By Michele E. Buttelman
In late October thoughts of ghosts, ghouls and specters are easy to summon with the approach of Halloween on Oct. 31 and Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead celebrated Nov. 1-2.
All cemeteries can truly be thought of as “historic” because a cemetery reflects the culture and the history of those who are buried on its grounds.
Cemeteries are the final resting place of princes and paupers alike, people from all walks of life, a true reflection of the community a cemetery serves.
Rather than being a macabre place, cemeteries are where the history of a city can be found, writ on the gravestones of its most notable residents, as well as its most humble.
War, plague, famine and disasters, both natural and manmade, are reflected in the dates etched on its stones.
Historic cemeteries, deemed as such by the date of founding or because of significant cultural or historic references, are scattered everywhere throughout California, including several located in California state parks.
204 N. Evergreen Ave.,
East Los Angeles, CA 90033
Built in 1877, Evergreen is Los Angeles’ oldest cemetery. It is estimated there are more than 300,000 internments at Evergreen. Many Los Angeles pioneers are interred here with names such as Bixby, Coulter, Hollenbeck, Lankershim, Van Nuys and Workman. The Garden of the Pines section of the cemetery is a memorial to Japanese Issei pioneers.
Evergreen is notable for never having banned African-Americans from being buried at the cemetery and several notable African-Americans, including Eddie Anderson (1905–1977), comedic actor who played Rochester, Jack Benny’s valet and James Banning (1900–1933), pioneering African American aviator, are buried on its grounds.
1831 W. Washington Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Founded in 1884 this is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles.
David Burbank, whom Burbank is named after, is buried here. Phineas Banning, who founded the town of Wilmington and laid the foundation for the Port of Los Angeles, can be found here as well.
Rosedale was the first cemetery in Los Angeles open to all races and creeds. It was the first to adopt the design concept of lawn cemeteries where the grounds are enhanced to surround the graves with trees, shrubs, flowers, natural scenery and works of monumental art.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Blvd,
Hollywood, CA 90038
Founded in 1899, the cemetery was an integral part of the growth of early Hollywood. The cemetery of choice for most of Hollywood’s founders and luminaries, Hollywood Forever was listed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1999.
Hollywood icons like Toto and Rudolph Valentino are buried here, as well as Judy Garland, Cecil B. DeMille, Mickey Rooney, Tyrone Power, Douglas Fairbanks and many others.
Bodie State Historic Park
Bridgeport, CA 93517
From 1877 to 1882, Bodie was a bustling town with close to 8,000 residents and produced more than $38 million in gold and silver. After the ore ran out the town was abandoned, to become California’s most famous “Ghost Town.”
During boom times the town saw many gunfights and mine accidents. Childhood was perilous and many children died because of disease or accidents.
The extensive graveyard that overlooks the town is five cemeteries adjacent to one another. The first is Wards Cemetery, the main city graveyard. Directly behind lies the Masonic Cemetery, followed by the Miners Union Cemetery.
West of the perimeter fence is the Chinese Cemetery, excluded from the official town graveyards because of racist laws and prejudice.
The last cemetery on the hill is the burial ground for the outcasts that included criminals, gunmen, illegitimate children and prostitutes.
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
310 Back St.,
Coloma, CA 95613
This state park marks the place where gold was discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, sparking the California Gold Rush.
The park grounds include much of the historic town of Coloma, as well as a National Historic Landmark District.
In 1886 the members of the Native Sons of the Golden West, Placerville Parlor #9, felt that the Marshall deserved a monument to mark his grave. In May 1890, five years after Marshall’s death, the California state legislature, appropriated $9,000 for the construction of the monument and tomb, the first such monument erected in California. A statue of Marshall stands on top of the monument, pointing to the spot where he made his famous discovery.
In addition to Marshall’s tomb the park includes two historic cemeteries, Catholic Cemetery and Pioneer Cemetery.
The Pioneer Cemetery is located on Cold Springs Road across from the Vineyard House in Coloma.
The cemetery was most likely founded in 1848. The earliest known graves date from 1849. The cemetery has been a part of the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park since 1981.
Saint John’s Catholic Cemetery is located near the Pioneer Cemetery and the Monument Picnic Area within the park. From the picnic area follow the fenced trail to the Catholic Cemetery.
There are 80 to 100 known graves at this cemetery and the oldest headstone is dated 1861.
Sacramento Historic City Cemetery
Sacramento, CA 95818
The cemetery was established in 1849 when Sacramento founder John Augustus Sutter, Jr. donated 10 acres to the city for a cemetery.
It was designed to resemble a Victorian garden. The cemetery grounds are famous for their roses, which are notable for their quality.
Several fraternal groups purchased sections for their members including the Masons (1859), Odd Fellows (1861) and the Sacramento Pioneers Association (1862). The city set aside a section for volunteer firemen in 1858 and members of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1878.
It was declared a State Historic Landmark on May 5, 1957.