the number of deaths that occur in a jail of 2300 inmates, such as Folsom Prison, is much lower in ratio to population than in a town of the same size. This is due to the fact that most inmates are of an age range that covers their most healthy years, the fact they are given the best medical attention, have good food and good living conditions. The average age of a Folsom prison convict is 38. There is no infancy death rate nor high death rate due to extreme old age. Actually the number of persons buried in Folsom Prison Cemetery is only a token number of the deaths that have occurred there over its 73 years of existence. The bodies of the majority of men who died there have been claimed by families or friends and given outside burial. The death rate now also is lower at the prison than ever before. When death of a prisoner occurs, his family, if he has one, is notified. Arrangements can be made for outside burial, just as if he had died outside. If the body is not claimed in due time, it is embalmed and given regular burial in the prison cemetery. Humanitarianism always has played a large part in Folsom Prison administration, even in its earliest days when it was known as the toughest prison in the west. It got that reputation of toughness from the caliber of its inmates, not from the caliber of the treatment accorded them. No prisoner buried here, whether hanged for murder, killed in riots, or in a fight with other inmates, ever has been buried in quick-lime as was once done at early day prisons in the East. There never has been mutilation of a body at Folsom Prison. In the earlier days of the prison, it is true there were no religious services or burial rites for the dead. Men who died were placed in wooden caskets with a shroud and just buried. Religious rites and funeral services were inaugurated in 1929 under administration of Warden Court Smith; but, in reality, it was Bill Ryan, now associate warden of Folsom Prison, who was responsible for the first funeral services ever held here. The first regular funeral came about when one of the prison’s “old timers” a lifer known as Pop died of natural causes. Pop had spent a lot of years behind the walls of Folsom. He played on the prison baseball team in his younger days, and he was a sort of friend and counselor to countless prisoners and was well liked by the prison staff. On the occasion of his death, a delegation of prisoners came to Ryan, who then was a captain, and asked if a few words could be spoken beside the casket. Ryan agreed, but he went further than that – he contacted a Catholic priest in Roseville, for Pop was of the Catholic faith, and asked if the priest would conduct services. Rosary and mass were held in the prison chapel, the result was well received by both prisoners and Warden Smith. Shortly after, the practice of holding funeral services and graveside rites for all who were to be buried in the prison cemetery was inaugurated. Prisoners who are friends of the deceased now attend services in the prison chapel, but for security reasons, they are not allowed to attend the graveside rites. Folsom Prison now has two chaplains, Father Patrick J. Gilligan of the Catholic Faith and Rev. John Dunlop, Protestant. A Jewish rabbi divides his time between Folsom and San Quentin Prisons, and on occasion ministers of other faiths are brought in for services or to administer last rites. Today the bodies of all who are buried here are embalmed, and each man is buried in a new suit of clothes. The prison chapel itself, in which funeral services are held, is a plain, unadorned stone building on the outside, but its interior would do credit to churches in any community. In fact, its muraled walls probably are more beautiful than could be found in many of the finest churches in the largest of cities. The murals, done by a prison artist, were termed by a visiting priest from the Vatican as “real masterpieces.” A huge mural of the Last Supper over the church altar was painted by a man sent to prison for murder, and who, although he since has been released, now is serving another term in a Texas penitentiary. The faces of the 12 apostles in the mural are the faces of 12 prisoners who posed for the painting. Every effort is made by prison officials to turn remains of the dead over to the families, and quite often men are buried in the cemetery not because the members of the family wish it so, or have abandoned them, but because they do not have funds for outside funeral expenses. Many times men originally buried in the prison cemetery have been later moved to public cemeteries by their families. Only a few of the men who die in prison actually have been renounced by their families in recent years. “At the turn of the century,” said associate Warden Ryan, “the word ‘convict’ seemed to have a greater stigma attached to it than it does now, and many more families in those days renounced claim to the bodies of a deceased prisoner.” Persons who have relatives buried at Folsom can visit the graves, but they seldom do. Only once or twice a year are there requests from a member of a convict’s family to visit the cemetery where he is buried, prison officials said. Although in the early days of Folsom Prison, and as late as 1927, there were women prisoners serving sentences there, but not a single woman ever has been buried in the prison cemetery. There never were many women, and only one or two deaths. Their remains were immediately claimed by relatives. It may not be nice to think of dying behind the granite walls of prison, of burial in an anonymous prison grave, but the public may rest assured that those unfortunates who do die there are given a decent and respectable burial.

The Free Library, 1-26-1997

Man Delves into Discarded Resting Place: Prison’s Graves Tell Many Stories

Beneath a verdant hill on the grounds of Folsom Prison lie the graves of some 650 men. For years, the cemetery was forgotten, visited only by deer and rodents and considered so worthless that a former warden junked a map of the plots. Nobody was certain who was buried in the graves. But recently, one man has taken an interest in those laid to rest as long as a century ago. “A lot of people wind up with a black sheep in the family and they don’t know anything about them,’’ said Dennis McCargar, senior librarian at New Folsom Prison – officially California State Prison, Sacramento. ``It seemed to me we ought to come up with at least a surname list of people that died and were buried at the institution.’’ It has been entertaining work. More than 1,100 men are believed to have died at Folsom between 1874, when construction began, and 1957, when the prison began contracting with a removal service to handle inmate bodies. But only about half are in marked graves. McCargar and prison museum curator Tom Hickey speculate that the rest may have been combined into two mass graves when the cemetery was moved to its present site, about one mile northeast of the prison’s main gate and about a quarter-mile west of the parking lot of Folsom Dam. For some, this is the third resting site. The original graveyard was about a quarter-mile above what now is Folsom Dam, although it was built well before the dam and high above the American River. In 1896, floodwaters swept the coffins into the river, dislodging the corpses from the pine boxes. ``All the bodies went surfing down to Folsom,’’ said Hickey, with a bemused smile. Prison officials interred the bodies in a new spot, about a half-mile uphill from the original cemetery. But in 1913, prison authorities decided to put a calving barn atop the new graveyard. Again, the bodies were exhumed and moved to their present site, another half-mile uphill. Today, the calving barn is gone, replaced by a recycling center. And in 1989, when the new prison was built, authorities moved the shooting range to the base of the cemetery. ``When I’m up there, and they’re shooting, I’m ducking,’’ said McCargar, who visits the headstones to cull information from the mossy granite slabs and the fading wooden markers. The cemetery is home to all 93 men who were hanged at Folsom between 1895 and 1937, when Prison opened its gas chamber and Folsom ceased to house one of California’s two Death Rows. Also, there are the bodies of six prisoners whose bloody attempted escape on Thanksgiving Day in 1927 has become part of prison lore. One was shot to death in the ensuing uprising and the other five were hanged that same year. One granite marker is for Jake ``the Tiger’’ Oppenheimer, who murdered at least three prison inmates and was suspected of many more killings. He was a legend even in Folsom Prison, known for its historic streak of violence. He was hanged in 1903. But only a fraction of those buried at Folsom Prison were executed. The rest died in disease epidemics or gang warfare or escape attempts – some of which were more bizarre than others. In the fall of 1932, Carl T. Reese tried to escape the prison by weighing himself down with steel plates and walking the length of the canal that connected the prison with the city of Folsom. He wore a diving helmet made from an old football bladder and a hodgepodge of hoses. But Reese miscalculated the depth and drowned as he frantically tried to dump the steel from his pockets, according to Hickey. Hickey, a human encyclopedia of Folsom Prison history, has been intrigued for years by the mysteries of the graveyard. ``These men were the pioneers of California,’’ he said. ``They came for the Gold Rush.’’ Although Hickey discovered a pirated copy of the cemetery’s plot map, many of the wooden markers are out of sequence and many, many graves appear to be missing – spawning the speculation of mass burials. Years of official indifference have made the puzzle even more difficult to solve.


Sacramento Bee, Saturday, 12-19-1998

Cemetery Planned

Construction may begin as early as January on the Sacramento area’s first Muslim cemetery, to be built on Jackson Road, local religious leaders said this week. Muslims from more than a half-dozen mosques, or masjids, and Islamic centers have purchased the 15-acre plot together, according to Imam Mumtaz Qasmi of the V Street mosque. Half of the roughly $400,000 needed for the project has been raised so far. One or two acres, with the capacity of 1,000 to 1,100 graves per acre, will be developed first, Qasmi said. Most Muslim burials now take place in a section of Camellia Memorial Lawn, also on Jackson Road, Qasmi said.


Sacramento Union, 7-30-1950

Old Weed-infested Cemetery in Galt District Reads Like Who’s Who in State Pioneer Lore

Next organization with a yen to erect a monument to northern California pioneers could do worse than look into the matter of Hicksville Cemetery, located only a stone’s throw off Highway 99, several miles north of Galt. The weed-infested, three-acre plot burial ground for several hundred early-day settlers is already a monument, but only to man’s ability to forget quickly. A trip to the cemetery is in itself an education. Dozens of pioneer families are there, and stones carry inscriptions reading like a who’s who of the central valley’s early day history. A few fresh mounds are visible, but for the most part the cemetery lies covered with weeds, grass, and poison oak. A few trees, including a stately cypress, add an incongruous note. Scores of tiny lizards live in the graveyard, and burrowing animals have undermined tombstones and dug into graves themselves. The cemetery was started by Mrs. Elizabeth Davis, a short time after she settled in the vicinity in 1851. Mrs. Davis objected to the custom of burying pioneers in widely scattered places. She quickly won the approval of other women of her day who decided upon the location it now occupies. First burial, according to old-timers in the area, was that of a Negro known only as “Nigger Dan,” a former slave. Several other Negroes, nearly all former slaves or descendants of former slaves, also are believed buried there, but markers apparently have been removed or have deteriorated, making identification impossible. Monuments over graves attest to hardships of life in the 1880s. A large share of graves are those of children, some of them dead at birth, and some who lived only a few weeks or two or three years. Hardy settlers who survived terrific handicaps to reach their “land of Promise,” often as not were 80 or more before death came. David L. Davis, who died when 72 years old, is an example. Though both he and his wife lived to ripe ages, clustered around them in their famil7y plot are five children, including Willie, 3; Phoebe, 1; and Louie, who died the same year he was born. The somber eloquence often found on old tombstones isn’t lacking at Hicksville. One slab, over William Frazer who died when 15 months old, reads: “Those little hands thou wilt raise no more to meet my loving fond caress. For death’s cold blast in passing over has snatched thee from affection’s breast.” A tiny stone, apparently the burial place of another Frazer child, shows only the initials W. F. F. Many old tombstones are broken, some apparently by vandals. Others shattered as they toppled over when animals burrowed underneath, or as windstorms whipped through the field, blowing over weakened monuments. Present owner of the graveyard is not known. The site once came under ownership of the Hicksville Methodist Church, which was sold many years ago after the town of Hicksville burned down. The wood was taken to Galt for construction of houses, and the cemetery fell into gradual decay, as people moved away, and modern farm methods and machinery dispersed farm populations. Sacramento County Assessor’s rolls carry a notation “not assessed to anyone.” Though considerable restoration work must be done to bring the cemetery into condition, residents of the area feel that if enough interested organizations would participate, the acreage could again be made a suitable resting place. In all fairness, the cemetery isn’t entirely neglected. A new-looking sign, marked “Hicksville Cemetery,” hangs over the entrance. About a year ago, Airport Road Camp inmates cleaned up the grounds, removing weeds and rubble, and at least once each year a women’s pioneer organization hangs a wreath on the cemetery gate. Otherwise, only lizards, grasshoppers, and a few rodents watch, disturbed only when another pioneer is buried beside other members of his family, or when a new grave is dug.


Sacramento Bee, Monday, 5-1-1995

Historic Cemetery Sacred to Indians

For Pat Blue and other American Indians, Hicksville Cemetery is a sacred spot. The east side of the 2.5-acre graveyard, about six miles south of Elk Grove, is the final resting place for more than 60 American Indians, some of whom were born in the early 1800s. The west side contains the remains of many early ranching families in the Elk Grove area, including the Dillards. On the west side, the graves are topped by elaborate tombstones. On the east side, most of the graves are unmarked in keeping with Indian tradition. I feel like I’m coming home every time I come here,” Blue, 60, of Sacramento said recently while visiting the graves of some of her Miwok ancestors at the tree-shaded cemetery on Arno Road. Her comment had double meaning. She spent her early childhood in a house a couple of miles east of Hicksville Cemetery; when she dies, she plans to make the cemetery her final home. “I feel like a real part of this land,” Blue said, standing near the graves of her parents, grandparents, and at least 10 other relatives. “I feel close to my family when I come here... That’s why I want to be buried here.” The Hicksville Cemetery was established in the 1860s or 1870s on land set aside by the Valensin family, said Elizabeth Pinkerton, a south county historian and past president of the Elk Grove Historical Society. Like Hicksville, a nearby town that flourished in the mid-1800s, it was named for William Hicks, a pioneer cattle rancher. Initially, the cemetery may have served as a burial ground for employees of Pio Valensin, whose descendants still own the 4,356-acre ranch bordering the tombs, Pinkerton said. The Valensins declined to be interviewed. Pio Valensin also decreed that the east side of the cemetery would be a burial ground for American Indians who lived on or near his ranch, Pinkerton said. Even before then, the east side of the cemetery had been a sacred Indian burial ground, American Indians suggest. What is certain, they add, is that after Valensin deeded the land, American Indians buried their dead at the cemetery without any costs. “There’s no question in my mind that Mr. Valensin intended that the Indian people would have this land and they would not have to purchase it from him,” Pinkerton said. “At that time, people gave away land freely because there was so much of it.” But the absence of a written deed has led to a dispute between some American Indians and the Galt-Arno Cemetery District, which took over the cemetery in the early 1950s. More than a year ago, the district began charging a $100 “endowment fee” for American Indians to bury a loved one there. Interest from the endowment will eventually be used for the cemetery’s maintenance, said Lawrence Mendoza, an official of the cemetery district. American Indians such as Terisa Franklin contend the fee is illegal. “We don’t feel it’s right to have to pay $100,” said Franklin, a Miwok from Sacramento, who has numerous relatives at the cemetery. “We’ve never had to pay to bury our people at this cemetery. It is our sacred burial grounds.” And some of her people cannot afford the fee, she said. Franklin and other American Indians have proposed taking over the cemetery – and assuming maintenance duties, which they say they sometimes do now on weekends. But Darlene Brown-Toyebo, an American Indian who serves on the board of the district, said the cemetery cannot rely on private citizens for its upkeep. “People make a lot of commitments and they don’t follow through,” said Brown-Toyebo, who also has loved ones at Hicksville Cemetery. Brown-Toyebo said raffles and other fund-raisers have been held in the community to raise money for those unable to pay the $100 fee. The district took over the cemetery years ago, after it became run-down and overgrown with weeds, Mendoza said. “The (Sacramento County Board of) Supervisors turned it over to us because there was no one there to keep that place clean,” he said. At one time, the cemetery was administered by a nearby, now-defunct church. Even today, American Indian funerals at Hicksville involve old traditions. The grave is dug by hand, by male relatives of the deceased. During the burial ceremony, Indian chants fill the air. The Nature Conservancy is trying to purchase the Valensin Ranch, with hopes of turning it into a preserve. The cemetery would not be affected if the transaction goes through, conservancy officials have said.

Lodi News-Sentinel, Wednesday, 7-16-2008

Local Indians in Fight Over Use of Historic Hicksville Cemetery

GALT — A group of Miwok Indians whose descendants inhabited the Cosumnes River area are once again trying to acquire burial sites at historic Hicksville Cemetery — sites they insist are rightfully theirs.
It goes back to what local Indians admit is a handshake agreement in 1870 that settlers in the Galt-Wilton area would share Hicksville Cemetery with local Indians, according to Galt residents Darlene Brown and Billie Blue-Elliston. Now there are two disputes affecting the Galt-Arno Cemetery District, a tax-supported institution that operates Galt and Hicksville cemeteries. One dispute is how many plots are to be allocated to local Indians. The other is whether Indians should be charged for burials. “This is really complicated,” cemetery board chairman Guy Rutter said. “The drama associated with it is overwhelming at times.” The issues are so acute that Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli convened two meetings between cemetery and Indian representatives in April and May. Attorney Bob Hunt, who represents more than 25 public cemetery districts, laid out the elements for a possible agreement between the two factions. Hunt was not available for comment Tuesday, but Nottoli said he left the two meetings believing that significant progress had been made. What complicates the matter is that Brown and Blue-Elliston, in addition to fighting the cemetery district, also sit on the five-member cemetery board, which is appointed by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. Blue-Elliston said that relations with the cemetery district changed in 1992, when her family was charged $700 to bury her father, William Blue, at Hicksville, a four-acre cemetery on Arno Road, just east of Highway 99. “That’s when it hit the fan,” Brown said. Since Miwok Indians perform their own burials and don’t hire professionals to dig the graves, Indians hadn’t been charged to bury their relatives at Hicksville Cemetery, Brown and Blue-Elliston said. Indians stopped being charged for burials later in the 1990s, and the Blue family was reimbursed its $700 payment. However, in 2002, the cemetery board voted 3-2 to charge Indians the same as people from any other denomination. “That’s when the nightmare began,” said Brown, a descendent of several Indian tribes. “I could not believe we were going backwards.” The other issue is what Indians perceive as having some of the land at Hicksville taken away from them by the cemetery district. The cemetery is divided by a concrete walkway. Brown and Blue-Elliston maintain that the Indians get the east side of the walkway, and people from other cultures get the west side. But cemetery district officials say that Indians get two rows of 90 plots each, not the entire six rows that are on the east side of the cemetery grounds. Depending on who you talk to, the issue is in limbo, or the cemetery board is stalling on a decision about both issues. Rutter says attorneys are reviewing legal aspects of it, one issue being whether a public district can give away land to Indians. Would it constitute a gift of public funds, which would be an illegal act? Rutter expects to receive a legal opinion in the next couple of months so the board can take action, but Brown said that attorneys aren’t reviewing anything. The board could act on these issues any time it wants, she said.


Sacramento Bee, 11-25-1925

Jews to Dedicate New Burial Ground – Public Cemetery Planned For Opening of Home of Peace Cemetery

Arrangements have been completed for the dedication next Sunday afternoon of the new Jewish Cemetery, which has been named the Home of Peace of Sacramento. The cemetery comprises between six and seven acres of land, and is located on the Stockton Boulevard, about six miles distant from the Sacramento post office. Rabbi Harold F. Reinhart of Temple B’nai Israel and Rabbi E. Brosin of the Mosaic Law Synagogue will jointly conduct the consecration services, beginning at 3 o’clock. There also will be an address by Rabbi Michael Fried, formerly of this city, now of Temple Shalom in San Francisco. Rabbi Fried will be the guest of the cemetery association. The public is invited to attend the services, and announcement was made today that automobiles will be provided until 2:45 o’clock Sunday afternoon for transporting persons from the Colonial Heights station of the Traction line to the cemetery. Arrangements also are being made to meet out-of-town guests at the railroad station upon request made in sufficient time in advance to Max Simon. Simon can be reached through post office box 89, or telephone number Main 3470M. The new cemetery is located on a corner on the west side of Stockton Boulevard. The property is 200 feet on Stockton Boulevard and extends 1,500 feet along a county road crossing. A sprinkler system with a deep well and pumping plant and automatic sprinklers provides facilities for the care of the grounds. The plan provides for a lawn without elevated stones for the central section of the cemetery. Side sections are reserved for those who choose to erect tombstones and mausoleums.

