Monday, May 24, 2010

The Interesting,Odd, and Beautiful

This title could be applied to most cemeteries.It seems like there are a few of each in most of the older burial grounds.This one I think of as odd and interesting.

I really want to know the story behind this one and you know there has to be one.How many people have a full sized bell as a grave marker?I had hoped to ask a lady from the local historical society in S.J.B. but she was not at the event I attended.I will find out though!J.R. Hodcdon is buried in the Protestant section.
Here is another one from San Juan Bautista, this one startled me so much I forgot to take a picture of the outside of the mausoleum!

There are only a few mausoleum's  in this cemetery,not real fancy.But I was not expecting someone to be looking back when I peered through the door!
Madame Blanche Taix is a formidable looking woman! I wonder why her bust bears the title Madam while Antoine  is just his name?My best guess for nationality is Italian or Swiss(that part of Switzerland that gets traded back and forth with Italy according to who won the last war.)Most of  the above ground tombs are for those 2 groups.These busts have amazing detail.I wanted to go in and clean of all that dust.It was hard to see in at the dates and names though I think Antoine died in 1899.It is a pity about the glass behind them,though it adds to the startle factor! Many of the very old graves here are still tended by local family but somehow I got the feeling this one maybe not.

How come I can see the figures through the wire in this shot? Shouldn't the metal wire appear solid? Strange shot but I like it.
To me these are somehow the most beautiful. 

 Following Dead Man Taklings advice I took pictures of every wooden marker I could find in the cemetery.He's right even unmarked they have value and they won't last forever.
I posted this one before but did not show the back.

The Nyland family have a tomb next to Harvey's burial site and they appear to be old timers in San Benito Countey.
Thank you all for a another little tour through San Juan Bautista CA.cemetery with me.I am linking this to the Graveyard Rabbit Carnival.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thank You and Awards

In looking back on blogging I think I owe a thank you to a number of people.For kind comments on things I have written and photos by everyone who has read my posts.For encouragement to keep doing something that my family does not always understand even though they have been supportive. And for all the wonderful things I have learned by reading others blogs.
I only wish I had more time to spend doing this,picture taking and research.But thank you all for your patience.
I would like to extend a special thank you to these people.
Deez-aka-Joe Dallman over at My first internet "graveyard friend"!Watching the growth of his wonderful blog with all the guest authors and seeing his own photos just get better and more creative every week is something to look forward to when I log on.Thanks Deez!
Lori E. over at has been supportive from the beginning with her kind comments.She gave me the Ancestor Approved Award some time ago and I apologize for my tardy thank you!
Thank you as well Dr. Bill Smith of for the Happy 101 Award.
I like the emphasis on story's in Dr. Bill's blog.
Even if it's only a tombstone photo we show and not a ancestor of ours they were real people.Who lived and loved and felt all the things we feel today no matter how long ago they lived.It's good to remember the stories not just the dates.Thank you for helping us learn how and the award.
I am supposed to list some of the things that have surprised me in learning about my ancestors,I will include my general cemetery hunting in there to!
1. I am amazed at how many people still find cemetery's strange,scary,and refuse to set foot in them.I blame it on a combination of Hollywood movies and our cultures separation from the elderly and end of life issues.I have reached a point I just tell people "My momma said don't worry about dead people,it's the live ones you got to worry about!".
2. Some of my early California ancestors lived long enough to live under the flags of three different countries.What did it feel like to change governments and cultures without really having a choice?To suddenly have a huge influx of people that did not speak your language?
3. Dysfunctional families are not a 20th century invention.It was easier and  more acceptable to keep things on the down-low is all.
4.People where a lot more mobile than I had imagined. Particularly in early California were visiting family seemed to be a regular thing.The first Americanos  commented that the Californiano woman often rode horses as good as the men.If you have ever seen the wooden wheeled Carta used in California you would understand why.I would have been on a horse in a hot minute.
I hope to have some new posts and pictures in the next few days.I made a trip to the Monterey and Santa Cruz area and to San Juan Bustista.
Thank you all fellow Rabbits and bloggers!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday-guardians

