Ralph Pearce, Librarian at the California Room and member of the In Grave Danger Gang, recounts the tale of the recovery of not one, but TWO Louis Pellier grave markers. Have we stymied the “Pellier Curse?” Only time will tell…
This is a great shot of the Campo Santo Cemetery at Mission San Jose, looking quite verdant and lush in 1908. Father Reposo definitely found a cool place to hang out. What’s the last local cemetery you visited?
The cemetery at Mission San Jose used to look a lot different - like Hacienda Cemetery, many of its graves sported ‘crib’ fencing designed to keep animals from exhuming the burials, and grave markers were crafted from marble, granite, sandstone, and wood. Today, after years of changes and renovations, vandalism and shameful theft, the cemetery has a much different appearance, with few of its original features intact.
The Pfeifle Family Plot, Laguna Cemetery, 1956.
Photo by Clyde Arbuckle, Dean of San Jose History. The Pfeifles, like many others once buried in the cemetery, are no longer listed on the roll of the known internments. Their stones, along with many others in the cemetery, were abandoned, vandalised, stolen, buried, or displaced. Laguna Cemetery is a dry hillside today, an unseemly end to the resting place of so many California pioneers.
Back in the 1890s and early 1900s, the Sears-Roebuck Catalog was the Amazon of it’s day. You could mail-order everything from carriages to clothes - and even your tombstone. Often a tombstone in a rural cemetery or city plot will stand out from the rest - either because it wasn’t carved by the local stonemasons, wasn’t carved of local stone, or was made of an unusual material like cast iron or molded cement. All too often, we can find those monument designs in the Sears catalog for that year. Are there any Sears-Roebuck memorials in your local cemetery?
The Grave of George Crawford, Hacienda Cemetery, New Almaden, California.
This photo could have been taken in the 1900s, or perhaps earlier. Photos of the Hacienda Cemetery from before the 1990s are few and far between. It could be an old photo, but it isn’t. It was taken by In Grave Danger Gangster Bill Foley in 2013 on black and white film, using a 100-year-old Vest Pocket Kodak camera that belonged to his grandfather.
Harry Metz died September 15th, 1890, at the age of 11 years old.
Nothing more is known about his life in this small mining town - he may have been a vagrant, or the child of an itinerant miner. He may have been killed, he may have died of natural causes. No matter what his story, he’ll rest forever in our little section of the earth, and we will care for what little memory of him remains.
The grave enclosures in Hacienda Cemetery are unusual in cemeteries today, in an era of mown lawns, gated cemeteries, and suburbs. In the 1850s, New Almaden was as rural as it got - miles from town, no paved roads, with bears, mountain lions, wild dogs, coyote, bobcats, foxes, and even wolves.
When a body was buried in hacienda Cemetery, the fresh grave needed to be protected from these animals, and small fences of wood were a practical solution. Over time, this small cemetery became home to several more ornate enclosures, or “cribs.” Eventually, though the threat of wild animals digging up bodies was lessened, the practice of erecting a crib to mark a grave continued until the cemetery’s abandonment in the 1920s.
Today, several cribs still survive, including one of bare heart redwood, a crude chicken-wire enclosure from the 1890s, and this elaborate spiked construction around Agustin M. Castro’s grave from 1866.