The Home of Peace of Sacramento is a corporation, the membership of which consists of those who own plots in the cemetery. The organization was formed by representatives of the two local Jewish congregations, Temple B’nai Israel and the Mosaic Law Synagogue. The old cemetery at J and Thirty-second streets has been taken over by the new corporation, but no more interments will be made in the old cemetery. The J Street burial ground is one of the oldest cemeteries in the valley, having been started by the first Jewish settlers in pioneer days. The office of the association is at the Temple B’nai Israel, 1431 Fifteenth Street. The officers and directors are: J. S. Gattman, president; I. Kubel, vice president; O. Goldblatt, treasurer; H. M. Kauffman, secretary; directors Albert Elkus, Oscar Blumberg, I. Brown, J. S. Gattman, O. Goldblatt, H. M. Kauffman, I. Kubel. A. J. Markowitz, Gus Marks, M. Simon, and Max Smith.

Sacramento Bee, Friday, 6-12-1987

Ill-Suited Neighbors Cemetery Owners Not Pleased With Adjoining Junkyard

Isidor Kalischer was born in the politically divided and physically hungry Germany of the 1830s. Sixty-nine years later – on March 7, 1907 – she died and was buried in Sacramento. The immigrant’s granite headstone rests less than a car length from a faded, metallic green Ford Galaxy 500. The vehicle was manufactured in the early 1970s, definitely in pre-energy crisis America, and thousands of miles later was stacked on top of other junked cars parked off Stockton Boulevard. The owners of both sections of land apparently sought out the purlieu – one for solitude and the other for isolation – but ended up next to each other with a city growing up around them. A six-foot block wall separates Home of Peace Cemetery from American Auto Wreckers, but it’s not tall enough to shield from view the rusting Ford, its trunk sprung open. Owners of the cemetery consider the wrecking yard an “obscene’’ neighbor for the final resting place of their loved ones. “Sometimes you can’t even hear yourself in the middle of a funeral,’’ Rabbi Lester Frazin said of the heavy equipment that moves car bodies around. “We just want the place to be decent, acceptable,’’ said Oscar Morvai, president of the cemetery association that built the wall and has planted shrubs to shield the view. “Would you like to live next to a wrecking yard?’’ Dick Parks, owner of American Auto Wreckers, knows that no one wants to live next door to his business, that people consider it an eyesore. No one likes sewage treatment plants either, he said, but both are necessary. The facts of civilized life aside, Parks insists that he’s done what he can to get along, and to survive. “This place has been here since before God,’’ Parks said of the 40-year- old wrecking yard. The cemetery, however, predates the wrecking yard. Rabbi Frazin said the cemetery contains some of the oldest Jewish graves west of the Mississippi River. Some of those buried at Home of Peace, including Isidor Kalischer, originally lay in Sacramento’s first Jewish cemetery east of 31st Street (now Alhambra Boulevard) and south of J Street. That property is home today to a concrete water tower, a grocery store, a bank, and the Lincoln Law School. But back in 1850, the B’nai Israel Congregation purchased it for a cemetery and turned it over to the Sacramento Benevolent Hebrew Society, cemetery historian Doe Bayless said. In 1924, the congregation purchased the 10-acre wedge of property fronting on Stockton Boulevard, about a mile south of Fruitridge Road. The early graves were moved to the new site in the country. To the north is El Paraiso Avenue, Spanish for “paradise,’’ and on the far side of paradise is Sacramento Memorial Lawn Cemetery. Parks said the wrecking yard was built south of Home of Peace in 1947, and when he acquired the business 15 years ago it came with “all kinds of grandfather rights.” Parks said he spent a couple of thousand dollars on plans to expand the operation and spruce it up. But Parks said the city rejected his proposal. By the early 1970s, land-use standards had been established and in planning parlance the junkyard was a “legal non-conforming use,’’ said Chuck Fontaine, a city nuisance abatement officer. Fontaine said city records contain no specific complaints against the wrecking yard. But a year ago, Fontaine said, residents complained at a community meeting about old cars being dumped on a nearby vacant lot that has since been developed. Morvai said the wrecking yard is a perennial irritant for the cemetery board, which at one time thought about buying out the business to relieve the concerns of the congregation. Morvai and Frazin said over the years the cemetery association board has complained to the city because of cars stacked high above the wall. But Morvai couldn’t say specifically when and how the board has complained. For now the association has decided the answer is time. As the area builds up, Morvai believes economics will pressure the wrecking yard owner to sell out. “It’s one of those things that’s been there so many years you kind of learn to live with it,’’ Morvai said. Parks said he has been visited only once in the past 15 years by someone from the cemetery. “They wanted me to put barbed wire on top of their wall,’’ Parks said. “The thieves cut through the cemetery at night,’’ he explained. “They throw the parts over the wall and carry them through the cemetery. But if the cops drive by, they’d drop the parts and run. It would be like me getting mad if I found a tombstone in my yard. One time in 15 years,’’ Parks said. “I don’t have a problem with the cemetery.’’ But Parks does have other problems and some of them are economic. “I’m having a time just surviving out here,’’ Parks said. “Thieves are making off with thousands of dollars a year in parts,” he said. Last year a mini-warehouse was built south of the wrecking yard, and Parks said modifications made to the creek between them caused his property to flood in the winter. During the summer, he fixes radiators and air conditioners. In the winter he buys cars smashed up on rain-slick roadways and tears them apart. But this year, half of his 450 junked cars spent the winter in two to feet of water, which Parks figures cost him $80,000 in sales during January and February. City engineering technician Ron Perry said he has urged the businesses to settle their differences.


Sacramento Bee, 4-2-1924

Jewish Cemetery Being Moved to a New Location – All Bodies At Thirty-Second And J Will Be Taken To Site On Upper Stockton Road

With the removal yesterday of six bodies from the Jewish Cemetery at Thirty-second and J streets to the new Home of Peace Cemetery on the Upper Stockton Road two miles south of this city, the abandonment of the old cemetery began. It was announced today by the B’nai Israel Cemetery Association, which owns the old burial grounds, that all bodies will be removed to the new cemetery and that the old ground will be sold. Plans have been underway for several years by the B’nai Israel Cemetery Association for the abandonment of the old cemetery. No bodies have been buried there for some time. The abandonment was made possible recently when the Home of Peace Cemetery Association was organized by the congregations of the two local Jewish churches. The new cemetery occupies six and one-half acres on the west side of the Upper Stockton Road, two miles south of the city limits. Only a few of the lots in the old cemetery are owned by individuals. The title to practically all of the lots rests with the association. It was stated that all the bodies will be removed.


Sacramento Bee, Saturday, 11-2-1996

State Probes Rubble in Folsom Cemetery Dispute

State investigators were poring Friday over a massive heap of concrete and granite rubble near the Lakeside Cemetery in Folsom, hoping the tons of debris will resolve a lengthy battle between history buffs and owners of the burial grounds Officials recently found fragments of headstones and burial plots in the rubble, some of which is on public property in the Folsom State Recreation Area and has sparked concerns about the possibility of illegal dumping by the cemetery. Underlying the state investigation, however, are more troubling but unsupported allegations by local historians that 19th century burial plots have been degraded and that many grave markers of historical pioneer figures are missing. Nothing found thus far in the digging, which is in its preliminary stages, has linked Lakeside to any felony wrongdoing, according to Mike Gomez, head of investigations for the state Department of Consumer Affairs. No charges have been filed. No conclusions have been reached. And Lorin Claney, owner of the cemetery, contends the excavation is much ado over little or nothing. Historians' accusations against Lakeside are unfair and unwarranted, he claims. Claney admits that the pile of rubble, which Lakeside has agreed to remove, includes material from the cemetery. But most of the affected plots were altered before his ownership and all were done with permission from families of the deceased, he said. Claney, whose family purchased Lakeside in 1963, said previous owners began removing concrete copings - walls outlining old cemetery plots - in the 1950s to convert the old cemetery into a more modern lawn-covered cemetery, not to degrade plots. Most concrete copings and headstones removed from the cemetery had been damaged and broken by weather, fallen trees or vandals, Claney said. During his ownership, copings around eight burial plots were removed and dumped, all with the permission of affected families, he said. As for accusations that the cemetery removed copings for the sake of financial gain - such as reselling grave sites - Claney said "it just doesn't happen" at Lakeside. "If we thought the cemetery was filled to capacity, why would we take it over?" he added. "There's no financial gain to take over a cemetery if you can't sell plots, and we sure didn't buy it to maintain what was already there." The rubble heap, about 35 feet in length, lies in a ravine partly on state-owned land adjacent to the cemetery at 507 Scott St. Following numerous complaints about the debris, city officials ordered Lakeside to remove the rubble as a condition for obtaining a use permit to install a new mausoleum in 1991. Lakeside started removing the huge pile this week. Investigators from Consumer Affairs - which oversees cemeteries - moved in, cordoning off a 50-yard-by-50-yard area in which they plan to excavate and study the contents. Sue Silver, a Folsom historian, said the debris reveals at least 10 to 20 family burial plots that have been "grossly degraded." Silver also claims many grave markers of historical pioneer figures are missing. "These are all pioneer graves," said Silver, who has leveled numerous complaints against Lakeside. "They are our history." The state Department of Parks and Recreation is looking into the possibility that the rubble was dumped illegally on parkland, while Consumer Affairs is studying the contents for evidence of unethical business practices, officials said. Several days ago, investigators found what they thought were small bone fragments among the rubble but tests by the Sacramento County Coroner's Office determined them to be pieces of vegetation, wood and dirt

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 5-7-1998

Cemetery in No Apparent Hurry to Develop Mausoleums

After making strides toward compliance with conditions for development and a change of ownership, one of Folsom's oldest businesses has yet to develop a sizable piece of land planned for as many as 10 mausoleums. Lakeside Memorial Lawn Cemetery and Mausoleum, which dates back to 1869, plans to use nearly 2 acres on the southern tip of its Mormon Street mausoleum site that complements its 7-acre cemetery on Mormon and Scott streets. "All of this land is sitting here, and we only have one mausoleum," general manager Lorin Claney said. "It makes sense to do something with it."
Lakeside has used the two years since the Folsom Planning Commission last reviewed its proposal to comply with 16 conditions of approval. In February 1996, the commission found that Lakeside hadn't complied with all of the conditions set forth in the original approval in 1991, and instructed the firm to report back to the commission in two years. Since then, the Claney family, which owned the cemetery for 35 years, has sold the Lakeside Cemetery and Mausoleum to Service Corporation International, which owns Mount Vernon Memorial Park in Fair Oaks. The state Department of Consumer Affairs' approval of the sale is pending. Lorin Claney has remained the general manager while the sale is pending. The transaction could be approved by early June. At the time of the 1991 approval, boundaries of the property were the subject of a dispute between Lakeside officials and representatives of the nearby Chung-Wah Cemetery, a historical Chinese cemetery. Chung-Wah representatives said a road Lakeside was grading at the mausoleum site encroached upon the historic cemetery. The dispute escalated to the point that the state Cemetery Board became involved, and an agreement was reached. The problem was that the surveyed boundary line didn't match the generally accepted boundary. The Claneys were building the road in the wrong place, and it was acknowledged that Chinese burials probably had occurred outside the Chung-Wah site. It was agreed that the southern tip of Lakeside's mausoleum site would be a "no-build" area, said Loretta McMaster, a senior planner with the city. Claney said the new granite mausoleums will be similar to the current mausoleum, which contains 168 caskets. When built, the Lakeside mausoleums will contain 2,000 crypt spaces. Other area cemeteries, such as East Lawn Memorial Park in Sacramento, have mausoleums similar to Lakeside's, Claney said.

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 12-4-2008

It's a Maintenance Issue - Cemetery Goes Back to Basics, to Chagrin of Some - Couple Forced to Take Away Angel Statue at Their Son's Grave Site

A stranger helped John Koppel lug the concrete angel from his son's grave site at Lakeside Memorial Lawn in Folsom to the family sport-utility vehicle. The heavy statue had to be hauled away Monday because it violates newly enforced regulations at the 160-year-old cemetery. John Joseph Koppel, who shared his father's name, was a teacher at Folsom Middle School when he died two years ago of cancer. By all accounts, the 37-year-old was a popular and inspiring educator. His students still visit his grave. His parents, John and Carolyn Koppel, visit their only child's grave every day. Until Monday, the angel sat next to their son's ground-level headstone. But Lakeside's regulations say graves can be marked only with a headstone and fresh flowers in a permanent vase. "The rules have been posted on the front gate for umpteen years," said Lorin Claney, who owns the cemetery and Miller Funeral Home in Folsom. The rules were mostly ignored for decades, however, and graves were bedecked with all manner of memorabilia. It became a maintenance issue, Claney said, and a notice was posted in September that the rules would be enforced as of Dec. 1. Not everybody complied, as shown by an array of items piled next to a storage shed at the cemetery, including various statues and crosses, candy canes, a teddy bear, a Raggedy Ann doll, a small decorated Christmas tree and a Tony Stewart No. 20 NASCAR flag. Lakeside is a far cry from the modern, meticulous and often massive genre of cemeteries. Nobody finds the site by accident. It's tucked away west of Folsom Boulevard, near Natoma Street. "If this was Mount Vernon, I could understand the uniformity," Koppel said. "But this is not that kind of cemetery." Its 6 acres of developed grave sites meander among palm, cypress and other evergreen trees, and the rows of headstones -- when they are in rows -- are less than precisely aligned. Grave markers range from shiny and new to a rough granite-looking pillar that stands close to 10 feet tall. The date on that one was too worn to read, but others date back to 1862, 1876, 1877, 1885, and so on. "We have one marker from 1850," Claney said. The Koppel grave at one time was decorated with the angel and two small rosemary trees, along with mementos left by other visitors. "One of John's students comes every month and leaves flowers or something," his 63-year-old father said. "He helped her with some problems at school, and she had so much respect for him." The problem with the Koppels' angel was that it was not attached to the headstone, Claney said. When their son was buried, upright headstones were not allowed in that part of the cemetery. The rule has since been changed because some families erected upright monuments anyway, Claney said, but the Koppels don't want to replace the headstone at their son's grave. John Koppel said he understands that Claney has a business to run but contends that he had permission to add the statue. He also said other Lakeside families also are upset and plan to meet with Claney today. The cemetery has been in Claney's family since 1963. The site originally consisted of six private cemeteries, most of which were owned by Folsom lodges, such as American Legion and Odd Fellows. In 1955, the private graveyards were combined into Lakeside, where approximately 6,000 people have been interred. But even an old and picturesque cemetery must be maintained, Claney said. The grass must be mowed and the weeds must be whacked. "With all that stuff scattered around, you would have to get off the mower just about every time you come to a grave," he said. "And if I hit something with the mower or a weed whip, families would get upset." He said other cemeteries -- "every other one that I have been to" -- allow nothing beyond a marker and an in-ground vase at each grave. "Everybody is different and everybody has something ... that is significant to them," he said. "In recent years, it just got out of control."


Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 4-16-1987

Vandals Hit Cemeteries a Fourth Time

Toppled and smashed tombstones worth thousands of dollars were strewn about Masonic Lawn Cemetery on Wednesday after vandals struck the area for the fourth time within a month. “It has to be someone who has a grudge or someone high on drugs,’’ said caretaker Roy Anderson as he surveyed the damage. “They’ve got to have problems. As far as I’m concerned, they’re mentally deranged.’’ Twenty marble or granite tombstones were toppled and about five of those were broken to pieces, Anderson said, adding that damage could range from $5,000 to $10,000. The seven-acre Masonic Lawn Cemetery at 2700 Riverside Blvd. is within the same fenced area as Sacramento City Cemetery where nearly 300 tombstones have been vandalized in three incidents recently. The spree of vandalism began about a month ago, and officials believe the suspects are using ropes, baseball bats, or other objects to dislodge the heavy tombstones, many dating back to the 1800s. The crimes have occurred late at night in the same area – off Muir Way – and the damage has been similar in each case, leading officials to speculate that the same people are responsible. A meeting to discuss the hiring of a full-time security guard will be held today by representatives of the Masonic, City, and Odd Fellows cemeteries, which are located side-by-side and share a common fence. In the past, nobody was stationed full time at the cemeteries, but guards would drive by several times each day. “It’s just senseless and cruel,’’ Mayor Anne Rudin said of the vandalism spree. “I’m very concerned. I think it’s just a dreadful situation. People aren’t being hurt, but our history is being destroyed.’’ Many of the historic tombstones are works of art and cannot be replaced, according to cemetery officials. No tombstones have been stolen in the recent crime wave. Ironically, a security guard was stationed at the City Cemetery all night Tuesday but did not detect vandalism at the Masonic site less than 50 yards away, said Darrell Martineau, a city parks supervisor. The vandals apparently scaled a 6-foot, chain-link fenced topped with barbed wire to reach the Masonic cemetery, which is 135 years old and has nearly 3,000 people buried in it. “It’s purely a guess on our part, but we think it’s (people) who live close by and it’s just something to do,’’ said Johnie Bramble, city parks official. ‘’We think it’s just pure vandalism. We don’t think it’s a vendetta.’’ Police crime-prevention officials have studied the cemeteries and will make recommendations on how to improve security, Martineau said. Police Sgt. Bob Burns said detectives have not yet identified a suspect in the spree of vandalism. Police say there is no apparent link between the cemetery break-ins and other major vandalism recently, such as the destruction of hundreds of trees in North Natomas and at a city-owned nursery in south Sacramento. Councilman David Shore is trying to establish a non-profit trust to benefit the city cemetery, and donations to restore broken headstones can be made to Gifts to Share, a program of the city Community Services Department.