These tomb guardians are at work in San Juan Bautista Cemetery,CA

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday-Womans History Month

March is Woman's History month.A aspect of woman's history and cemetery's is early burials of woman who had died in childbirth or shortly thereafter.Sometimes the headstones make it apparent what happened and other times it is only a educated guess.
Some of the statistics I have seen state 1 in 100 live births ended in death of the mother in the early
1900's in the U.S. In the 1800's the numbers were sometimes as high as 40% in some places.In contrast the numbers today in the United States is 11 in 100,00, but sadly, on the rise.Mostly from lack of prenatal care and pre-existing medical conditions.
Interestingly,while doing research on my early Californiano ancestors I have read quotes by white American newcomers marveling at the fecundity of Californiano family's.It is not unusual to find family's while doing research with 15 or more living children from one woman.I have one with 22 in my own family tree! A mild climate and ample food supply no doubt helped with this. Certainly woman died in childbirth here as well(one of my 5 great grandmothers was one) in the early days and Native American woman especially.The recent discovery of book written by a padre at one of the California missions highlights their high rate of maternal deaths. The book gives instructions on performing a crude C-section in a attempt to save the baby's of doomed native mothers.
Californiano woman sometimes looked down on the newcomers having so much trouble with pregnancy and childbirth and blamed it on their wearing of corsets! Probably some truth there!
Remember that till well into the last century most woman spent their entire adult lives,pregnant, or about to be pregnant.
Here are some headstones I have come across in my cemetery travels that have touched me especialy
This simple,concrete marker in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Sacramento is wearing away with time.

These two headstones are side by side in the historic old Sacramento city cemetery,I have often wondered if they are sisters.If a woman survived the initial birth of her child complications and weakness from birth left them vulnerable.Even if a child survived birth, if the mother perished the baby had slim chances if there was no wet nurse.Animal milk and water supply's were usually contaminated.

Mary Tubbs and her son lie in the Sloughhouse Pioneer cemetery.Mary would bury her baby at 18 and follow him 2 years later.
Life was often harsh in the "good old days" but it was especially hard for the so called "weaker sex".
Anyone who has ever walked a old cemetery would have to disagree about the weaker part I think.Sometimes I have to marvel that so many woman managed to live and brought forth decendents.We owe them no doubt.And I have no desire to live like the "good old days",thank you very much!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Forgotten Cemetery

I think most of the time we picture a forgotten cemetery in our minds as a desolate place with broken headstones and no one for miles around,not a visitor for years. And there are a lot of them like that.Sometimes when I visit the new "improved" mega sized burial grounds with all the flat markers,most not having had a visitor in ages they feel as "abandoned"as any thing a century or more old.A friend and I had this conversation about the difference in the feel of a "living cemetery" versus a abandoned or "dead"one recently while taking these pictures.It might sound funny talking about a" living cemetery" but it's true.To me a living cemetery is one that is truly part of the community it is in,no matter the age or even the degree of upkeep.I have seen cemetery's in poor community's that won't pass the immaculate groomed lawn test but where graves were tended,people came to visit the dead or even just walk their dogs and jog.The dead are accepted neighbors. The Pioneer cemetery in Nevada City CA. is pretty much a abandoned cemetery.Even though it sits within a neighborhood and above a Catholic cemetery that is very much alive.There is one or two more recent headstones within this cemetery that seem oddly out of place.All others are quite old and the vast majority of graves here are unmarked.Depressions in the soil covered with a thick and treacherous to the footing layer of pine needles and leaves.Some are marked with wooden slates or crosses put there no doubt by the historical society at some point to mark a spot.But many have not even that.There are a few quite attractive markers left here and no signs of recent vandalism unless you counted a stray beer can left no doubt by a local high school kid.I have it on good authority that this is a favored place to get scared by local teenagers.But the feeling here is of emptiness.You get the feeling no one leaves flowers,few find a long lost gggrandparent.There is no expectation in the air.It is silent. Many of these burials were from the Gold Rush era.People came from all over the world to try their hand in the gold fields.Usually alone and often knowing full well they would never see home or family members again.For those that did have family local when they died, most would have moved on in the westward journey,to places more hospitable and with more opportunity than tiny mountain towns that were mostly forgotten after the gold played out. It's dark under the pine trees making a challenge to photograph,and I would not be surprised if this was one of those cemetery's that did not really end at the fence line but had burials under housing and roads.Time would have erased much.
There is one famous resident here.At least I think he's here,there is some dispute if he was moved here from San Francisco. Arron Augustus Sargent was a California senator,politician, lawyer and diplomat.He was called "the senator for the Southern Pacific Railroad'.And if you know anything about the history of California you know what a powerful man that made him.His grave bears a plaque explaining how he wound up back in Nevada City.
I have shown a picture of little Wilson Burnett Heads grave in another post.The ironwork around this headstone is truly beautiful.

