Monday, August 3, 2009
The Peculiar and Promiscuous Methods of Burial in Early Mission Days
That is the title of the this article in the Sept.28 1885 edition of the Santa Cruz Daily Surf.I don't know that I have heard the word "promiscuous" used in relation to a cemetery before!
The article further says that the excavation for the walls of the new church "revel a subsoil composed of about equal parts of adobe,decayed coffins, and dead Indians"."A promiscuous lot of "remains" of Spanish and Indian origin,buried in the most heterogeneous manner possible to imagine".Big words for the time and place wouldn't you say?That there were over 3 thousand documented burials in a area of less than a quarter of acre.It was a crowed place no doubt!
The article further states"some of the redwood coffins are in a astonishingly good state of preservation,but the mortality contained therein has resolved itself to brown mold and a few detached bones."I have to wonder why would you open a coffin that is in a good state of preservation?And why would the church allow such a disturbance of the dead?
"Some of the coffins are of very creditable workmanship and adorned with crosses formed of silver headed nails."
It talks of a mass grave of 15 buried without coffins that was supposed to be from a smallpox epidemic.Then goes on to mention several Indian burials;"Two stalwart skeletons in possession of aborigines of some dignity and importance in their day.Their skulls are of capacity sufficient to protect a liberal supply of brain matter, and they carried to the grave with them long strings of beads and shells and there are indications that pipes and other articles now impossible to identify were also deposited with them."
A very different time and place.All of them,native Indian,Spanish settlers,Mexican immigrants,Irish loggers and those first white men who "jumped ship" and stayed, were scooped up and hauled to the new cemetery,six wagon loads.Reburied together in what is now the Old Holy Cross cemetery
There they rest in a little open meadow.Unmarked and mostly forgotten by everyone.I was glad I found out about this place and I really enjoyed visiting a learning about it.I can't wait to go back.Maybe I will take some flowers,and say the names I know out loud,to remember.