Sacramento Bee, Tuesday, 3-13-1984

Once Peaceful Kilgore Cemetery Lies in Ruins

Shards of broken wine bottles, beer cans, and fast-food wrappers litter the Matthew Kilgore Cemetery. Knocked from their pedestals, monuments to early Sacramento pioneers lie cracked and fractured in the growing weeds that overpower scattered clumps of narcissus. Nearby the fallen pillar that marks the remains of German immigrant William Deterding and his family, half of a flat stone marker is missing, concealing the identity of the deceased from all but friends and relatives. Established in 1874, the Kilgore Cemetery today is in ruins. Located on Kilgore Road near Folsom Boulevard, it was once a peaceful resting place. But no more. “You take your life in your own hands when you go out there at night,” said George Yost, a neighbor who patrols the cemetery a couple of times a day. As a privately owned cemetery, the responsibility for upkeep of its 245 graves rests with the owner and descendants of those buried there. The cemetery was originally part of a 154-acre farm owned by Matthew Kilgore, a native of Ohio who left the Midwest and settled in Sacramento in 1855. According to records in the Sacramento County assessor’s office, William L. Moore of Santa Cruz deeded the cemetery to Funeral Consultants Inc. in January 1983. Howard Keene, a spokesman for Funeral Consultants, which has a post office box in Fair Oaks, said the cemetery is still owned by Moore because he filed for bankruptcy soon after granting the deed. Moore was unavailable for comment. Some relatives of those buried in the cemetery live nearby, and 35 are active in the Matthew Kilgore Cemetery Association. Association members say they have not abandoned it but are losing a long battle with vandals. “It’s just truly a mess right now,” said Betty Kennedy, secretary-treasurer of the association. “We are not a bit proud of it, but there isn’t much we can do about it. They tore down the gate and the fence with barbed-wire topping, and they just vandalized it, so it is just one big mess. People even came in to cut down eucalyptus trees for wood,” Kennedy added. Kennedy said her ancestors, back to her great-grandparents, are buried in Kilgore Cemetery. Several years ago, vandals dug up the grave of her grandfather and stole his skull. Kennedy said she does not plan to be buried in the three-acre cemetery because of the vandalism. Yost, president of the association, said about a quarter of those buried in the Kilgore Cemetery were relatives. Despite the vandalism, he said he still plans to be buried in the family plot. The headstone that marked the grave of his sister, who died as a teenager, was stolen, Yost said. Relatives have installed flat headstones in place of the 9-foot-tall white granite pillar marking the graves of George and John Ney that vandals destroyed. The Neys were his grandmother’s uncles, Yost said. He said relatives also have covered the tops of graves with concrete to prevent vandals from digging up the bodies. In the spring, volunteer organizations try to spruce up the yard, cutting away the weeds, removing trash and fallen branches. But the occasional cleanup is not enough, Yost said. “We try to clean it up once a year, but it’s in awful bad shape and the vandalism is very bad out there,” Yost said. “It’s pretty heartbreaking to see it vandalized like that.” Although vandals are liable for damages and can be sentenced to up to a year imprisonment for maliciously vandalizing cemetery property, they are not often caught or prosecuted. “I can’t remember anyone ever being arrested for vandalizing a cemetery in my career,” said Lt. Gil Magness of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. “Usually we find out after the fact, when the caretakers or families go out the next morning.”

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 5-10-2007

Peace is Restored to Pioneers’ Resting Place – Project Ends Decades of Neglect, Vandals’ Reign at Rancho Cordova Cemetery

A cemetery should be a quiet, solemn, calming place for the living to contemplate their deceased loved ones. Matthew Kilgore Cemetery in Rancho Cordova once filled that role for the region’s pioneering families, including the Kilgore, Deterding, Studarus, and Yost relatives. The cemetery, established in 1874, is a registered historic site. But over the years, Kilgore Cemetery turned into a teen hangout, vandal hot spot and playground for “devil worshipers.” The cemetery named after the great-great-great-grandfather of author Joan Didion has had dozens of headstones disappear. Today, Rancho Cordova officials say the years of neglect are over. “Kilgore Cemetery is now the landmark it deserves to be,” said Rancho Cordova Mayor David Sander. The city, which took ownership of the cemetery in 2005, is completing a $1 million restoration. A May 18 ceremony will celebrate the cemetery’s reopening with more than 100 descendants of people buried at the cemetery attending. City officials are hoping that some families who know of missing headstones will return them in time for the rededication. The restoration includes a new entry and decorative gate, trees and grass, repaved pathways and parking lot, and a columbarium for interment of ashes. ”I’m very, very pleased with the city’s refurbishment,” said Bill Pettite, a cemetery historian. The privately owned cemetery was built 133 years ago on agricultural land in eastern Sacramento County, near the American River Grange. Some 80 years passed before the cemetery’s troubles began, according to local historians. The farms disappeared and the property began changing hands, before getting stuck in bankruptcy proceedings. By that time, family members took the lead in maintaining the property. As their numbers dwindled, they struggled to keep vandals at bay. “We tried to get some family members to fix things up. But the vandals were ahead of us,” said Peggy Hayse, a Kilgore relative. “Every time we fixed things up, they would do more damage.” A 1984 story in The Bee mentions shards of broken wine bottles, beer cans, and fast-food wrappers littering the grounds. It also described how monuments to early Sacramento pioneers were knocked off their pedestals. Two years later, private security guards told the newspaper they drove away “devil worshipers” performing rituals on the grounds four times that year. Joan Didion, a Sacramento native whose great-great-great-grandmother and grandfather are buried there, mentions the rundown cemetery in her 2003 book Where I Was From. “When I was in high school and college and later I would sometimes drive out there, park the car and sit on the fender and read, but the day I noticed, as I was turning off the ignition, a rattlesnake slide from a broken stone into the dry grass, I never again got out of the car,” she writes. Pettite, who first wrote about the graveyard in 1954, said as many as 60 markers are missing. “When I visited in cemetery in 1954 to do the article, it was pristine. Ten years later, it had begun to decline,” Pettite said. City officials are hoping some of those missing headstones will turn up. Hayse, 78, said she recently returned three headstones she was holding after they were found around town. One of the markers had found its way to a Placerville museum. Hayse, whose great-great-grandfather Alan Kilgore was Matthew Kilgore’s brother, said this is the fix-up the cemetery needed. “I think it’s marvelous. That is what we had hoped for a long time, but we didn’t have the means to do it,” Hayse said. “It’s a historic spot for all those people who started the Rancho Cordova area.”


Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 1-16-1972

Grave Undertaking – School District Is Caretaker for Old Cemetery

Few know that the Sacramento City Unified School District – through no choice of its own – is illegally in the cemetery business. It’s a minimal operation to be sure: Maintenance of a two-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Meadowview Road and 24th Street. A certain Lafayette Shepler decreed in a deed to the old West Union School District more than a century ago that it always be used as a graveyard. The dilemma is described this way by Dr. Don Hall, the district’s research and development: “We can use it for anything but a cemetery, and we’re not in the cemetery business.” Nobody has been buried in the graveyard for 75 years and only six bodies are believed to be interred there. Only one shattered headstone is visible. It is identified as that of a 4-year-old child, but the name is obliterated. The city school district unavoidably entered the cemetery business in 1958 when the Freeport School District – successor to the old West Union District – was annexed to the Sacramento system in 1958. Shepler’s deed stipulation went along with it: “The parcel of land shall be kept and used as a graveyard and for no other purposes whatsoever, and should the same ever be abandoned as a graveyard and used for other purposes than those contemplated, then the same shall revert to the owner or his descendants.” However, since acquiring the unwanted and unusable cemetery – abandoned for all practical purposes – the school district has found a way out. It has obtained an opinion from the state attorney general that there is no legal obstacle to the district surrendering its title to the Shepler heirs or others legally eligible without lengthy formal abandonment proceedings. “The public interest as I see it,” says Hall, “would be to quit-claim it to the heirs and get out from under the maintenance problem.” The parcel is too small for school purposes and must be kept fenced and mowed, he noted. The eligible successor to the title is Mrs. Dorothy Skelton Edwards of 601 Mills Road. According to her attorney, Edgar Boyles, she acquired the interest through a series of deeds and is not actually a descendant of Shepler. Most of the adjoining subdivision – a maze of gasoline stations, business establishments, and four-plexes – was subdivided by Mrs. Edwards through other deeds, he says. Boyles says Mrs. Edwards has offered to remove the bodies and give the school district $2,500 for its interest in the property. Finding the descendants to determine their wishes in removing the bodies will probably take considerable more research. Members of the Hack family of Elk Grove may be buried there. Boyles is ready now to proceed, whenever the school district gets to it. “Then at least the property would be back on the tax rolls and would be some good to somebody,” the attorney says.

Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 3-7-1999

Old Cemetery Stymies Plans – Sites Lurk as Problem for Spreading Communities

Wayne Stahmer thought he was promoting redevelopment on a vacant lot in Meadowview when he made a loan about a year ago for a commercial project. But the Nevada City lender got more than he bargained for when the developer defaulted. Trespassers have planted a community garden on the site, a busy corner in the heart of the south Sacramento community. But beneath rows of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs lies a deeper secret: a 19th century cemetery for farmers who fed the booming city and nurtured the California Gold Rush. The four-acre lot at 24th Street and Meadowview Road includes the final resting place for residents of Franklin Township, established in 1856 south of Sacramento. Besides importing mining supplies, the community produced grain, meat, fruit, and dairy products for city folks upstream on the Sacramento River. “We ended up having to take the property back, and that’s when the title report showed it was a cemetery,” Stahmer said. “We said, Hmmm. We were left holding some property we didn’t know anything about.” Plans to sell the vacant lot so it can be developed to benefit the Meadowview area have stalled. Now archaeologists, historians, and lawyers are trying to learn the history of the site, how many people are buried there, who they were and how – or even whether – to move the remains to another cemetery. The snafu reflects a lurking problem for development in once-rural areas of Sacramento County, experts say. Early settlers often were buried on sites that were expected to remain known and preserved, including homestead graveyards and community cemeteries. But time and nature erased the markings. Tombstones – if there were any – have decayed or been knocked down. Records are lost or destroyed. And land titles rarely include information about burial sites. “This has been becoming a major problem in the last decade or so,” said Bob LaPerriere of the Sacramento County Historical Society, which is lobbying for state legislation to protect historic cemeteries. “Developers have reburied remains over existing burials or just built right over them.” The problem is a minefield for unwary developers. The discovery of a graveyard can bring expensive projects to a quick halt – as happened in 1997, when a Caltrans backhoe uncovered the graves of 12 unknown pioneers during construction of a Highway 50 interchange at Prairie City Road in Folsom. Small, unmarked grave sites also abound in the unincorporated area that rings the city of Sacramento, archaeologist Melinda Peak said. Many people are uneasy about cemeteries, making it difficult for investors to develop or sell such land. “It’s a white elephant,” Peak said. “I’d feel kind of weird myself living on . . . or eating something that was grown over dead people.” In Stahmer’s case, a title insurance policy issued when he invested in the Meadowview project failed to mention anyone buried there. A second title search, ordered when Stahmer’s group foreclosed, revealed a Sacramento County Superior Court decision in 1957 that said the property was once a cemetery. Stahmer’s attorney, Gilbert Khachadourian Jr., said the developer may have backed out after learning about the site’s history. But the lenders have been able to find little other information about the cemetery. “All we have is the court case that tipped us off,” said Khachadourian, who is seeking a court order to allow the remains to be disinterred and removed. “The records on that area are abysmal.” Experts are using archives, maps, history texts, and newspaper clippings to piece together the story of the one-time Franklin Township cemetery. The pioneer graveyard covers about 2 acres on the northwest corner of the intersection, diagonally across from the modern Meadowview Community Center. Early settlers built levees along the Sacramento River and reclaimed swampland for agriculture. Most farmed tracts of several hundred acres, including wheat fields and fruit orchards. Residents gathered at schools, hotels, churches, and social lodges in the township’s communities, including Freeport, Georgetown and Courtland. “They supplied the grain, meat, and milk to Sacramento,” said Donald J. Franklin, 75, whose twin great-aunts died as infants and were buried in the community cemetery in 1884. “Sacramento couldn’t have made it without them.” The graveyard, identified in records as the Freeport or West Union Cemetery, was established on a 400-acre ranch. At least eight burials are recorded between 1860 and 1884, although others could have taken place before and after then, according to John Bettencourt of the Sacramento Old City Cemetery Committee. Data recorded from headstones that have long since vanished reflect the hard and often short lives of early settlers. John W. Martin, 32, was buried in 1860, and William J. Franklin, a native of Denmark, was buried in 1869 at age 35. No ages are given for Thomas Ricker, buried in 1865, and David Crum, 1867. The cemetery also bears witness to the heavy losses of parents – who recorded their deceased children’s lives in days, as if to cling to each moment they were alive. Franklin’s twin aunts, identified only as “Our Darlings,” died six days after birth. Annie E. Harris was buried in 1875 at 1 year, 10 months and 9 days, and Willie D. Sperry died at 2 years and 10 months in 1868. The owner eventually turned the property over to the West Union school district “because it was the only reliable institution in the community that could handle it,” LaPerriere said. The deed stipulated that the land be “kept and used as a graveyard and for no other purpose” – and that if it were not, the site should “revert to the owner or his descendants.” The odd arrangement continued as school districts merged, including a takeover in 1958 by the Sacramento City Unified School District, which searched for a way to dispose of the unwanted cemetery. By 1972, the district won permission from the state attorney general and deeded the site to Dorothy Skelton Edwards, who claimed an interest through a series of previous deeds. Much of the unused land was split and developed over the years, but the graveyard’s presence thwarted efforts to develop a gas station on the site in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, Hmong and Laotian immigrants in adjacent apartments began cultivating vegetables on two vacant lots, including the cemetery parcel. The Skelton family sold the land for $85,000 in 1992, according to records. The property eventually became collateral for a loan from Stahmer and his investment partners, who foreclosed when the development project collapsed. A Superior Court judge is set to hear issues surrounding the cemetery March 31. Franklin’s grandmother owned a 160-acre ranch along present-day Meadowview Road from 1875 to 1930 but never claimed the township was her namesake. He says the remains should be left undisturbed and the property should become a memorial. “I’d like to see it made into a park and put a plaque there to remember the people who lived and died in the area,” said Franklin, who lives in Alameda County. “They were the farmers who made Sacramento.”

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 1-16-2003

The Slow Search for Signs of Past – Carrying Out a Court Order, Field Engineers Are Looking for an 1860s Cemetery

They looked like a low-tech lawn crew. Traffic flowed normally last week at Meadowview Road and 24th Street. Few drivers were distracted by two field engineers in a vacant lot, scanning the ground for the traces of an 1860s cemetery. David Bissiri, a field engineer for Nortel Geophysical Consultants, kicked trash aside in the matted grass and used ground-penetrating radar to carry out the first phase of an August 2001 court order. The examination was sought by members of the Franklin family, who are certain that their ancestors are buried in the lot. Franklin family members Florence Huebner of midtown and Edward Franklin of the Pocket area remember seeing grave markers that have since disappeared from the Meadowview lot. So far, the search is proceeding slowly. “I wish I had a grave-o-meter,” Bissiri said. “Nothing is coming up that screams at us. ... This is not an exact science.” Bissiri said it may take more than two months to analyze the data gathered by the radar, which scans for signs of disturbance below the soil. If remains are there, they will be moved to the west end of the lot and marked by a memorial, per the Sacramento Superior Court order. What the engineers find – or don’t find – will solve a mystery that has been discussed for years. “We’ve heard so many stories on who’s buried there,” council member Bonnie Pannell said. “We’ve heard it’s an Indian burial ground, settler babies. I’m not sure what’s buried there.” Donald J. Franklin, 79, is certain that workers will detect remains of his ancestors. He recalls seeing wooden gravestones at the site when he herded cattle on horseback on his parents’ 80-acre cut of the Franklin family ranch. His ancestor William Franklin was born in Denmark and came to the Freeport area in 1857 on a prairie schooner from Joliet, Ill. “In the Gold Rush days, first came the gold miners, then came the loggers to build the houses, then the farmers to feed the miners and the loggers. My family was the farmers,” said Donald Franklin, who lives in Castro Valley. Historians have written that records show 35-year-old William Franklin was buried at the site in 1869. Also, Donald Franklin said his twin great-aunts were buried at the site when they were 6 days old. At least eight burials were recorded there between 1860 and 1884, and other people could have been buried before or after then, John Bettencourt of the Sacramento Old City Cemetery Committee told The Bee in 1999. Since the 1950s, the plot’s deed was passed from the West Union School District, Sacramento City Unified School District, and several developers. Hmong immigrants grew vegetables on the land, and Pannell received regular complaints that it was an eyesore, she said. The company Meadowview and 24th LLC listed the land for sale, said Gilbert Khachadourian Jr., a Sacramento attorney who worked with the Franklin family. The site is of interest to the year-old Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission, Co-chairman Robert LaPerriere said. It is one of dozens of cemeteries scattered throughout the county that deter development and exude urban myths. Commission members plan to research, document, and memorialize several old cemeteries. “At least these people will be recognized and not forgotten any longer,” LaPerriere said. Khachadourian said the Meadowview case has moved glacially because it is so unique – it demands historical and legal research from many involved, he said. “Everyone has been great about finding a practical solution,” he said. And the solution of searching for remains and building a memorial is important for Donald Franklin. “I’m about to be 80,” he said. “We’re the last generation that brings the past to the present – ties in the gap.”


Sacramento Bee, Friday, 7-2-1954

Cemetery Is Last Vestige of Gold Town

The only indication a once thriving community of between 2,500 and 3,000 residents existed at Mormon Island is a lonely cemetery sitting on top of a hill just south of the townsite. There is nothing to show where the town was located. But the cemetery, some of its monuments as ornate as will be found in any burial place, survived the ravages of time. There are 209 graves known to be in the cemetery. The Sacramento district, army corps of engineers, which will supervise the removal of the bodies to a new site outside the Folsom Dam reservoir area, has been able to identify 204 and the other five remain unknown. The Mormon Island Cemetery is the largest of the 13 burial places to be inundated when Folsom Dam begins operating next fall. Three years ago, the real estate division in the army engineers headquarters took the first step in the project to move the remains to a new place. It was necessary to make a reasonable effort to locate the next of kin of each of the persons whose remains are to be relocated. This process took many months, and the trail leading to relatives spread to many parts of the country. The earliest known person buried at Mormon Island was D. M. McCall. The headstone shows he died June 2, 1850. The army located his next of kin, a great nephew, in Fairfax, VA. The largest memorial was erected in the memory of John Bennett, who died October 23, 1879 and Mrs. Martha Bennett, who died April 19, 1898. The next of kin is E. E. Nuttall of Knights Landing, Yolo County. One of the most impressive headstones rises five feet high over the graves of seven members of the Houston family, early day settlers of Mormon Island. Buried in the plot are Joseph and Sarah and their children, Wilson E. Laura, Fred B. and Nelson W. Houston. The father, who was the uncle of Mrs. E. A. Keehner of 1956 Bidwell Way, was a rancher in Courtland after the family moved from Mormon Island. Mrs. Keehner’s parents, Noah B. and Elizabeth Houston, also are buried in the cemetery, and the army engineers will follow her request that the bodies be re-interred in the Folsom Catholic Cemetery. Also to be moved to this cemetery will be Noah Houston’s first wife, Doreas D., who died in Mormon Island in 1866. Houston died in 1896 and Mrs. Keehner’s mother died in 1926. When Charles Nicholls was buried in the cemetery in 1868, his family had this inscription carved in a headstone over the grave: “Remember me as you pass by. As you are now so once was I. As I am now, so must you be. Prepare for death and follow me.” This same headstone will grace his grave in the new cemetery. When relatives were found, they were notified of the plans to move the cemetery. They were given the opportunity of deciding whether they wanted the body buried in a new cemetery one mile east of the old Mormon Island Cemetery or to have burial take place in another cemetery of their choice. The government pays the expense. The monuments, tombstones, fences, gates, and other adornments in the cemetery will be reconstructed in almost exact detail in the new burial ground. W. L. Goldsmith, in charge of the army engineers real estate division, and Chester A. Biggers, staff member who handled most of the details for the relocation project, reported the bodies will be placed in the same position as they were in the original cemetery. “Disinterment will be private and will be done completely by hand labor,” Biggers said. “No machinery can be used and no spectators will be permitted.” In some cases, Biggers said, only a few ashes or colored dust are expected to be found. In each case the remains will be placed in a redwood burial box. The operations will be under the direction of a licensed mortician. A group of Mormons founded the town of Mormon Island either in 1849 or 1850. The community bordered the South Fork of the American River and the gold yielding bars in the stream soon attracted hundreds of miners and later their families. The site of the town is only a short distance northeast of the Folsom Dam’s east earthfill section.