Neighborhoods all have different characteristics to them.Some rich,some poor,old and new, ethnic and ordinary.Some pulse with life,youth and change.Some grow old with grace.Others become battle grounds filled with violence and neglect.And some disappear,forgotten by most, at best a line in a local history book.
Why should it be that our cities of the dead would have no differences?They say that death is the great equalizer,but even our final resting places reflect our lives in some way and I think the still living can feel that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sac. Bee story

Thursdays Sacramento Bee featured a story by Mike Dunne about a former TB sanatorium in Weimar,Placer Co. CA .
The author himself was a childhood inmate there and his story is haunting, as is his description of the cemetery on the grounds were a estimated 1400 former patients are buried. graves nameless for the most part except, for incomplete record book listings.It is a beautiful area for hiking and open to the public.I will have to plan a visit.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Old St. Patrick's Cemetery,Grass Valley CA. 1853-1908

Monday, December 28, 2009

Selling what the dead leave behind

A interesting and somewhat sad story in the L.A. Times about what happens when you die without a will or heirs in L.A. county.Here is the link,0,757874,full.story I was surprised at some of the names cited, especially Danny Federici,memeber of Springsteens E Street Band.You would have thought that someone that famous and who knew he had melanoma would have had a will.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

Family health issues have kept me away of late.I hope to begin posting again regularly after new-years.Dead man Talking had asked for a close-up of the sheriffs headstone at San Juan.I apologize for the quality of the photo and wish I had taken a picture of the back as well as it had more info. on it.Next time. Deez over at Cemetery Explorers,thank you for the award and I will post up soon!I am jonesing for cemetery time!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

I like the contrast of the timeless hills, aged grave markers and new asphalt.One of the oldest parts of the San Juan Bautista Cemetery.There may be upwards of several hundred unmarked burials in this cemetery.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

If you have preconceived notions of lush lawns and orderly rows in a cemetery then the San Juan Bautista cemetery is going to disappoint you.California gets no rain for 6 months or more of the year and even though all around the hill this cemetery rests on are irrigated fields and some of the best farmland in the world there are no sprinklers here.I think it makes perfect sense.And if you are offended by gaudy,unconventional displays of affection and love in a cemetery-prepare to be offended.What you will also see here is some of Californians rich,early history and family's that still care for the graves of relatives dead a hundred years.The dead do have the best view in town.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Maria Priscilianna Arroyo 1846-1935

Last time I talked about going to the cemetery at San Juan to see the grave of my GG-Grandmother Prisilliana(or Presalina) Arroyo Ruiz de la Mota after a night of work and a three hour drive. I had directions to find the grave"there are trees dividing the catholic part of the cemetery from the Protestant,she is buried in the Vacca-Rosa family plot,they just redid the concrete work there". That is what I HEARD on the phone.A hour and a half later after stumbling around every tree in the cemetery(thank god there are not that many!),hiking up and down the hill(it's steeper than you think!) in Tevas,(don't recommend them for soil that has not seen water in 6 months on a steep hillside-this is California and a Ag area-we don't waste water on grass.) I was nearly in tears and for sure could say there was no one named Vacca-Rosa buried in the Catholic cemetery at San Juan.Exhausted,I gave up after nearly sliding down the hill on the only pine cone in the cemetery.I went to my motel in Hollister and hoped my new cousins could help me out tomorrow at the historical society meeting.I would beg if I had to.I had to see her grave. The next day I was rewarded.I met my cousin Linda and her dad Ken.Ken is 85,works 2 days a week for 5 hours as a gardener to "keep busy".Ken met Prisilliana Arroyo,his Great-grandmother,my GG Grandmother as a boy.All he remembers is she was very old,blind and spoke nothing but Spanish!He was 10 when she died .I was honored that he took me to show me her grave.And I learned several things I would not have known without his guidance. She is buried in the Vaccarezza family plot(so much for Vacca-Rosa!)that he himself recently recovered with concrete.Well,she sort of is,while we were there he explained.The row of cypress trees that originally were the dividing line between the Catholic and Protestant sections of the cemetery are long gone.Not even there stumps remain.Prisilliana's grave was on the Catholic side of the trees,her daughters family on the Protestant side.As no remaining traces of her grave or marker remained when the concrete was poured a new marker was laid in it with her daughters family.She is actually buried above the head of the plot.And the marker has the incorrect death date!It is off by ten years,confirmed by her death certificate. I finely have a grave site and marker though for a family member.What a life she lived.I can only imagine what she thought of all the changes in her lifetime.Born when the state still belonged to Mexico,she lived through some of the most tumultuous times our state has know.Outlived my Great Grandmother,her daughter by over 20 years.Did my father ever meet her?My 86 year old cousin Emma confirmed for me that the family in Hanford did know about her so I know my father was aware of her. Presilliana was married three times in her life,she is buried under her maiden name of Arroyo,something I am finding rather common with early California women.I have to thank all my new-found cousins for their help and warm greetings.They have made this picture in a cemetery possible for me.It is one I treasure.I also treasure meeting Kenny and Linda and Kenny showing me his Great Grandmother,Grandmother, and parents grave-sites.And were he will be buried when the time comes.Truly,a family of California and Old San Juan.It was a blessed day for me.