Sacramento Bee, 12-16-1954

El Dorado Board Names Cemetery for Mormon Bar

PLACERVILLE, El Dorado Co.—The board of supervisors officially has named the cemetery for relocated graves from the Folsom reservoir basin as Mormon Island Cemetery. The five-acre tract is on the south side of the Green Valley Road just east of the Sacramento County line. It has been accepted from the federal government under an agreement by the county to operate it perpetually as a cemetery. The letter formally turning the plot over to the county stated 490 graves were relocated from the Folsom basin and all but one were moved to the new cemetery. The one was moved to Sacramento. There were 239 graves in the old Mormon Island burial ground; 76 at Salmon Falls, 36 at Negro Hill, five at Condemned Bar, five in the Carrolton Bar Cemetery; 10 at McDowell’s Hill, six in the Natural Dam Cemetery; seven at Doton’s Bar; and six individual graves.


Sacramento Union, Thursday, 7-9-1964

Greenback Lane Cemetery Wins Final Victory in Long Battle

The final official action in the bitterly contested Greenback Lane cemetery issue took place Wednesday when the State Cemetery Board reversed a previous decision and granted Mt. Vernon Memorial Park a certificate of authority. Superior Court Judge Stanley W. Reckers last month ordered the State Board to issue the permit on the grounds it was in error in previously denying a permit because of location and physical status of the proposed cemetery. Property owners in the Greenback Lane area, Broadway-Hale, and the Board of Supervisors opposed the cemetery proposal and after two hearings in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles, the State Board denied the permit in May of 1963. Foy Bryant, president of Mt. Vernon Memorial Park, later began a lengthy fight before the supervisors and before the courts. To supervisors he offered a chance to save 28 trees otherwise doomed by road widening. Bryant said he would give the county right-of-way to save the trees if supervisors would withdraw their opposition to his cemetery. The Board first refused but after several heated sessions, supervisors said they found new evidence of misrepresentation by certain individuals at the cemetery hearings. They then accepted Bryant’s proposal and withdrew their opposition. Judge Reckers later made his decision that completed Bryant’s victory. Bryant said Wednesday he will begin construction on the 12-acre site in about three months and said a chapel and administration building and mortuary will be completed in about nine months. The cemetery site is located at 8201 Greenback Lane, east of Fair Oaks Boulevard and near the Sunrise Drive-in Theater. Bryant said the cemetery project will cost $1.2 million. He said other officers of the corporation are Fred A. Taylor, vice-president; Henry Dethlefsen, Secretary-treasurer; Andy Dethelefsen, Fred Dethlefsen, John V. Lemmon and Thomas Hunt, directors. Bryant said he also received his cemetery broker’s license Wednesday.


Sacramento Daily Union, 5-12-1887

New Helvetia Cemetery, Finely Kept Plots – Suggestive Thoughts, Musings in a Grave Yard

A visit to a cemetery at any time is full of interest; it awakens thoughts respecting those whose remains lie moldering in the dust, an occasional familiar name confronts us chiseled on a marble slab or roughly painted on a redwood board. The once active individual, who was laid away with many tears, we see in our memory when they were as agile, as full of hope and promise of as many years as are we. It awakens a feeling of awe and a respect for our Maker that is irrepressible, one that is experienced nowhere else with that force and appeal to our better nature and reverence for the Creator. We are in the city of the dead. Here it is that we look upon for the last time our loved ones; here you too must soon be planted; here is where all must lie down in that last long sleep until the morning of the resurrection. Here is a city that grows in population with unerring regularity. From this abode there is no emigration; people of all ages, whole families, communities, and in the course of time the entire population of nation and the world are laid away by those who, in their turn, must follow them. These thoughts crowd through one’s brain, causes us to think how insignificant is man, how short is life, a mere drop in the ocean, a speck of sand in the glass of Father Time, a mere one-day’s setting of the sun as compared to the countless ages since creation. While we are contemplating the sad memories of the past and speculating upon the probabilities of the future, our thoughts are turned to the living, those who have lost their companions, friends, and relatives, and who exhibit their regard, affection and love by unmistakable tokens. Here is a grave enclosed with brick, sodded to blue grass, set out to roses, over which is erected a marble slab with the simple inscription “Mother.” The passer-by pauses and reflects. Somebody’s mother. The word mother is the most expressive in the English language. It embodies more love, devotion, affection that any other. It creates the same impression upon every human mind – on earth an angel, an angel in heaven. A visit through Helvetia Cemetery the other day disclosed the fact that in Sacramento at least the memory of the departed are held dear by the living, for a better kept burial place for the dead cannot be found in the State. Nicholas Mohns, the gentleman in charge, has had long experience in the business is the right man in the right place, and those left to his care are ever presentable – the grass, shrubs, and flowering plants kept green, growing, and blooming. The entire cemetery has had a complete cleaning up. Trees that had grown to such gigantic proportions as to be undesirable and to detract from the beauty of the place, have been culled out, the weeds all mowed down, the driveways rounded up, and even the paupers’ field has been so thoroughly put in order that their graves can be easily distinguished, and the rude boards and inscriptions in many cases renewed. The Hebrew Cemetery, a short distance from the New Helvetia, was also visited. This is a small enclosure containing a neat chapel. The graves are neatly kept; every grave in the cemetery is nicely bricked in, and nearly all, if not all, the graves are marked with marble slabs. This cemetery also is under the management of Mr. Mohns, who prides himself upon keeping everything scrupulously neat.

Sacramento Daily Union, 11-26-1908

East Siders Ask Trustees to Condemn Helvetia Burying Ground

A petition, prepared and signed by about a thousand residents of East Sacramento is to be filed with the city trustees at their next meeting, asking that the old Helvetia Cemetery be officially condemned and not used anymore. The idea of the move is the advancement of Sacramento, which it is hoped will be accomplished by running I Street through into the suburbs. The Helvetia Cemetery is an old burying place and is now used only as a receptacle for the bodies of a few Celestials. It has long been in a dilapidated condition and is an eyesore to the rapid growing district to the east of the city. The East Sacramento people hope to have the cemetery abandoned and later expect to prevail upon those having friends in the place to move the bodies to a more suitable resting place. With such an action, it will be possible to run the streets from Sacramento through unobstructed. In other words, the petition represents a move toward annexation.

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 1-9-1913

First Move Made to Make Park of Cemetery

EAST SACRAMENTO, January 8—The first move toward the converting of the Helvetia Cemetery into a park was made this week when several bodies were transferred to plots on the Riverside Road. It is reported that many others will be removed this month. About three years ago, through the efforts of the East Sacramento Improvement Club, two acres of land were purchased on the Riverside Road and a movement was started at that time to transfer the bodies buried in Helvetia Cemetery to the new resting place and the converting of the cemetery on the J Street Road into a park. Recently Commissioner Charles A. Bliss approved of the plan proposed by the Club, and the City Commission will soon arrange for the parking of the cemetery. It is said that many graves may remain in the present locations for various reasons, but the plan proposed is to level the ground and plant the entire area in grass lawns. The graves remaining will be marked by tablets laid level with the top of the ground similar to those at East Lawn Cemetery. It is declared that the plan proposed will in no way desecrate the resting place of many prominent Sacramentans but will instead greatly improve the present condition of the grounds.

Sacramento Bee, 7-2-1918

Steps Taken To Improve Helvetia Cemetery

Director Eugene Cutter was authorized by the Park Board last night to bring before the board plans and specifications for a sprinkler system at the old Helvetia Cemetery, the work of parking this old burial ground to begin on the J Street side first. Cutter said he would bring in estimates for unit systems so that as much of the installation could be made as the means would warrant. The Park Board has had this question in hand for a long time, but only the lack of funds has prevented greater progress.

Many Graves of Pioneers

The bodies of Chinese and Japanese have been removed, and small markers to be placed in the lawn will designate the burial spot of many of Sacramento’s oldest citizens. It was reported last night that only fifteen tombstones remain standing. All other plot owners have consented to the removal of the stones and the replacing of them with markers. It is believed by the board that there will be little difficulty in procuring permission to replace the remaining monuments with markers as soon as the board is able to convince the owners it intends to park the entire cemetery. It is the purpose to take down the old hedge as fast as the sprinkler system is installed and the lawns started.

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 10-13-1955

Grave Removal Starts at Site of New City School

Crews have moved into the New Helvetia Cemetery to begin removal of bodies, including the remains of Hardin Bigelow, first mayor of Sacramento. On the site near Alhambra Boulevard and J Streeet will rise the new Sutter Junior High School. The city, armed with a court order from Superior Judge Grower W. Bedeau, has told a contractor to begin the removal of the 1,200 bodies. City officials carefully pointed out that the work will be done by hand under the direction of a mortician as well as a contractor who is experienced at this task.

Unidentified Graves

The first graves to be removed will be those of unknown persons located in the southeast corner. City officials said relatives and friends of persons buried in the cemetery may be present at the removal by making a request with Ernest O. Arnold, supervisor of the project, in room 305, City Hall. Most of the bodies will be re-interred in a plot in the East Lawn Cemetery which will be designated the New Helveti Section. This will be landscaped and planted to lawn.

25 Reburial Requests

Relatives and friends who have asked the remains be re-interred in other cemeteries also should see Arnold. City Attorney Everett M. Glenn said the city has received about 25 such requests. He said in these cases the city will place the remains in a suitable box with a nameplate for transfer to any cemetery in the county without charge. The city will pay the cost of opening and closing the grave. The city council ordered the remains of Bigelow to be removed to the city cemetery where a suitable marker will be erected in his memory. Bigelow was fatally wounded in a squatters’ right riot in 1850. Glenn said the work is scheduled to take three to four months to complete.

Sacramento Union, 1-6-1956

New Helvetia Grave Removals Show Old Records Far Short

New Helvetia Cemetery apparently was the final resting place for two or three times the number of dead indicated by old records in City Hall. Ernest Arnold, superintendent of City Cemetery, who is directing the grave removal operation, said 1,922 bodies had been found when rainy weather suspended the work in mid-December. The records showed that approximately 1,200 bodies were in the seven-acre cemetery and about 200 were believed unidentifiable. About one-third of the land area has been covered by the grave removal crew, and 1,700 unidentifiable bodies have been discovered. Arnold estimated that two months of good weather will be required to complete the project. Work will resume there in a period of two or three consecutive days. The cemetery at Alhambra Boulevard and J Street is being cleared to become the site for a new junior high school. Most of the bodies are being re-interred in East Lawn Cemetery. The discovery of large numbers of bodies has been made in a portion of the cemetery that was believed sparsely occupied. The bodies were buried in wooden boxes in rows about two feet apart. In some cases there were two boxes in a grave, one above the other. With few exceptions, the boxes have deteriorated and only bones remain. In isolated instances, however, articles such as shoes have been found intact. A dime was found with one body and a pair of spectacles with another. City officials believe the lack of adequate records on the area may have resulted from a cholera epidemic which required hasty burial and minimum attention to recordkeeping. Except for a few bodies found in lead caskets, the remains are being transferred to redwood boxes 36 inches long, 24 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. When identity is unknown, a numbered metal plate is fixed to the box and its contents noted in an inventory record. Twelve of the boxes are placed in a concrete liner at East Lawn. Each grave for the unknown dead contains two such liners. The new graves in East Lawn will be marked and perpetual care provided by the city. In some instances, descendants of the dead have asked that re-interment be in another cemetery, and the city is complying with these requests. Relatives also may be present when the bodies are removed from original graves. Arnold, who has been temporarily relieved of duties at City Cemetery to devote full time to the New Helvetia project, said every precaution is being taken to assure proper handling of the bodies. The contractor excavates graves down to the boxes, and Miller & Skelton removes the remains and puts them in new boxes. The city has spent $130,000 on the program to date. Included is payment of $57.50 to Gross and $7 to the mortician for each body removed. All costs of the program, including administration, will be assumed by Sacramento City Unified School District. City Manager Cavanaugh announced that, in view of the large number of bodies found, a new contract will be negotiated with Gross to obtain a lower unit price. The cost also includes $15,000 paid for a 50-by-100 foot plot in East Lawn Cemetery for re-interment. City Attorney Glenn said the plot apparently will be adequate but, if it is not, additional area will be purchased. Glenn explained that the city undertook the project for the school district after the district attorney ruled the district was not authorized by state law to direct the program. State Health and Safety Code provides that cities may remove remains from cemeteries where burials have been prohibited by law for more than 15 years and if a useful public purpose will be served by the removal. Glenn said the last burial in New Helvetia occurred about 1914, and City Council adopted an ordinance in 1917 prohibiting burials there. An ordinance for abandonment of the cemetery was passed in 1945. The city attorney said all notices and proceedings required by law have been compiled with, including a declaratory judgment from Superior Court allowing the removals. As part of the precautions taken to assure an orderly program, Arnold said only authorized persons are allowed at the scene of removals. The contractor’s crew works behind a portable fence that is moved as work progresses. The grave of greatest historical interest in New Helvetia is that of Hardin Bigelow, Sacramento’s first mayor. Bigelow died in San Francisco of cholera November 27, 1850, about three months after being wounded here in a squatters’ riot on Fourth Street between J and K Street. Old records indicate the body was moved about 1865 from the original location to a “west mound.” The section in which the west mound is designated has not been reached by the removal crew.

Sacramento Bee, Friday, 8-11-1989

Misplaced Pioneers’ of Sacramento Honored at Cemetery

At California Middle School two years ago, Pat Stanford was giving her usual lecture on Sacramento cemeteries when her talk suddenly took an odd turn. “A little boy raised up his hand and said, We have some of those stones in our yard,“ Stanford, a cemetery history buff, recalled Thursday. The stones the boy was referring to were among the grave markers removed when the bodies of some 5,000 Sacramento pioneers were exhumed from the former New Helvetia Cemetery in east Sacramento in the mid-1950s and dumped in mass graves at two other city burial grounds. The boy’s mother, ignorant of the origin of the upside-down markers dotting her lawn, had been using them as stepping stones. Now they are incorporated as part of new monuments dedicated Thursday to honor what organizers called the “misplaced pioneers,’’ those who were taken from their individual plots to rest “huddled together in common graves’’ at East Lawn and Old City Cemetery. A number of the old stones – including those from the boy’s yard – now mark the corners of a monument, including a 5 1/2-foot tombstone that was unveiled over the mass grave at the East Lawn Cemetery. A plaque bearing the names of the dead relocated to the Old City Cemetery was also dedicated. Dr. Robert LaPerriere, a dermatologist who heads the Sacramento County Historical Society’s Old City Cemetery Committee, said the monuments were erected so that the settlers’ “bodies and souls would not be forgotten to the community’’ they helped build. Begun in 1849, the New Helvetia Cemetery was the first formal burial ground of John Sutter’s new settlement. Located at Alhambra Boulevard and J Street, where Sutter Middle School stands today, the cemetery flourished over the years. But to make way for urban growth, Sacramento city leaders ordered bodies removed from the cemetery in 1955. When about 4,685 bodies were transferred to a mass, unmarked grave at East Lawn, the identities of most were lost forever. Another 424, whose identities were recorded, were interred in three unmarked graves at Old City Cemetery. “It causes me a little puzzlement to wonder what went through the minds of some of my predecessors on the City Council,’’ Councilman Douglas N. Pope said during Thursday’s ceremonies. Among the 30 or so people who showed up were the descendants of those who once shared a community and who now share a common grave. Cora Hite Wilson of Sacramento was one of them. Her great-grandfather, Alexander Hite, and his wife and dozen children “came in a covered wagon from Illinois. They were the first to come over Donner Summit after the Donner Party perished,’’ she said. Alexander Hite, a farmer, may have known Albert Grubbs and Nelson Ray, both of whom came to the Sacramento area in the 1850s. Their descendants, George Jenkins of Claremont and his cousin, Thelma Gibson Radden of Sacramento, were also at the ceremony. Grubbs ran a hand laundry business on 4th Street, they said, and Ray was a former slave – and ultimately a Placerville landowner – who bought his wife’s freedom to bring her to California from Missouri. “These things have come from records and have been told from children to their children,’’ Gibson Radden said. For some of the dead, their legacy was not forgotten.

Sacramento Bee, Friday, 6-27-2008

Steppingstones to the Past – Sutter’s ‘City of the Dead’ Rises Again at East Lawn Cemetery

The simple grave markers attest to lives lived long ago, when Sacramento was young: Jaunita Pacheco. Died Sept. 26 1851. Aged 23 yrs.; Madaline M. Coursen. Died May 27 1863. Age 7 m 17 d.
Erastus E. Wilson. Died Sept. 26 1908. Aged 57 yrs 2 mo 2 da. For decades, though, their mission of remembrance was forgotten. These and 72 other grave markers ended up as garden steppingstones and driveway paths at two east Sacramento homes. This is but one twist in the odd saga of
New Helvetia Cemetery – Sacramento’s first graveyard, a plot of land John Sutter set aside near his fort in 1841. It later became a city cemetery, then a public park and, ultimately, Sutter Middle School. To make way for the school, the deceased – and their number was far greater than anyone suspected at the time – were re-interred elsewhere. Some 500 whose identities were known from burial records went to Sacramento City Cemetery or smaller cemeteries in the area, and 4,691 “unknowns” were reburied in a single gravesite at East Lawn Memorial Park. On Sunday, a horse-drawn wagon will carry a load of rescued grave markers from Sutter Middle School to East Lawn, where they will be placed along the perimeter of the New Helvetia plot. A public ceremony and dedication will follow the wagon’s arrival. “I thought the horse and wagon would add something of the era and a little interest. If we just drove them over, nobody would know,” says historian Bob LaPerriere, who helped organize the event, “Memories of New Helvetia Cemetery.” Homeowners who inherited their “steppingstones” from previous generations willingly gave them up in exchange for new brick and concrete work, says LaPerriere, a retired Sacramento dermatologist with an interest in local history, particularly cemeteries. He discovered the grave markers while a guest at one of the east Sacramento homes and noticed more in the yard next door. “People need to be reminded, I think, of our heritage because so much of it disappears. I lecture in Gold Rush medicine, so I have an insight into what these people went through and how they suffered to get Sacramento started,” says LaPerriere, who serves on the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission. “They went through hell, with the cholera epidemics, the floods and the fires. We need to respect them.” In 1839, Sutter, a Swiss immigrant, established the settlement he called New Helvetia about a mile from the American River. (It’s now Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, at 28th and L streets.) Sacramento would not become a city, nor California a state, for another 11 years. He set aside a piece of land east of the fort for a “burying ground,” at what is now Alhambra Boulevard, between I and J streets. The first documented burial was a U.S. Army paymaster named Cloud, who died in 1847 after being thrown from his horse. Earlier burials were likely men who worked for Sutter, with wooden “tombstones,” if anything, marking the spots. By 1850, Sutter sold the graveyard to a land speculator, Dr. R.H. McDonald. An item in the Placerville Herald in 1853 raised concerns about its future: “Enclosed now into a neighboring farm, the ploughshare will soon destroy every vestige of the sacred spot.” Four years later, McDonald sold the property to undertaker John Wesley Reeves, who called it New Helvetia Cemetery. The Sacramento Union noted in January 1872: “This city of the dead is laid out with avenues and walks and handsomely decorated with trees, shrubs, evergreens, and flowers now in full bloom and beauty.” Reeves died in 1867 and was buried in the lavish underground marble tomb he built for his family at New Helvetia Cemetery. (His body later was moved to Sacramento City Cemetery.) His widow and her father ran the cemetery until 1875, when she sold it to the city of Sacramento with the stipulation that it must always remain a cemetery. The property declined over the next 35 years until, in 1911, city fathers decided to make it into a public park and prohibited further burials. Sutter’s burying ground operated as Helvetia Park from 1916 until 1953, when the city offered it to the school district as the site of Sutter Junior High. Public outcry and years of legal wrangling did nothing to change the politicians’ minds. Adolph Teichert Jr., a prominent Sacramento businessman with relatives buried in the cemetery, told the City Council in 1952: “As I remember it, when we made an agreement with the city of Sacramento to give up our plots and allow the old brick walls to be leveled and tombstones removed, it was with the expressed stipulation that the city would make a park out of it and keep it inviolate in perpetuity.” “It doesn’t say a lot about our society,” says Fair Oaks Cemetery District manager Ray Young, who provided a crew to remove grave markers from the two east Sacramento homes. “I take issue that nobody stepped up and said, This should be done the right way.“ “Sometimes people will key in to memorials and tributes, and sometimes they take a back seat to progress. We haven’t been as careful to honor our past as we should have been sometimes,” says Alan Fisher, president of East Lawn Memorial Park. Cemetery excavations have occurred in other places, says LaPerriere, “but the size of this one, with more than 5,000 removals, is probably unusual.” As the workers dug up New Helvetia Cemetery, they stacked the grave markers in the street. “That is apparently how they ended up in neighborhood homes,” LaPerriere says. “My assumption is that once they did that, of course, they wouldn’t know who was buried there, so they could bury them as unknowns.” The newly found grave markers will be laid alongside others that have turned up over the years and line the edges of East Lawn’s New Helvetia plot. A tombstone set in the grassy expanse reads: “In memory of those removed from New Helvetia Cemetery and re-interred here in 1956. May they at last find eternal peace.” And it turns out that some prominent Sacramentans were among the so-called “unknowns” laid to rest there. Joseph McKinney, saloon owner and the city’s first elected sheriff, was shot while trying to make an arrest during the 1850 Squatters Riot. Daniel Blue in 1850 hosted the first African American congregation on the Pacific Coast in his Sacramento home. Helen Beulah M. Rose may have been a prostitute, but her claim to fame was that she was the girlfriend of legendary gunfighter John Wesley Hardin. Also buried here are 600 Japanese immigrants, their presence memorialized with a stately carved stone. And among the concrete grave markers “coming home” is one bearing the name of James Bithell, owner of Sacramento’s first bookstore. “People who’ve lived here their whole lives don’t know about New Helvetia Cemetery,” says LaPerriere. “It’s upsetting to most people in the historic community that it’s been forgotten. Those early Sacramentans sacrificed a lot, died young. Because of what they did brought us to where we are in Sacramento. Because of what they went through, we should not forget them.”


Sacramento Union, 1-25-1937

I.O.O.F. Lawn Dates to 1902 – Home of 8000 Dead Opened to Public by Lodges

There’s a street address for the home of 8000 dead – and there are well built roads, curbed, through beautifully landscaped Odd Fellows Lawn at 2720 River Side Drive. There’s a sprinkling system too to keep grass green and flowers from dying. For Odd Fellows Lawn is a cemetery opened to the public by three local lodges and an encampment of the International Order of Odd Fellows – Sacramento Lodge No. 2, El Dorado Lodge No. 8, Capital Lodge No. 97, and Occidental Encampment No. 2 – a reminder of the days of ’49 when the Odd Fellows took charge of the dead and dying and cared for the sick during serious plagues. So it is not restricted to members. Odd Fellows Law dates back to the days when Sacramento drove its buggies in a promenade afternoons and evenings up and down the drive – back to 1902.


Sacramento Bee, 2-11-1979

Can Dead Still Rest In Potter’s Field?

Sirah Flanery is buried beneath newly sprouted weeds and a plastic bouquet in a field of sunken graves. In this cemetery of 10,000 paupers, only her grave is adorned with flowers. Yellow, purple and pink daub oblivion with artificial color. There is a headstone. It reads: BELOVED MOTHER, SIRAH MAUDE FLANERY, 1890-1938. Most of the other dead lie in unmarked graves. Small cement bricks with metal tabs identify some, like the one that has fallen into the pit of a sinking grave: HATHAWAY, ROBERT, R-97 G-22H116319. The R stands for row, the G for grave. No one knew what the H meant. No one knew how old the cemetery is, either. Sirah Flanery has a brick like that one next to her grave. It says her name was Sarah. All the graves used to be marked, but most of the stones were removed last summer when the Catholic diocese cleaned up the old burial ground that is wedged between St. Mary’s Cemetery and the County Veterans’ Cemetery, Fruitridge Road near 65th Street. John Seymour, diocese director of cemeteries, says the place was full of trash, a weed-infested playground for vandals, dirt bikers, and dogs. “It was terrible over there,” says Seymour. Wrecked cars, garbage, and motorbike mounds cluttered the field. The county had neglected it. So, four years ago, the diocese took it over. It got the 12-acre field for $1. In turn, the church promised to maintain it. The reasons were not entirely charitable. An unsightly graveyard next to the manicured lawns of St. Mary’s is not the best public relations. As Seymour puts it, “We in the cemetery business are sensitive to adverse publicity.” More important, perhaps, St. Mary’s will need more land in the future. To get it, the church may dig up the paupers. The remains will be “condensed into a smaller area” by stacking them in multiple graves. Death certificate 113 says Sarah Flanery was 48 years old when she died of strophic cirrhosis liver, with heart decompensation. She was born in Missouri. Her parents were from Indiana. She was a housewife and had lived in California for one year and five months. Her address was General Delivery, Perkins, California. A relative identified only as F. Flanery reported the death. Klummp’s Mortuary buried her near a black walnut tree. It was a $30 burial. Someone paid $10. The county apparently paid the rest. She was buried in an unpainted pine casket. There was no service. She was lowered into the ground at 3:30 PM, May 17, 1938. The headstone was erected later. Sometime since the end of last summer, someone laid the bouquet on Mrs. Flanery’s grave. An old gravedigger, Raymond Bertolani, says he remembers a young woman visiting the grave every couple of months. His memory, however, is not what it used to be and it was many years ago, the late 50s maybe. Age has been unkind to Bertolani. He is almost deaf and a milky film glazes his eyes. There was a time, says Seymour, when Bertolani could tell you off the top of his head where every person in the pauper’s cemetery was buried. He dug 8,000 of those graves, most of them by hand. He was a gravedigger for 30 years. Six months after he retired in 1960, he says, the county quit burying bodies in potter’s field. His wife says it’s a shame they may dig up a lifetime of work. George Nielson is the county coroner, public administrator, public guardian, and public conservator. He is the Sacramento government official responsible for making sure the details of a public death are taken care of. Nielson is the kind of man who says things like “death has been my life” and “we all have a date with eternity.” At his small office near the Medical Center, Nielson drinks coffee from a cup with his first name inscribed under the caricature of a man holding the head of a corpse. The decapitated cadaver has a knife in its back. The caption has George saying, “It looks like a natural.” A gift from his wife, an in-house joke, Nielson explains. “Sometimes if you didn’t laugh, you couldn’t make it in this business,” he adds. Nielson is known as a humane, caring public official. He has instituted policies which show consideration for people. For example, it is a standing order to never notify a family of a loved one’s death by telephone. Instead, two deputy coroners try to gently break the news in person. They are told to stay and help the bereaved until a friend or relative arrives. Since he became coroner and public everything 21 years ago, Nielson has changed the way paupers are buried. There is no more county cemetery for the poor. Now, indigents are buried in private endowed-care cemeteries, normally in double graves. For buying a dead poor person, the cemetery gets $250, the funeral home $250. Assignments are rotated among the cemeteries. Nielson estimates the county pays to bury 100 to 125 persons each year. He says economic priorities caused him to abandon the pauper’s cemetery. Msgr. Cornelius Higgins is chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, an Irish brogue on the other end of the line. There is no theological problem with disinterring bodies and multiple graves, the voice says, – “provided it is justified and carried out with due reverence and respect.” Economics and limitations of space are justifiable reasons, he says. The body, the monsignor explains, is subject to corruption. The body itself is corrupt. It turns to dust. Nevertheless, the remains must be treated with reverence and respect, for the body once was a temple of the Holy Spirit. Reason, reverence, and respect repeatedly are emphasized. For, in some way, body and soul will be reunited on the Day of Judgment. Not the corporeal body, it of course is dust, but the body of the platonic ideal, of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ. An unjustifiable reason for disinterment and reburial in a multiple grave, the priest says, would be “if someone purchased a plot and had proprietary rights.”

Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 8-7-2011

New Cemetery Site to Honor Old Dead

The first assignment Frank Espinoza was given when he started as the deputy superintendent of the Sacramento Catholic Diocese's Department of Cemeteries was to address the disarray that had befallen Potter's Field. It was 1975, and Sacramento County had just turned care of the cemetery over to the diocese in a contract for $25. Over the years, the graveyard had gone from bad to worse. It started out in the 1920s, with barely a system for identifying the remains of the city's indigent population. By the 1960s, the site had turned into a dump, where feral animals ran wild and people dropped old cars, trash, and other refuse on top of sunken graves. Espinoza removed the garbage and salvaged makeshift headstones, burying them near the graves for safekeeping. This year, more than 35 years after Espinoza took his first steps to restore what eventually became a part of St. Mary Cemetery in Colonial Village, the diocese broke ground on a new cemetery for more than 8,000 graves, complete with a monument to honor people who were not afforded proper burials. At Good Samaritan Lawn, near 65th Street Expressway and 21st Avenue, remains will be moved to concrete vaults containing a casket for each person buried. Before the rows of graves will lie a granite slab engraved with the names of the people buried there. A Good Samaritan statue will be the centerpiece of the new cemetery, and trees will line new roads that will provide thoroughfares for visitors. Initially, the $2 million project didn't sit well with Espinoza, who is now the department's general manager. "I bury people, I don't remove them," he said. His mind was changed when a colleague convinced him that the move would honor the dead. "He said, 'We are going to give these people their names back.' "Kevin Eckery, the diocese spokesman, said the people buried at Potter's Field were the poor who died in the county hospital or the county jail. "These people had rough break after rough break," he said. "For the first time in 50 years, they will have their names. Real people died here, they were not respected when they died, but they will be given respect now." The diocese contacted city governments in the county to ensure communities were aware of the project. Eckery said no formal complaints were made about the project. "I only get about one or two inquiries a year," Espinoza said of families coming to visit loved ones in Potter's Field. "I was always embarrassed to show them the graveyard. ... But now, nobody will be buried in the dirt." Espinoza is taking great pains to ensure that the movement of the remains -- nearly 1,000 so far -- is done respectfully. "I instructed the men who are doing the moving that there will be no swearing or joking while they work," he said. "There is a curtain for privacy, and the site is monitored closely." Each day, the team of laborers moves about 30 to 40 graves. At night, the grounds are covered to protect the remains and prevent tampering with the project. Espinoza checks every morning and every afternoon to make sure that the remains the workers started with at the beginning of the day match the ones they ended with the day before. The diocese expects the project to be finished by 2013, though the date is tentative because there have been setbacks. Espinoza stumbled upon graves beneath a road that divided parts of Potter's Field, and he had to deal with a set of broken pipes. Eckery said the diocese believes the cemetery project is important. "Cemeteries are a major enterprise of the church," he said. "The graves fell short of the standards, and the diocese had a need and a desire to maintain the cemetery properly, with respect and dignity." [Submitted by Kathie Marynik]


Sacramento Bee, Tuesday, 1-19-1988

Vandals Attack Tiny Cemetery

It is a small cemetery, this final resting place for the good people of Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church. But the size of this consecrated plot of ground does not diminish the magnitude of the desecration worked on it this weekend or the sadness felt by relatives whose loved ones rest under the wooden, three-bar crosses and granite stones with Russian names. "It is difficult,'' said Nicholas Storm, the retired veterinarian and church member who has tended the fenced-in, quarter-acre cemetery for the 15 years since it was opened at 65th Expressway and Fruitridge Road. "The people ... they spend their last money to put up a decent monument over the grave of their loved ones, and to have it destroyed. . . . It's almost unbearable to them.'' Sometime between Thursday and Monday morning, the vandals struck, apparently vaulting the fence and desecrating about half of the 65 grave sites at the cemetery. They pulled crosses out of the ground and stuck the pointed tops back into the ground. When crosses didn't slide from the earth, the vandals snapped off the holy symbols. They shattered vases and pulled up flowers. They broke a water pipe and flooded the ground near a 20-foot three-bar cross that marks the ground as a burial place for members of the faith. Storm said he called the Sacramento Police Department and was told that he could file a report. But, the person taking his call told him an officer would not be dispatched to view the damage because police "didn't think this was a religious slur of any kind,'' Storm said. Police officials could not be reached for comment Monday evening. Neither Storm nor the Rev. Paul Volmensky, who ministers to several hundred Russian Orthodox faithful here, had any idea as to what might have possessed those who desecrated their cemetery. Neither would they speculate on whether the vandals might be Satanists. "They probably have something against the cross,'' said Volmensky. There have been no threats or negative calls to the church that would explain the destruction, said the priest, who plans to contact the mayor's office about the attack. But there has been past vandalism. Damage has been done to the cemetery annually for the past 10 years, said Storm. He said vandals struck about three weeks ago, cutting a hole in the fence but doing no damage. He repaired the break. Last March 16, vandals spray painted the cemetery sign and the ground in front of the entrance. On the ground they drew a rectangle with arrows and the letters "S'' and "N,'' said Storm. Back then, police said they would keep a special watch on the isolated plot, said Storm, as crows looked down from nearby barren trees. The caretaker said he repainted the sign, taking out the word ""Russian'' in English but leaving it in Russian. "We eliminated the word 'Russian' because we thought this was some kind of anti-Communist deal,'' said Storm. Such a motivation would make no sense, he said, because members of the church are generally refugees from Communism or their descendants, and are very pro-American, said Storm, whose father fought against the Red Army in the Russian Revolution. "We don't want to do harm to anyone.''


Sacramento Daily Union, 3-28-1885

The City Cemetery. Rambles of a Reporter – What He Saw and His Reflections

Yesterday a reporter took a stroll through the City Cemetery – that beautiful city of the dead. As he walked through the avenues between the well-kept plots in “God’s Acre,” his attention was arrested at almost every step by the appearance of some familiar name, cherished in marble, which immediately called to his recollection memories of the once active individual who now sleeps beneath the sod. Nor was the reporter alone in these recollections, for scattered here and there throughout that beautiful spot, consecrated to the dead, were to be seen many persons, representing all ages, decorating the little mounds that perhaps enveloped all that was near and dear to them in this life. As we pass down the different avenues, we find many plots enclosed with brick, sown to blue grass, set to flowers and roses which twine themselves around beautiful marble monuments, upon which are chiseled beautiful inscriptions – all suggestive of the affection borne the departed by their wealthy relatives. A little further in, we find a little mound without a brick enclosure, without a marble slab to tell the passing stranger who lies beneath; but a fresh wreath of roses, and the remnants of others laying aside, indicate that this floral offering is placed there each day and plainly shows that in that little tomb lies a mother’s idol, “somebody’s darling.” Here and there, throughout the cemetery, are to be found many such, and these little mementos never fail to catch the eye of the passing stranger and often causes him to pause for a moment and reflect and ask himself the question, “Will loving hands decorate my grave as are these? Will I live in the memory of those who will take pleasure in seeing that my grave is kept green?” In other portions of the cemetery are found the graves of those who died in the early days of California. At the time of their death some of them were wealthy, and monuments were erected out of the funds of their estate. Others who died in those palmy days had wealthy friends who placed marble slabs over their last resting place. But thirty odd years have rolled around since gone “to join the innumerable caravan that moves to the pale realm of shade,” and scarcely one is left who can go among the tumbledown monuments, broken shafts and unmarked mounds and point out the graves of those who died in the pioneer days. The potters field next attracts the attention. Here hundreds of human beings who, dying far away from home, friends, and kindred, are placed in a rough wooden box and laid away beside the other poor unfortunates who have just passed over the river before. Here there is no preference. First come, first served. A narrow shallow grave, with no distinguishing mark as to age, sex, or nativity, is the fate of all who are buried at the county’s expense. From the potter field we go up the hill a short distance and find the lots all kept neat, the grass ever green, the flowers trimmed, at each grave a headboard telling of who the individual was who has gone hence. These graves are kept up by the society to which deceased belonged while living. Here the Masons, Odd Fellows, Knight of Pythias, and members of the fraternal orders are buried, and they will ever be properly cared for. Here and there we find elegant tombs erected at vast expense, one that of a millionaire costing many thousands of dollars. Many marble columns tower high above the surrounding shrubbery, marking the resting place of men who in their time were leading statesmen, jurists, and citizens, women who were leaders in society and the perfect type of womanhood. In the center of the cemetery is the State plot, in which are buried several of California’s most distinguished statesmen. The plot is beautifully kept, neatly enclosed by an iron fence, but it is noticed that the great State of California, so noted for its liberality on most all occasions, has entirely neglected to mark, except with a rude piece of redwood board, the graves of J. W. Mandeville, ex-State Controller; R. T. Sprague, ex-Superior Judge; John E. Baker, ex-Assemblyman of Sacramento County; and Dr. T. M. Logan, ex-member of the State Board of Health. One of the finest monuments in the cemetery and one which, from its striking symmetry of form and beauty of design, immediately attracts the attention of all visitors, is that which was erected to the memory of the late E. L. Billings, a few days since. The design of the monument was original with Israel Luce who erected it. The base is of the finest Penryn granite, four feet square. On the granite base rests a marble base, supporting a die worked with scroll trusses on the angles of each corner. On the square between the trusses on each side is a scroll shield raised oval on the face. This die is surmounted with a cap, the corners projecting over the scroll trusses. A sub-die is placed upon the cap. From the sub-die, worked with beautiful moldings and raised tablets, rests the shafts, on which also are raised tablets. This is surmounted by a finely-molded cap on which is erected a beautiful statue of Hope. The entire height of the monument is fourteen feet. The marble used is the finest Italian. The monument, though massive, weighing some five tons, is harmonious in its proportions and beauty of finish and certainly is a credit to its designer and maker. Mr. Luce last year constructed one on a similar pattern for the late Thomas J. O’Neal of Fresno, which is twenty-one feet in height.