Presilliana's marker is first on the left.She is buried above the plot.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Society for The Unendowed

I was recently contacted by a Seana Miracle.She asked me to forward information about this organization and website on to anyone I thought might be interested looking at it I am very pleased to offer it for your pleasure.If you have any interest it grave decoration,preservation of cemetery's , and the rich cultural history of the Indigenous and Hispanic peoples of the American southwest I think you will enjoy the photos and information therein. I hope Seana becomes a Graveyard Rabbit as I feel this site belongs with the Rabbits.It is my personal belief,and I know it has been expressed by others,that some of the decline in respect for and involvement by the community in our cemetery's is linked to the "cookie cutter" commercialization of the modern American cemetery. In cemetery's were people are encouraged to honor the lives of their loved one's in personal ways, not just "mark" their deaths, people respect,care and remain involved in their cemetery's.Please make sure you check out the story of Horace MCafee in the East section of the website,Chilili, San Juan Nepomoceno Cemetery NM. it is good reading for anyone who cares about our cemetery's.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

This is one of the neatest "tree style" gravestones I have seen yet.I really like the way they made the hole in the tree for flowers!Unfortunately,the concrete had flaked off were the name and dates were,though I thought I could see died in January?It's very possible the historical society has a record of who is buried here.I just found it very cool.This one was in the Protestant part of San Juan Bautista Cemetery.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My road trip started Friday 9/4.I was going to drive down from the Sacramento area(about 3 hours) to San Juan to visit the cemetery's and attend a meeting of the historical society on Saturday.The president of the historical society,Shelia Prader,who is a professional genealogist also, had told me about my Great-Great Grandmother,Presiliana de Jesus Arroyo being buried in a MARKED grave at San Juan.She also informed me that some of Prisiliana's other decendents would be attending and they would like to meet me!Are sweeter words ever heard by someone doing genealogy?I think not. I have visited the cemetery at San Juan several times both knowing and not knowing I have family there.It is a wonderful place.but this would be the first time I would get to go there and the Mission on my own and spend my time as I liked.My limits this time would be myself.I started driving Friday after working my 8 hour graveyard shift so I arrived about one.It was warm but not the over 100 of the day Since this is my cemetery Blogg I will try to keep to the subject on here.I will have more about the Mission and my genealogy on my other Blogg The cemetery is at the right side of the church facing the front.You can only enter through the side door from the inside of the church.And you are only allowed to view the cemetery not walk around in it. The wavy lines carved in the door are found throughout the Mission and represent The River Of Life.The plaster has been removed around the door some so you can see the adobe bricks beneath. The Mission was founded in 1797 and the cornerstone for the present church was set in 1803 with work continuing till 1817.There were over 4000 burials in this tiny cemetery.Indians,Spanish colonists and a few early white settlers.Ascencion Solorzano de Cervantes,the last full blooded Mutsune Indian is buried here.There are no other marked graves visible.The cemetery rests in the deep shade of ancient Olive trees and looks out over the valley.Running under the back wall of the cemetery is the San Andres Fault.Below that runs remnants of the El Camino Real,the kings road, that tied the missions together and was the first main highway in California,this is one of the few places you can see the original road. The next day at the historical society meeting the speaker was Dr. Ruben Mendoza,a archaeologist who has been working at Mission San Juan for 14 years.He was a great speaker,a man truly doing what he was born to do.During his talk he brought up a very interesting tidbit about the mission cemetery.He had interviewed a lady a few years ago who is a lifelong resident of San Juan and was in her 90's.She remembered going to the Mission in the 1920'30's when it was pretty much in ruins.How spooky it was with the sidewalls collapsed.The Mission is the only 3 aisle church of the 21 California Mission churches.The side walls collapsed during the 1906 earthquake.She remembered the ruble and piles of human bones next to the church! Dr. Mendoza belives this may explain how so many burials could take place in such a small space.Old graves may have had the bones removed and place in Ossuarys.There are examples of this practice in Mexico,Latin America and I believe the American southwest.It is a idea I have never heard put forth before and I think bears some investigation.So many of the customs of the Californianos have been lost or glossed over it was exciting to hear something new.Dr. Mendoza also said he would like to know what happened to those bones!If anyone knows he would like to be contacted and so would I! By this time it was around 3 and I was getting tired so I thought I would head over to the cemetery on the hill,snap a few photos of my GreatGrandmothers grave and maybe some others before I went to eat and drove to my motel in Hollister about 10 miles away.I mean, I had a description of where her grave was,that she was buried in the Vaca-Rosa family plot and the cemetery's not that big so no problem,right?