Sacramento Bee, Tuesday, 4-14-1987

Violent Spree Strikes City Cemetery

Dudley Bennett glances at a giant chip in a marble urn at his family’s burial plot and wonders aloud, “Is nothing sacred? You’d like to think that at cemeteries and churches, people wouldn’t try to hurt anything,’’ said Bennett, one of an estimated 300 families whose burial plots at the Sacramento City Cemetery have been vandalized in the past month. The spree of violence began at the cemetery at 10th Street and Broadway about a month ago, when vandals knocked over about 200 headstones, bashing several dozen of them to pieces. About a week later, intruders again entered the 48-acre facility and moved a handful of heavy marble or granite headstones to plots where they didn’t belong. The most recent problem occurred last Thursday night, when more than 100 headstones or monuments were pushed from their pedestals and left strewn on the grass. Monetary damage stemming from the three incidents is in the tens of thousands of dollars, according to Darrell Martineau, a city parks supervisor. Many of the headstones are works of art more than 100 years old and they cannot be replaced, he added. “It’s disgusting,’’ said Erling Linggi, assistant director of the city‘s Community Services Department, which maintains the historic, 140-year-old cemetery that holds many of Sacramento’s pioneers. “We think it’s just pure vandalism – we don’t think anyone has a grudge or anything,’’ Linggi said. “There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it: No particular family picked out; no particular type of monument picked out.’’ Due to the heaviness of many of the headstones, city officials suspect the vandals used ropes to dislodge them or baseball bats to smash them to the ground. All the vandalism occurred at the west end of the cemetery and there was no indication of theft, Martineau said. Intruders apparently hid in the area at closing time or went over or under a 6-foot Cyclone fence. “After a while, everywhere you look you see another and another,’’ Martineau said of the broken headstones, some lying side-by-side where a vandal knocked over an entire row. “It kind of makes you sick.’’ County work crews have restored many of the headstones that were toppled but not broken. The laborers come from an alternative sentencing program for people convicted of a crime, Martineau said. Police say there is no apparent link between the cemetery’s problems and other major vandalism recently, such as the destruction of hundreds of trees in North Natomas and at a city-owned nursery in south Sacramento. Currently, several city employees work at the cemetery from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and private security guards drive through the area several times a day to search for intruders, Martineau said. Because of the vandalism spree, Burns International Security Services has volunteered to make another search of the premises late every night or early every morning, he added. Councilman David Shore said he has talked with Police Chief John P. Kearns about the vandalism and hopes to obtain better city police patrol of the cemetery. Shore said he also wants to channel private contributions through a local non-profit foundation to improve security and upgrade the historic cemetery, whose occupants include the son of John A. Sutter. “It’s a shame these things happen,’’ Dudley Bennett said of the crime spree. “I don’t know how you can protect against it unless you have armed guards and the costs might be prohibitive.’’ His wife, Virginia, said she hopes Sacramentans will push for better security to protect the historic tombstone art. “Otherwise, it’s going to get worse and worse and worse,’’ she said of the vandalism.

Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 10-2-1988

Cemetery Cleanup Gives Peek into Past

Virginia Marsh walked up the hill to Maria Rupp’s grave at the Sacramento City Cemetery, burying ground for the famous and common of this century and last. “Every day you find something new here,’’ the gray-haired Marsh said this week. “Nothing about the place is dead at all.” Marsh, an ex-nurse, has been on the cutting edge of a revival at the graveyard at Riverside Boulevard and Broadway. She has spent the last two years indexing records on the 20,000 bodies buried there. She has spearheaded an effort that has identified the resting place of 3,000 early Sacramentans previously unlisted in any record. Marsh has been commended by the City Council for her hundreds of hours in the hot sun and cold of winter as the Sherlock Holmes of the headstones. She has been faced with more than a few mysteries. Take, for example, the strange case of Maria Rupp. Work-furlough inmates cleaning up the graveyard at the urging of Marsh and the Old City Cemetery Committee unearthed the dirty, hardly legible headstone of Maria Rupp. But plot books, which Marsh has been deciphering for two years, listed the person buried there as Aloi Marie. Cleaning of the Rupp headstone revealed her true name and that she died on Nov. 18, 1857. That sent Marsh to research at the state library, as she has done dozens of times. Rupp, a German immigrant, was the owner of the Sacramento Saloon on K Street between 4th and 5th streets. She was a beautiful woman who attracted the attention of another German immigrant, Peter Mutz, described by The Bee as a “low, vulgar man.’’ Mutz wanted to marry Rupp, but she wanted nothing of his affections and told him so. Soon after that, Mutz murdered her while Rupp played piano for a dozen patrons of her saloon. Placing his arms around her from behind, he drove a butcher knife deep into her side. She died within minutes. This is just one of many stories uncovered since Marsh first set out in; October 1986 to do a little research for a person interested in genealogy. “I never dreamed I would be here in October 1988, still at it,’’ she said. John Bettencourt, another member of the Old City Cemetery Committee, said that others tried to make sense of city records, but nobody had ever succeeded until Marsh. “She spent so many days in the hot sun going from stone to stone, recording every little bit of information,’’ Bettencourt said. “Then there is the tedious work of reading the tiny print in existing plot book.’’ Marsh, 68, retired in 1971 when the hospital where she worked refused to put in an amplifier on the telephone so that she could overcome her severe hearing problem. The core of her work began with 17,000 index cards filed by the city. When survivors wanted to find buried relatives, they struggled through the cards, which were kept in cardboard boxes. First Marsh put them in alphabetical order and typed them into her computer. “Then I found that not all of the names on the headstones were in the card file,’’ she said. Marsh and volunteers walked the graveyard in a methodical way. “We picked up about 3,000 more names from headstones that were not in the card file,’’ Marsh said. In addition to cleaning up the records, Marsh, the city and the cemetery committee have produced a cleaner cemetery. Cutbacks after Proposition 13 had left the grounds looking a bit shabby. The Sacramento City Cemetery is referred to as “the public graveyard’’ in a city ordinance of Dec. 3, 1849. It is here that 500 Sacramentans were buried in mass graves during the cholera epidemic of 1850. The plots are privately owned, but the grounds are looked after by the city. An Adopt-a-Pioneer program has been started so that groups and individuals can adopt a person like the late Maria Rupp and restore her resting place to former glory. Tours for the public have been organized that point out graves of the famous, such as Mark Hopkins of Big Four fame, Col. William Hamilton, son of the president, and Judge E.B. Crocker. A chapel on cemetery grounds, formerly used to store wheelbarrows, has been turned into an archive center, the main focus of which is Marsh’s computerized list that many started but nobody finished until Marsh came along.

The detective work is not over. This winter, when the ground is soft, the soil will be probed for coffins to locate burial places without headstones. “You can’t read these stones or study the names in plot books without getting in touch with the families buried there,’’ she said. “These are historical documents. They are records in stone. We can’t allow them to be lost.’’

Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 5-21-1995

Eternal Design – The Old City Cemetery Is an Architectural Jewel Most Tourists and Sacramentans Drive By

John Bettencourt first loped into the Old City Cemetery in 1950 when in art class at Sacramento City College and wanted to draw some of the pastoral scenes from one of California’s most storied burial grounds. He’s been hanging out there ever since. It hasn’t exactly been a popular tourist attraction. When residents or visitors search for something interesting to do in Sacramento, they may rattle off a number of attractions before the Gold Rush-era cemetery at Broadway and 10th Streets. Bettencourt, a retired grocer and history buff who has conducted hundreds of tours, has spent the last 10 years doing his best to change all that. It’s a good cause. The Old City Cemetery is one of the city’s great treasures, a silent oasis of plush green vegetation and monuments and stones of white marble and granite. At first, this piece of land donated to the city by John Sutter in 1848 was just row upon nondescript row of burial plots. But a European-style plan was put in place in the 1850s that added grandeur in the form of winding roadways and raised plots. In the late 1800s, urban cemeteries in the East became some of the most elaborately planned and designed communities in the United States. Their Beaux Arts influence went on to be copied in some of the great romantic suburbs of the early 1900s. In the wide open town of turn-of-the-century Sacramento, the cemetery developed in a more simple and straight-forward affair. It includes virtually every kind of tree known to the Central Valley – pine, elm, oak, palm, crepe myrtle, cypress, cedar, evergreen – but they grow in random, haphazard fashion. The cemetery has offered quiet and solitude for decades. Bettencourt, a tall, rangy man given to bolo ties, suede vests and pocket watches, once was toiling away in the stone archives building in the middle of the 28-acre cemetery when he heard someone rustling around outside. He went to question the intruder and found a businessman who said he had an important presentation to give and this was the best place for peace and quiet. One expects that in a cemetery, but this is an uncommonly comfortable respite from the urban din that surrounds it. The clamor of Broadway, hustle of the New Helvetia public housing project, the banality of the Target store strip center – it all evaporates in the stone and grass calm of the cemetery. Last year, thanks to enthusiastic volunteers like Bettencourt, some 7,000 people went on tours of the cemetery, 2,000 of them children. There are tours most weekends, Wednesday evening twilight tours once a month from April to September, and numerous other special events. Halloween is a particularly popular time – and the Oct. 28 Moonlight Tour is the only one for which admission is charged. On one tour, a psychic pointed out various energy fields and what they mean. A great chance to enjoy the cemetery occurs this Saturday at the annual Memorial Day tribute to veterans of America’s wars from 1812 to Viet Nam. The festivities, some of the most solemn and colorful in town, feature a living history tribute by the Civil War Skirmish Association, and traditional military services presented by the John F. Kennedy High School band, the Naval Sea Cadet Corps, and American Legion Post 61 Band. Two weeks ago, another popular annual event was held: “Jazz at the Cemetery,” a re-creation of a New Orleans style funeral procession. It’s all part of an impressive effort to draw public attention to one of the city’s unique amenities. Ten years ago, about the time the Old City Cemetery Committee was formed, life at the cemetery was not as sanguine. Long overlooked by city leaders, the cemetery, which stopped selling plots in the 1930s, was a mess. “The city leaders just didn’t seem to be very concerned about it,” Bettencourt said mournfully. “It was a shame.” Weeds and grass were overgrown. Hundreds of headstones damaged in acts of vandalism went un-repaired. Plots were not maintained. It was not a place anyone wanted to visit. Thanks to the sheriff’s work furlough program, which Bettencourt says has been indispensable to the cemetery’s revival, the facility is much better maintained. Grass is cut, weeds pulled, and volunteers have planted hundreds of rose bushes. This place always possessed some great Sacramento history inside its wrought-iron fences. Three governors are buried there, as is John Sutter Jr. Edwin Crocker and Mark Hopkins, two of the Big Four who opened California to rail, are also buried in the cemetery. Bettencourt seems to have a story for each of the 25,000 to 30,000 people buried there. No one can be sure of the exact number because early records were sketchy, but his recall of Sacramento and Gold Rush lore is razor sharp. His latest cause is trying to interest the city in beautifying a narrow strip of dirt abutting some plots on the cemetery’s west side. He wants to sell the land to new patrons. The way the cemetery is set up, the city owns it but the individual plots are owned and maintained by the families who buy them. Burials are still held there when a family member already owning a piece dies. But most of the old families are gone, Bettencourt said. “Bringing new blood in here, so to speak, would help the cemetery. People would bring in flowers, keep the place up . . . there would be new people to help take care of things.” He’s so enthusiastic about the idea that he’s proposing that caskets be placed eight feet down on the new land, twice the usual four feet. That would allow for twice as many burials. The city could raise some money and the cemetery, as Bettencourt put it, would get some new, uh, life. He said city officials are studying the idea. “I’ve always loved this old place,” he said. “When people think the Wild West they think Wyatt Earp . . . nah. Dodge City . . . nah. We had the Wild West right here. In 1849 we had plenty of saloons, plenty of shootouts. The history was made out there, but the people who made the history are in here.”

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 3-17-2005

Pioneer Resting Place Is Fenced – Finishing Touches to the Old City Cemetery Structure Will Include New Gates at 10th and Broadway

In the next few weeks, contractors expect to place the finishing touches on an 8-foot-tall iron fence that surrounds the Old City Cemetery and its neighbors, the Masonic Lawn Cemetery and the Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery. The final step, new gates at the entrance on Broadway at 10th Street, should be installed soon, officials said. The city has taken several years to finish the $624,900 project. The Masons and Odd Fellows have contributed $140,000 to that total. Combined, the fence surrounds about 70 acres. The project has been in the works for about five years, said Jim Henley, manager of the Old City Cemetery. “This is a unique cemetery, because for a long time, there never was a fence (except for along Broadway). It was wide open for a long time,” Henley said. For about 100 years, the burial ground remained accessible from three sides, Henley said. But there were problems, he said. Vandalism in the cemetery dates back almost as long as it has been in existence, Henley said. “If you tried to put a pattern to it, you would see it’s pretty random,” Henley said. “It appears to me that vandalism in the cemetery is proportional to the neglect.” Unlike some cities, Sacramento has never provided perpetual care of its graveyard by city maintenance crews, Henley said. “It was left to the plot holders to maintain,” Henley said. “As families died off or moved away, it became quite a weed garden.” The city cemetery was established in 1849 after John A. Sutter Jr. donated 10 acres. According to Old City Cemetery Committee Inc. archives, more than 25,000 pioneers and their families are interred at the facility. Most notable are Sutter; lawyer and art collector E.B. Crocker; railroad mogul Mark Hopkins; William Stephen Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton; three California governors (William Irvin, Newton Booth, and John Bisler); and Hardin Bigelow, Sacramento’s first elected mayor. The decision to fence the cemetery came in the early 1950s after a particularly bad case of vandalism. Cyclone fencing was installed around the city cemetery, and then its neighboring burial grounds. Meanwhile, the ravages of time continued to take their toll on the grounds. Retaining walls were collapsing, and graves were sinking. The Old City Cemetery Committee came to the rescue in 1986. Outraged by the effects of vandalism and neglect on the headstones and monuments, the volunteer group became advocates. In 1987, the group came under the auspices of the Sacramento County Historical Society, and then in 2003 became the Old City Cemetery Inc., an independent nonprofit organization. The group sponsors projects that restore, beautify and preserve the historic burial ground. The partnership with the committee has helped the city save money and beautify the cemetery, Henley said. Only two city employees working at the cemetery, Henley said. Volunteers and work crews from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department work release program maintain plots. Volunteers and work program labor have built about eight miles of retaining walls. The city has provided materials. Henley said he feels the fence has had a positive effect on the area. “I think it does change the look,” he said. “It has a much more finished look. This is very much what people expect from a cemetery.”
The iron fence is topped by fleur-de-lis and painted black in keeping with the 1800s design. The gates will be a modern design but look similar to the fence. An added feature at the Broadway gates will be an exit-only turnstile. “We’ve had people get stuck in the
cemetery after closing,” Henley said. Now, someone stranded inside will be able to walk out. Louis Demas, president of the Old City Cemetery Committee, said he is pleased with the new features. “It’s a great improvement over the chain-link,” Demas said. “People have said it makes it look like a cemetery, and that’s fine because it is a cemetery.” Demas, a Sacramento attorney, launched the cemetery’s annual series of twice-monthly history tours Saturday with a discussion on winter storm survivors buried there.


Sacramento Union, 4-25-1971

132 Pioneers Honored – Two Cemeteries Merge

About 150 persons assembled Saturday afternoon at the old Sacramento City South Cemetery on Riverside Boulevard to honor the dead Japanese-American pioneers buried there and see the cemetery become part of the adjoining Odd Fellows Cemetery. Present at the hour-long ceremony were local Japanese-American dignitaries, representatives of five Buddhist sects in Sacramento, County Supervisor Henry Kloss, and City Councilman Sun Wong. Eikichi Hara, consul general of Japan, traveled here from San Francisco to witness the unveiling of a 20-ton monument to the 132 Japanese buried at the cemetery. Hara told the group it was “heartening that they paid homage to their countrymen, who have paved the way to a new life in the United States.” The cemetery had fallen into neglect over the years and had been vandalized a number of times. By joining the two cemeteries, said Tom Fujimoto, chairman of the event, the 132 dead “would not be forgotten and would now have perpetual care.” The inscription on the monument reads: “A memorial dedicated to the spirit and for the comfort of the deceased pioneers.”


Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 3-11-2004

Bones May Be From Lost Cemetery – Unearthed Remains Could Reveal Old County Hospital Burial Site

Construction workers may have solved a long-held Sacramento mystery Wednesday morning when they unearthed several bones behind the UC Davis Medical Center. Officials hope that the bones are a key to finding former indigent burial grounds used by the Sacramento County Hospital, now the UCD Med Center. It is believed that the hospital used the burial ground for indigents, paupers and people with no relations. "That would be roughly where the cemetery would be located," said Bob LaPerriere, co-chairman of the Old City Cemetery Commission. "It was basically a burial site for people who died at the hospital." LaPerriere said there is little documentation about the cemetery, which may have dated back to the late 19th century. At some point in the mid-20th century, some bodies were moved. "We were never sure if everyone was moved or not but we know some of them were," LaPerriere said. "It has been so poorly documented so there has been a lot of speculation." In October the mystery burial ground was included in five memorial services dedicated to the 15,000 indigent people who have been buried in Sacramento County since 1849. With the exact location of the bones unknown, a bronze plaque was placed on the old county water tower on V Street. The mystery of the missing cemetery has long fascinated Laura Santos, Sacramento County deputy coroner. Just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Santos received a call from medical center officials. While digging for a cancer center expansion project near 45th and V streets, a worker saw a skull roll from a load of dirt. Santos pointed to what appeared to be femurs jutting out of the excavation wall five feet below ground. The bones pulled from the pile of dirt - pieces of a skull and jawbone - looked like human remains, Santos said at the construction site. "These look as though they are old enough so they will probably be considered archaeological specimens," Santos said. The discovery prompted Santos to think of the stories about two pauper burial fields behind the medical center, which was the Sacramento County Hospital until 1973. "There was some sort of suspicion that they were back here, but they didn't know where," Santos said. Tom Rush, manager of facilities design and construction at the medical center, said no remains were uncovered when the cancer center was built in 1990. A few weeks ago, officials found no indication of human remains when workers dug two test holes near 45th and V streets. On Tuesday construction workers started mass excavation.
Santos took the bones back to the coroner's office. Beverly Eddy, a forensic anthropologist and professor at California State University, Sacramento, will examine the bones and determine their age. For now, construction has been halted on the cancer center expansion project. If the remains turn out to be part of the old burial ground, an independent company will be brought in to supervise the remaining digging and the bones will be moved to another resting place, Santos said.


Sacramento Bee, 3-28-1967

County Will Keep Vets Cemetery; Improving, Expanding Get Board OK

Sacramento County not only will stay in the veterans’ cemetery business, but it will expand and improve the cemetery on Fruitridge Road at 69th Street. The Board of Supervisors bowed to the demands of groups of veterans yesterday afternoon and unanimously voted to both improve the maintenance and appearance of the cemetery and to expand its size to insure for continued operation in future years. The board further voted to explore the possibility of levying a separate and special countywide tax rate for support of the veterans’ cemetery program. The action of the supervisors came after they heard impassioned and emotional pleas from a number of veterans’ organization speakers, all favoring county ownership and operation of the cemetery. The decision apparently ends nearly five years of controversy over the unkempt appearance of the cemetery. It also apparently ended recurrent plans to sell the cemetery property and get out of the business. The latest suggestion along this latter line came yesterday from County Executive M. D. Tarshes who recommended to the board the county close the cemetery after the remaining 88 plots are used in about eight months. Thereafter, he said, the county could provide for the burial of needy veterans by using private cemeteries. “I believe that this is an activity or business in which the county government does not belong,” Tarshes said, “and because it is possible to provide for the burial of veterans who have limited funds by using private cemeteries.” He said the county should again attempt to sell the cemetery property with an attached condition that the purchaser would have to maintain the existing veterans burial area. The county owns slightly in excess of 21 acres at the site with one acre now devoted to veterans burial. The county previously attempted to sell the cemetery under the same condition and actually succeeded in obtaining one buyer. This fell through, however, when the purchaser failed to obtain a state cemetery permit. Tarshes had pointed out Sacramento County is the only county in the state owning and operating a veterans cemetery – an activity not required by law. It is, however, he said, required to provide for the burial of veterans who are without means to pay. He further pointed out this latter situation should be rare since honorable discharged veterans receive a $250 burial allowance from the federal government. In addition, increasing numbers of veterans also will receive a burial allowance of about $250 from social security. That burial in private cemeteries was an available alternate was pointed up by a presentation by Foy Bryant, president of the Mount Vernon Memorial Park at 8201 Greenback Lane. Bryant said he was prepared to offer a complete burial with mortuary services in a special “Veterans Court of Honor” area of his cemetery for the $250 federal allotment for any qualified veterans referred by the coroner or veterans service office. This brought an initial response from Supervisor Leslie E. Wood that the county should explore such a possibility further. He described the Mount Vernon Memorial Park as one of the most beautiful in the nation. But, the veterans present, mainly American Legion members, objected to such an approach. Ken Robbins, who said he represented the Veterans Affiliated Council, expressed “surprise that we are here today” because he thought the board had promised two years ago to improve and maintain the veterans cemetery. “The county has a responsibility to the veterans,” he said. “We are not asking much from the county. All we ask is a little money in the budget to maintain burials.” Andrew Salontal, state department vice commander for the legion and national graves registration commissioner for the organization, referred to the statement that no other counties maintain veterans’ cemeteries, and commented: “I say damn what the other counties do.” He also asserted that Rep. John E. Moss of the 3rd Sacramento County district had told him that under some circumstances federal money might be available to aid in the financing. James S. Howie, president of the Veterans Affilitated Council, said the organization was on record favoring retention of the cemetery by the county. Sheriff John Misterly told the gathering he was prepared to offer the service of mail prisoners to improve and maintain the cemetery and said the cost would be virtually nothing. He said he had sufficient prisoners to do the job without taking them away from other projects. In the face of these arguments, the board accepted the motion by Supervisor Frank J. O’Brien that the county continue the cemetery and expand it.


Sacramento Bee, 8-13-1932

New Cemetery To Be Located Here – Promoters Who Sought Pacific District Site Try Stockton Boulevard

Development of a new burial ground to be known as At Rest Lawn Cemetery, located on Stockton Boulevard about three miles south of the city limits, will begin next spring. This was announced today by Morris S. Daggett, mortician, and Forrest C. Hill, attorney, promoters of the project, following the filing with the county recorder late yesterday of a declaration of intention to establish the cemetery and also a map of the proposed burial ground. The cemetery site comprises three and one-half acres. It fronts on the boulevard and is across the street from the present Jewish cemetery. The legal documents were recorded just before the end of the business day, whereas at midnight the county’s new ordinance, requiring a permit from the board of supervisors to establish a cemetery, became effective. Under this law, a public hearing of an application must be held. The promoters are the same who attempted to establish a cemetery at Franklin Boulevard and Twenty-first Avenue several months ago. Residents of the Pacific district complained that the cemetery would constitute a menace to public health because of poor drainage conditions, so the superior court granted an injunction against its establishment.

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 2-19-1998

Rites of Inclusion – Cemetery’s Expansion to Accommodate Cultural Diversity

Sounds of Hmong music and chanting float from the Sacramento Memorial Lawn chapel as mourners pay homage. Some participate in what appears to be a carefully choreographed dance; others stand over a casket while a few lie on benches and the carpeted floor. Outside on concrete steps, two men sit and talk quietly. One draws on tobacco from a handmade pipe. This is how the Hmong bury their dead with days of cultural traditions that the south-area mortuary and cemetery strives to preserve. “Sacramento Memorial Lawn was founded on a need for a place of ethnic and cultural diversity,’ said owner Buck Kamphausen. “Of course, it has expanded and mirrors the cross section of Sacramento today.’ Since the 1930s, the Stockton Boulevard cemetery has been the resting place for generations of diverse cultures. To boost to that tradition, the Sacramento County Project Planning Commission on Feb. 9 approved a project that would further preserve burial traditions of the Hmong and other cultures. The project would expand the Sacramento Memorial Lawn cemetery to include additional internment areas and parking spaces, while converting some existing buildings into funeral service chapels. “We’re developing the area as cemetery space for the Hmong community,’ Kamphausen said. “They have special needs and requirements. It’s extremely important to us,’ he said. “It’s the basis of our business to take care of people in the tradition and manner they are accustomed to and want.” Sacramento Memorial Lawn was founded in 1920, said Al Moore, the Vallejo-based architect working on the expansion project. The first buildings a chapel, an office and a mausoleum wall were built between 1920 and 1922. Ten years later, the cemetery and chapel were purchased by Gilbert S. Daggett, said Moore. “This cemetery was basically built in the old days, when other cemeteries discriminated against ethnic (groups),’ said Kamphausen. People of Japanese ancestry, for example, sometimes weren’t allowed into cemeteries or were made to stand outside the fence during burials, he said. In 1964, Kamphausen went to work at Sacramento Memorial Lawn. He later bought the cemetery and chapel from Daggett’s son, Morris S. Daggett. The cemetery is the resting place of hundreds of people from diverse ethnic and religious groups. Among those buried or cremated there are people of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hmong, Vietnamese, Indian, Russian, and Caucasian heritage. “We attempt to deal with all of their needs (and) traditions they bring with them from whatever country they’re from,’ Kamphausen said. Over the years, a Japanese pavilion and a Buddhist temple were constructed on the site to accommodate such needs. The site also has a raised area where people of Vietnamese and Chinese descent are buried because it “reminds them of the hill country’ of their homeland, Kamphausen said. “Buck was one of the few to recognize they had some special and different services when they buried someone,’ Moore said. “Both senior and junior (Daggett) were dedicated to this, and he’s keeping it going.” Additional chapel and parking space is needed at the cemetery because Hmong burials often draw hundreds of people. “People ... always try to attend it, especially if it was an older person,’ said Lue Thao, a funeral director and member of the south area’s Hmong community. “The reason being that he or she was well known in the old country.” Hmong funerals can last three to seven days. “The reason we do that is to celebrate (the person’s) life,’ Thao said. During a Hmong funeral and before burial, the body is always present in a casket among the mourners, who participate in religious ceremonies, games, cooking, and eating all of which require a lot of space. The planned expansion will give such large groups the room they need. New chapels and an eating and congregating area outdoors will be added. Kamphausen and Moore plan to work with leaders from various ethnic communities to blend their cultural needs with legal requirements, such as fire and safety codes


Sacramento Bee, 10-15-1917

Curtis Oaks Seeking to Close Cemetery – Trouble Over Contemplated Street Improvement Will Be Aired Before Commission

CURTIS PARK, October 5–The Curtis Oaks Improvement Club decided at a meeting last night to ask the City Commission to close St. Joseph’s (Catholic) Cemetery. The club members declared the cemetery as a drawback to the communities which surround it and expressed an opinion that the Cemetery Association should take steps to find another suitable site somewhere out in the country. President A. J. Argall will name a committee this week that will appear before the City Commission with the formal request that the Commission set a date for discontinuation of further burials in this cemetery. Trouble between the club and the Catholic Cemetery Association has been brewing for many months. The club has been backing up property owners on Freeport Boulevard who have been trying to secure a majority petition to cut up the road for pavement. Owing to the fact that the cemetery controls a large frontage, it was found almost impossible to get a majority of the owners without the association’s endorsement. Freeport Boulevard from street to Second Avenue, including the section in front of the cemetery, was declared one of the worst streets in the city. Because it is a main artery into the city, the club holds that its poor condition is retarding the development of the West Curtis Oaks and Curtis Oaks communities. William Douglas, Superintendent of the cemetery, stated today that property owners on Freeport Boulevard had asked him not to sign for the improvement for at least a year, as they were hard pressed for money. “I will not force an expense on these poor people,” he said, “but when they are ready, I will sign.”


Sacramento Bee, Wed., 6-1-1955

St. Marys Mausoleum Has Impressive Gothic Design

Situated in St. Marys Cemetery, located at 6700 21st Avenue in the Fruitridge district, is one of Sacramento’s most impressive edifices, St. Marys Mausoleum. At the suggestion of Bishop Patrick J. Keane, the architect B. J. S. Cahill designed the building in the late 1920s along ecclesiastical lines, utilizing the features of mediaeval cathedrals. The original plan formed a cross, with the central nave running straight from the entrance to the chancel with two transepts making the arms of the cross at the right and left with a high rotunda at the intersection. The rear of the chancel or sanctuary back of the altar, technically known as the apse, also follows Gothic tradition in being polygonal in form with recesses at each side for the choir. The main front is true to form in being glanced by towers with the doorway deeply recessed in splayed jambs of arched masonry. The lighting of the interior also follows mediaeval design. There are high clerestory windows over the roof of the aisles. The aisles, however, which border the nave, the transepts and the choir are occupied exclusively by the crypts. The masonry walls are carried up and over to form ceiling and roof slab in one piece without any wooden rafters. New wings recently were added to the structure as had been suggested by Bishop Robert J. Armstrong more than five years ago. Among the outstanding features of the structure are the stained glass windows. One in the dome is entitled The New Jerusalem and was imported from Dublin, Ireland, as were those entitled Madonna And Child, The Lamb Of God, The Resurrection, Symbol Of The Hand Of God, The Father In Blessing His Divine Son, Symbols Of The Holy Eucharist, and Symbols Of the Holy Ghost. The Assumption stained glass window is from the Chartres Cathedral in France. The cemetery has 46 acres and features park-like landscaping with flat monuments. The cemetery was opened in 1929. William H. Rice was the first burial, September 6th. William Douglass was the first superintendent of the cemetery. Bernard M. Brady became superintendent in 1932.


Sacramento Daily Union, 5-13-1861

Dedication of St. Rose Cemetery

The new Roman Catholic cemetery or burying ground, located on the Lower Stockton Road, four miles out of town, was consecrated with considerable pageantry yesterday afternoon by Archbishop Alemany, assisted by Bishop Losa of Sonora and several others of the Catholic clergy. The ceremonies were witnessed by six or eight hundred persons, mostly of the Roman Catholic faith, who went out from this city in stages, omnibuses, hacks, and all other styles of vehicles, on horseback and on foot. The cemetery named St. Rose Cemetery, a square enclosure of twenty-five acres on the east slope of a gentle rise of ground, a mile beyond Pavilon on “Whiskey Hill.” A large tract of land adjoining the cemetery is the property of the Church and will be included in its limits whenever required. At present there is but a single small tree within the grounds and a few paths have been marked out by shoveling up the turf, and these constitute the only improvements. There is one row of twenty-seven new-made graves, with boards erected in place of headstones, and three graves are dug ready for the next comers. Three large black crosses had been planted in a row across the center of the field, and two others at the eastern side in such positions that the whole five together formed the figure of a cross. At the central cross a temporary platform had been erected, carpeted, and surmounted by a canvas awning for the ceremonies of the occasion, and around this were ranged a number of wooden benches for the accommodation of the women and children, who were not admitted on the procession. The assemblage was composed mainly of the sons and daughters of the Emerald Isle, but there were a number of native Californians, and among the latter Don Pablo de la Guerra, the President of the Senate. Several other members of the Legislature were present. The procession was formed at the northwest corner of the grounds, near which stands a small house occupied by the keeper of the cemetery. A priest in white surplice trimmed with lace led the procession, book in hand, and following him was a cross bearer with a black cross, ten or twelve feet high, upon which was a white figure of our Savior. On either side of the cross-bearer were acolytes bearing aloft large wax candles. These officials were clad in vestments of the Church. Next followed a hundred men, marching two abreast, then another tall cross, exactly like its predecessor and flanked in like manner of acolytes; then six or eight little altar boys in white silk bands and belts and scarlet caps, something like those worn by the Wide Awakes in the East during the late Presidential canvass. One of the boys incessantly sang a censor. Next came the Archbishop, a tall white mitre on his head, and his symbolic shepherd’s crook borne before him by a priest in white raiment. The Bishop of Sonora, in robes of similar splendor, though of somber hues, walked by the Archbishop’s side, and the heads of both prelates were sheltered from the sun’s rays by an umbrella in the hands of one of the five or six attendant clergy, who closed the cortege. [Long sermon which is not repeated here.] The Archbishop proceeded with the ceremonies of dedication, with chants and prayers in Latin, during a portion of which all the congregation kneeled. He blessed a dish of salt and sprinkled it into buckets of water, and then consecrated the water. These ceremonies ended, the procession reformed and marched slowly, with prayers and chants and the sprinkling of the holy water by the Archbishop, to the several black crosses, each of which, in turn, was blessed and decorated with three large candles. The congregation finally reassembled at the central cross and after further prayers were dismissed with a benediction. The multitude forthwith crowded the one hundred vehicles which brought them to the Church, and with a good deal of racing, hilarity, “noise and confusion,” and immense clouds of dust, returned to the city.


Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 10-29-1998

San Joaquin, Hilltop Radar Studies Released

Ground penetrating radar studies are now complete for San Joaquin and Hilltop cemeteries, showing what’s buried where and what areas may need another look. The Elk Grove-Cosumnes Cemetery District oversees these 19th century cemeteries, and administrators hope to identify what open space exists should future generations require additional burial space. Geophysicists with Norcal Geophysical Consultants of Petaluma slowly plotted the cemeteries in early July, 10 feet at a time, using a mounted profiling recorder atop an all-terrain vehicle. GPR profiles were made and illustrated by detailed maps showing buried objects and geological features that may need additional probing. Norcal Consultant Jerry Nelson brought the surveys to cemetery district board members Oct. 8, showing areas now identified as containing graves and other areas with open space or special geological features. Cemetery officials plan to take big rods and poke into the ambiguous areas to make a final determination of what is down there. “At this point, we’re determining if there is enough open space to possibly open San Joaquin,” said Marilyn Smith, the Elk Grove-Cosumnes Cemetery District administrator. “There seems a lot more open space there than with Hilltop. We’re going to hold off there until we find out about Caltrans widening (Waterman Road).” “Certainly there is more open area in San Joaquin in general with more potential for burials,” said Jerry Nelson, a veteran geophysicist from Granite Bay who was lead Norcal consultant on the project. “Hilltop is a little bit different. There are some indications the profile is of soil changes and not related to graves.” The district’s annual operating budget is supplied mainly through a small designated portion of property taxes from each homeowner in the district. It also takes in money for plots, burials and landscaping. Those services are available to district residents and their families at a rate about half that of private cemeteries. Currently, cemetery workers are finishing up landscaping and drainage at Pleasant Grove Cemetery which is open for new burials. The district office is at Elk Grove Cemetery on Elk Grove Boulevard, now fully landscaped and also open for burials. Hilltop rests off Waterman Road, mere yards from the Park Lane subdivision. It was established on 3.5 acres by the Odd Fellows Lodge in 1878. Hilltop and Elk Grove cemeteries formed the basis of the cemetery district when it was created by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors in 1951. Cemetery District officials didn’t want to use the cemeteries for new burials until they knew who was where. They couldn’t even landscape the two cemeteries lest they disturb unknown remains. Several ground penetrating studies have taken place throughout the Sacramento Valley. The technique has proved useful for site development and identification of locations of human remains at proposed mall and subdivisions throughout Placer and El Dorado counties. Other uses for the technique include determining the placement of drill holes for underground tanks and pipelines, finding buried containers, locating active utilities, investigating contaminated sites and general surveys.

Sacramento Bee, Wednesday, 12-17-2008

Reviving Historic Cemetery

Motorists whiz by daily on Highway 99 in Elk Grove, just feet from where the bodies are buried. Most don’t know that nearly 80 men, women and children who lived and died from the early 1860s through 1947 rest, eternally, in tiny San Joaquin Cemetery just north of Sheldon Road. “It’s a little island stuck in time,” said Anne Trussell, a member of the Elk Grove Historical Society. “The occupants,” she said, “are in the midst of rush and hurry and sort of forgotten.” One day, however, they may have company. Operators of the 3.2-acre public cemetery hope to be able to resume burials by purchasing about 1.2 acres owned by the state and sandwiched between Highway 99 and West Stockton Boulevard. The purchase will require completion of the adjacent Sheldon Road freeway interchange and possible negotiations for any surplus lands. Depending on how West Stockton Boulevard is realigned, the cemetery should gain just enough land for parking and another 800 grave sites. “As soon as we have a surface street, we’re going to put in a parking lot,” said Michael Young, administrator for the Elk Grove-Cosumnes Cemetery District. “Even with new grave sites, the cemetery will retain its historic significance,” said Jeanette Lawson, another member of the Elk Grove Historical Society. “The remains, after all, were there long before the freeway.” While there are references to earlier grave sites, the oldest headstone belongs to Miss Elvira Bates, who died Dec. 19, 1861, at age 79. Among notable inhabitants are an ancestor of writer Joan Didion and an 1860s-era relative of Elk Grove’s well-known Bartholomew family, Trussell’s cemetery records show. The Bartholomew name is attached to a 10-acre park in west Elk Grove, and a larger sports park under construction is named for longtime civic leader Hal Bartholomew.

The cemetery district, in existence since 1951, also operates five other cemeteries in the area. It has owned the San Joaquin Cemetery since 1973, when it purchased the site for $10 in delinquent taxes. “It was unsafe to use the cemetery because it’s trapped by the off ramp,” Young said in reference to the earlier years of district ownership. “So all they did was put in the trees and lawn and fix it up, with no intention to open it.” Recently, a private gift of fill dirt allowed the district to repair swales that had left an unused section of the site swampy, Young said. If burials resume, competitive rates will take effect. “We’re subsidized by taxpayer money and, in exchange, we’re not allowed to make a profit,” he said. Translation: Some may view the grave sites as dirt cheap. A single plot would cost $600 ($1,000 if it accommodates an upright headstone). A one-time maintenance fee for “perpetual” care would start at $250. There also would be a $600 fee to open and close a grave site. Burials could resume in as little as three months after the interchange work is done, Young said. And that project could be completed as early as next winter. Being buried next to the freeway, of course, won’t be for everyone. “A lot of people don’t like the noise,” Young said, referring to customers planning their own funerals. On the other hand, one prospective customer who had driven a big rig on the freeway for 40 years said he likes the idea of planning a future reminiscent of his past. When the grave sites are available, the driver is ready to make a deal.


Sacramento Bee, 9-8-1954

East Lawn Gets Okeh For Cemetery

The controversial proposal of the East Lawn Cemetery to create a 131-acre cemetery adjacent to the new Roseville Freeway was given approval by the Board of Supervisors today over vigorous protests from two nearby property owners. The site, consisting of 96 acres on the east side of the freeway and 35 acres on the west side, is near the Antelope Road and in the general area of a new Roman Catholic Cemetery. Opposition was expressed by C. T. Johnston of 6130 Country Lane and Mrs. C. H. Parrott of Route 6, Box 2502. Johnston contended the cemetery proposal has not been explored adequately. “We are on the threshold of hiring a county planning director and think this is an excellent first problem to hand him” he added. He said the site should be reserved for subdivision development and urged the supervisors and planning commission to study the idea of grouping all future cemeteries near an existing one at Sylvan Corners. Both Johnston and Mrs. Parrott denied claims by the proponents that a cemetery would not depreciate their property values. They urged the board to continue the matter long enough to give them time to get expert appraisals of that aspect of the problem. Attorney Gordon A. Fleury, spokesman for the cemetery firm, pointed out the planning commission approved the project after two public hearings. Supervisor Ancil Hoffman, in whose district the disputed site lies, was the only supervisor to vote against the proposal.


Sacramento Union, Sunday, 5-27-1973

Gold Ruse Era Cemetery Yields Rich Historical Lore

SLOUGHHOUSE—It is a hot and dry day … and there is little relief from the sun as we drive through the rolling hills that now have turned to brown and gold. It was like this perhaps in 1841 when a lone rider came this way in search of cattle that had strayed from John Sutter’s herd. He would cross the crest of a hill – now on Jackson Highway – and look into the valley below, feeling much relief as the Cosumnes River Valley – green and tree-lined – unfolded. The man, William Daylor, eventually would settle here, bring a young bride to his ranch, create a small fortune in the gold fields … and before 10 years, contact cholera and die. Past Sloughhouse, down Meiss Road and up a hill, Daylor, the valley’s first settler, would be buried. And he is in suitable company here in the shaded cemetery, overlooking the valley. A millstone nearby marks the grave of Daylor’s partner, Jared Sheldon, who was granted 800 acres here by a Mexican governor in return for construction work in Monterey. The life of this versatile man – horse trader, carpenter and rancher – came to a dramatic end as he defended his property from an army of miners in July 1851. And close by are the graves of the wives of these partners. They were sisters, Sarah and Catherine Rhoads, who as teenagers were the first brides in Sutter’s Fort. These women and their brother, John, who also lies in the plot, were part of a significant chapter in California’s early history. They are believed to be the first Mormon family to migrate overland in the opening of the West.

It is cool here on the knob of the hill where the cemetery stretches out … Farm dogs and descendants intrude occasionally on this restful place. Time-worn, broken and many upheaved, the markers on these graves link individual stories that are the food of regional history and are especially appropriate as Memorial Day nears. The 200 graves, according to cemetery records, represent early settlers who clung to their farmland despite the gold rush; young women who died in childbirth; infants … and laborers, and soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary, Mexican, and Civil wars. The Sloughhouse Pioneer Cemetery is, no doubt, one of the oldest and most historic around. And until recently, it stood as good a chance of being forgotten as the stories of those buried here. Last year, however, Sacramento member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers – realizing the importance of Mormon pioneers buried here – undertook the cemetery’s restoration and perpetuation as a local project. Percy Westerberg who owns the property where the cemetery is located, has deeded the ground to the group, which has compiled information about the cemetery’s past. It is from their files that the story of those buried here comes. Jared Sheldon’s name is Sloughhouse history. He is said to have built the first school in Sacramento County near here and the first grist mill on the Cosumnes River. Born in 1813 in Vermont, he was a school teacher before coming to California in 1832, where among other projects he worked on the original Customs House in Monterey. Sheldon’s murder made headlines in the July 14, 1851, Sacramento Union. The story began:

“It is our painful and melancholy duty to record one of the most desperate and bloody riots that has ever fastened the stain of barbarity and disgrace upon our state…” According to the story, Sheldon had planned to build a dam on the Cosumnes for irrigation purposes. Meeting with opposition from upstream miners, he offered many compromises, which were unacceptable to them. When the dam was completed, Sheldon stationed a small cannon by the dam, and miners temporarily dropped threats to destroy it. According to the story, however, an army of 40 to 100 miners stormed the dam. Sheldon “coolly told them they were trespassing … and the first man who struck a blow at cutting away the dam would be shot. Immediately one of the miners fired on Sheldon and his group; and within minutes, Sheldon and two others were dead. Sheldon was buried on the hill, near the grave of his partner, Daylor, who had died a year before. A millstone from the grist mill marks his grave.

The Rhoads family adds another historical dimension to the plot. The Thomas Rhoads family left Missouri in 1845 with the Donner-Reed party – making them the first Mormons to travel West by land. Splitting from the ill-fated party on the advice of their guide, the Rhoads arrived at Sutter’s Fort in 1846. With news that the Donner party was stranded, two Rhoads boys – John and Daniel – were among the first rescue party to reach them. John and his sisters, Catherine and Sarah, are buried in the Sloughhouse cemetery along with many descendants. The cemetery has been marked by a plaque which cites the contribution of the Rhoads in California’s history.

Isolated bits have been collected about others buried here … like Lewis Wright, aged 37, a native of Germany, died in 1878 of heat exhaustion while chasing neighbors’ pigs off his property … and J. S. Austin who “built a wire bridge in 1857 on Meiss Road over the Cosumnes.” … and Issaic T. Putnam, died 1860, “fought in the Revolutionary War, a native of New Hampshire.” Throughout the plot, too, are those who labored on surrounding lands. There are several Indian families here and also Negroes who came West at the end of slavery.

A stroll through the cemetery is like a stroll through time, marked not only by dates before the turn of the century, but also by aging hand-carved headstones, many embossed with floral designs and bearing poetic inscriptions about those who have passed away. Mrs. Monte F. Ricketts, who has been instrumental in the effort to restore the cemetery, said it has been closed to further burials, with the exception of a few third-generation descendants of early families. And because of recent vandalism, the cemetery is now fenced and locked. The public, however, may gain access through contacting Mrs. Ricketts. A donation is charged, with funds going to the refurbishing of the cemetery. Mrs. Ricketts also is requesting that anyone with information about persons buried in the cemetery to write her at 3220 Eastwood Road, Sacramento 95821.


Sacramento Bee, Sunday, 3-9-1997

Sylvan Cemetery Strives to Meet Needs of New City

The Sylvan Cemetery is undergoing a quiet and subtle transformation. Just as Citrus Heights is making the transition from being an unincorporated area of Sacramento County to a full-fledged city, the cemetery also is making changes. “It’s coincidental this is happening at the same time,” said Shirley Toomer, a trustee with the Sylvan Cemetery District, of the beautification improvements and developments at the cemetery. “We need to meet the challenges of being a new city. And I think it’s worked out very well.” The recent improvements include adding a road linking an older section to the newer areas and installing a winding pathway that features niches or cremation urn vaults, as well as a planter box that will be used for baby burials. A four-tiered water fountain and decorative benches also were installed. A rock garden, which will be used for cremation burial, and a section where upright markers can be installed also were developed. The project cost approximately $120,000 and is nearing completion, said Ron Clark, general manager of the Sylvan Cemetery District. A large part of the cemetery was laid out in the 1960s, said Clark. “Our next hope is to put in a chapel in the middle of the lot and develop another veterans’ section,” Clark said of Citrus Heights’ only public cemetery. Toomer said the gazebo-like outdoor chapel will be used to hold services. “We have been doing little things like making our office wheelchair-accessible, making it more user-pleasant,” she said “We’re small and we want to keep that feeling and offer some of the niceties the larger cemeteries do.” Toomer said the future improvements will depend on funding and timing. “The changes are wonderful. It’s exciting to me to think of the cemetery as the first business in Citrus Heights and how it’s grown,” said Toomer. Established in 1862 at 7401 Auburn Blvd., the cemetery is on 19 acres, 11 of which are developed. John Horton, a native of Tennessee who died Sept. 4, 1862, was the first person buried at the cemetery. Also interred at the cemetery are early settlers and members of prominent families including the Van Marens, Crosses, Lauppes, and Rusches, said Toomer. Some veterans of the Spanish-American War also are buried at Sylvan Cemetery, said Clark. “The cemetery in any community holds the culture of that area,” Toomer said. “The people buried in the cemetery reflect the inhabitants of the community.” Toomer added that the district recently started conducting tours of the cemetery, a program aimed at school-age students. “We hope to have a docent available to children and they can take rubbings from tombstones. It’ll be like an artistic and historic tour.”

Sacramento Bee, Thursday, 8-29-2002

Sylvan Cemetery Preserves Echoes of the Past

Jayne Rich is a woman in the know about Citrus Heights’ past. As administrator for Sylvan Cemetery District, Rich has wide knowledge of the old public cemetery at 7401 Auburn Blvd. Sylvan Cemetery dates back to the 1860s, when pioneer families began to carve out the Citrus Heights community. “The Van Marens and the Rusches that all our streets are named after – their ancestors are buried here,” Rich said. Cemetery history is patchy but fairly accurate, she said. “Some cemetery records were consumed by fire in 1961,” Rich said. “We advertised in the paper, and people in the community gave us information (about family burials and history), and we had to gather information from headstones.” She said the cemetery district didn’t “lose” anyone, because so many generations have stayed in the community, but that it’s uncertain whether a burial actually occurred in some places in the cemetery’s older portion. “There may be a body but no marker, so you leave them untouched,” Rich said. Although the cemetery district wasn’t established until the 20th century, the cemetery has its roots in the 19th. “A cemetery is considered to be established with the first burial,” Rich said. The first burial was James Horton of Tennessee. His gravestone reveals that he died Sept. 4, 1862. Rich said Horton worked on the ranch of John and Sarah Cross (Sarah was the area’s first teacher, and John built a schoolhouse where Sylvan Middle School is today). Horton died at the Cross ranch, which included land where the middle school is at Auburn Boulevard, Old Auburn Road, and Sylvan Road. Sylvan Cemetery is just north of the school. The story of Horton, Rich said, is that he poisoned himself after receiving a diagnosis that he was going blind. According to his wishes, he was buried under a particular oak tree on the Cross ranch. Two years later, the Cross family deeded 1/10 acre, including Horton’s grave, to a newly formed cemetery association. Other property was deeded or sold to the cemetery over the years by the Daly, Cavitt, Lewis and Volle families. In 1926 Sylvan Cemetery District was established by popular vote. In 1929 George and Emma Coleman sold 10 acres to the association for $10. Several land exchanges have occurred since then. Today, the 18-acre cemetery, which includes 6 acres that are undeveloped, is “land-locked,” Rich said. “We have about 20 years of new burial space,” she said. Sylvan Cemetery is a public cemetery serving a district that encompasses an area roughly from Orangevale northwest to Sacramento International Airport, from the Placer County line south to Madison Avenue, where it abuts the Fair Oaks Cemetery District, and, farther to the west, to the American River. The district has a five-person board, with members chosen by the incumbent district supervisor, now Roger Niello. It’s an endowed-care cemetery with a fund for care and maintenance in perpetuity. Rich said the district can use only the interest, not the principal, from the endowment. A burial at Sylvan Cemetery may be less expensive than one at a private cemetery, Rich said. “Public cemeteries are the best-kept secret around,” she said. At Sylvan, a standard casket burial with plot, endowment care, opening and closing of the grave, and a standard garden lawn crypt (the in-ground container for the casket) costs $1,675. At Sylvan Cemetery, several old family plots still have iron fences around them. Rich said the fences at one time kept cattle from walking on the graves. The earliest gravestones at the cemetery are marked with Bible verses, English and German surnames and specific ages (for example: “aged 16 yrs. 4 mos. 12 ds”). Today’s gravestones may also include a likeness of the deceased, and several bear words in Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, or other languages besides English. Girl Scout troops and other groups often come to view the markers and inscriptions at Sylvan Cemetery. One of Rich’s favorite epitaphs is on a gravestone in the Cross family plot. It says simply, “Sam, our Chinese friend: Died Feb. 1, 1942/Aged 80 years.” Rich said she can’t confirm rumors that some Donner Party survivors are buried in Sylvan Cemetery. “Our best-known are probably (silent-movie actor) Buster Keaton’s parents,” she said. “But lots of people today don’t remember who he was.” Veterans from wars dating back to the Civil War are among those buried at Sylvan Cemetery. Those from the Spanish-American War and World War I are interred in special veterans’ areas. Today, Rich said, any honorably discharged person, regardless of war service, may be buried in more recently established veterans sections or any other part of the cemetery. A veterans’ memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 2001. The glossy black marble with raised, gold-colored seals of the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces is a handsome, sobering reminder of those who served. The flag that flies over the memorial on special days flew over the U.S. Capitol on the day the U.S.S. Cole was attacked. “We worked in conjunction with the American Legion and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) developing the veterans memorial,” Rich said. Helpful in the effort were community donations and fund-raisers, especially by the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. The largest donor was the city of Citrus Heights. The cemetery grounds have many large trees, including several deodar cedars and native oaks. The cemetery district contracts with an arborist to ensure the trees’ well-being. The Sylvan Cemetery District office, which is inside a trailer on the cemetery grounds, has a scrapbook on cemetery history that visitors can peruse. “We can make copies of something specific that they want,” Rich said.

Legion Buys Plot at Sylvan Cemetery
The executive committee of Alyn W. Butler Post of the American Legion and officers of the Sylvan Cemetery Association signed a contract last week whereby the Legion will purchase a large plot of ground in Sylvan Cemetery to be used as a final resting place for departed members of the organization. The plot will be beautified by the post, and it is planned to hold memorial services there each year. The Legion plot is located across the road from the Spanish War Veterans burial ground. Their plot was purchased about two years ago and has already been beautified by the installation of curbing and erection of a flagpole.  [Roseville Tribune and Register, 12-20-1929]


Sacramento Bee, Friday, 4-23-2004

A Place of Their Own – Burial Site Is Vietnamese Community’s First

Strong, whipping winds filled the clear afternoon Thursday when Hoa Thi Nguyen, 51, of Elk Grove became the first person to be buried in the new Vietnamese Cemetery. She was buried in an untouched section of Camellia Memorial Lawn where the land is spacious and barren. A small, simple sign in the middle of the space reads “Vietnamese Cemetery.” In time, with enough funds, an ornate gate will mark the entrance. The newly created section, with more then 600 spots for burial, officially opened last month. So far, people have purchased more than 50 plots. Most learned about the cemetery – said to be the first formal Vietnamese Cemetery in Sacramento – in local Vietnamese newspapers and by word of mouth. The cemetery is south of Mather Airport near the intersection of Jackson and Excelsior roads. The founders say they envisioned a burial place where people of Vietnamese ancestry could converse and immerse themselves in similar traditions. “We are the first generation here, and when we die, we want a place for our children to visit,” said Tony Tan Nguyen, a member of the Vietnamese Cemetery Committee. Sacramento’s Vietnamese community has 16,300 people, according to the 2000 census, but there are unofficial estimates the numbers range from 20,000 to 25,000. Nguyen’s husband, Phuc Van Ho, 58, said he heard of the new place through a friend, and his children encouraged him to purchase burial plots a few weeks ago. The idea of a burial site for the Vietnamese community appealed to him because he could fulfill the ceremonies or traditions in Vietnamese. “For me, it’s one country, one voice, and we live close to each other,” he said. “It’s easier to sympathize because we understand each other.” He said it was an honor that his wife, who died Saturday, was the first person to be buried in the Vietnamese section. Based on her birth date and time of death, Hoa Thi Nguyen was buried before 2 p.m. Thursday. For two days, Buddhist chants reverberated throughout the Elk Grove Funeral Chapel, where the memorial was held, along with the ring of gongs and chimes, in prayer to send Nguyen’s spirit away. Grieving friends and family, hands clasped in prayer, crammed into a room where an altar was placed. Family members will hold a ceremony every week for the next 49 days. The couple married in 1971, and the family immigrated to the United States in 1993. In Vietnam, Ho, who was in the South Vietnamese Army Rangers, was imprisoned for eight years after the war ended in 1975. “My wife’s death is a great loss for me,” he said. “She lived with me for over 30 years. How am I supposed to forget her? In the many years I went to prison, she stayed and took care of the children.” The two have seven children, ages 9 to 32. Nga Van Tran, 37, Ho’s son-in-law, said that because of superstition it’s unusual for the Vietnamese to purchase a burial spot in advance of death because they considered themselves being “buried alive.” Mary Foley, who is the liaison between the Vietnamese organizers and Camellia Memorial, said they were looking for “high ground” and the cemetery was “very gracious” about the situation and offered the plots at a reduced price. She directs interested callers to members of the Vietnamese committee. The plots are priced at $1,406 each, compared with the regular $3,184, and purchasers are asked to donate $100 toward the construction of the entrance gate. The price for a half-grave for cremation is $645.86. Clayton Guzman, a supervisor at Camellia and president of the Association of California Cremationists, said the cemetery was established in 1968. “We have over 10,000 souls here and we have over 38 acres,” he said. High lands are scarce in the mostly flat Sacramento area, but Guzman said the cemetery had a lot of room for expansion and has committed about half an acre to the Vietnamese Cemetery. Weeks before, Nhac Thanh Truong, 64, who is considered a feng shui master, surveyed the land to ensure that it was suitable. He also advised the committee on the most spiritually harmonious arrangements for the burial plots. The spot at Camellia Memorial Lawn was considered “good” because it is hilly and is high land, he said. While most of the cemetery’s plots lie in east-west orientations, the plots at the Vietnamese Cemetery were rearranged to lie north-south, Truong said. The Vietnamese prefer to be buried on high land because of its view and to avoid “drowning" in low lands when the rain pours. Lue Thao, who attended the funeral, said the area was "gorgeous," and that it was nice for Vietnamese community members to have a place to be buried together. A year ago, he and his brother opened Thao and Sons Memorial Chapel in a business park on Harris Avenue in North Sacramento. It is the first Hmong-owned, -operated and -licensed mortuary in the country. Hoa Nguyen, 64, a friend, said the Vietnamese Cemetery was very beautiful and peaceful, far away from homes, like a real cemetery.


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