Hints at the Mission Graveyards

California Missions and Presidios: The History and Beauty of the Spanish MissionsCalifornia Missions and Presidios: The History and Beauty of the Spanish Missions by Randy Leffingwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been curious how many of the old Spanish missions still have their original graveyards. This book provided some guidance through its photographs (because, let’s face it, old graves are picturesque), but for the most part, the graveyards didn’t rate much mention in the text. My search will have to continue.

That said, the photographs in this book are really lovely. They capture the interiors of the old churches and the details of their decorations. Sunlight paints the rooms. Outside, the skies are always the luminous Californian blue. Flowers nod and trees drowse and things seem very peaceful. Where appropriate, the museums or recreated cells of the padres are staged as carefully as a photo shoot. This book, whether a spur to exploring California’s Spanish — and Mexican — history or as a souvenir after such a trip, is beautiful to page through.

It falls down in the text, unfortunately, The same details are repeated over and over: the fathers select the mission site. The natives help build a church. It floods. There’s an earthquake or a fire. The soldiers molest the natives. There’s an uprising. Spain hands the missions over to Mexico, who doesn’t want the bother. The missions are sold, then mistreated, then almost destroyed. Rinse, repeat. There’s really little point in reading the whole book cover to cover, as I did, because the story is the same every time.

I would have liked to know more about the native tribes and what they lost. I would have liked to know more about daily life in the missions. I would have liked to know more about those mission churchyards and who is buried there. Who marked their graves and why? How many forgotten Native Americans lie there and what’s been done to perpetuate their memory?

There’s still room for a definitive guide.

I bought my copy at one of the bookstores in San Francisco — probably Green Apple — but if you’re out of town, it’s also available on Amazon.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Posted in Cemetery book review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cemetery Travel in San Francisco

The time has come to gather all the San Francisco cemetery pieces spread across Cemetery Travel into one place. These posts served as research for the Laurel Hill Cemetery speech I gave at the Swedish American Hall last night. If you’re visiting Cemetery Travel from last night’s Memento Mori event, welcome.

This list of links does not yet tell the complete story of San Francisco’s eviction of its dead. I’m very close to finishing a new book with the working title of The Pioneer Cemeteries of the San Francisco Bay Area, which will go into much more detail — and have more pictures. My search for a publisher will begin shortly. Stay tuned!

A selection of the graveyards of San Francisco:

BroderickLone Mountain001

Image from a stereoview card of Senator David Broderick’s obelisk in Lone Mountain Cemetery, San Francisco, 1866

Former Laurel Hill Cemetery site:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2014/09/03/cemetery-of-the-week-145-the-ghost-of-san-franciscos-laurel-hill/

Former Russian Hill cemetery site:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2014/01/08/cemetery-of-the-week-119-san-franciscos-russian-hill/

Former Marine Hospital Cemetery memorial:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2012/11/14/cemetery-of-the-week-83-united-states-marine-hospital-cemetery/

Mission Dolores:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2011/04/27/cemetery-of-the-week-13-mission-dolores-cemetery/

Neptune Society Columbarium at the former Odd Fellows Cemetery:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2011/08/31/cemetery-of-the-week-30-the-san-francisco-columbarium/

Thomas Starr King’s grave:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2012/09/25/weekly-photo-challenge-solitary/

San Francisco National Cemetery:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/02/20/cemetery-of-the-week-91-san-francisco-national-cemetery/

Where San Franciscans were moved to in Colma:

Cypress Lawn obelisk001

An obelisk marks the Pioneer Mound at Cypress Lawn

Cypress Lawn Memorial Park:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2012/04/11/cemetery-of-the-week-55-cypress-lawn-memorial-park/

Home of Peace:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2014/05/07/cemetery-of-the-week-135-temple-emanu-els-home-of-peace/

Hills of Eternity:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/11/13/cemetery-of-the-week-116-wyatt-earps-gravesite/

Woodlawn Memorial Park:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/01/02/cemetery-of-the-week-85-the-gravesite-of-emperor-norton/

Olivet Memorial Park:
https://cemeterytravel.com/2018/04/04/cemetery-of-the-week-165-olivet-memorial-park/

Posted in Pioneer Cemeteries of the San Francisco Bay Area | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Memento Mori evening

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 12.01.38 PMTuesday, April 17, I’ll be participating in the citywide Reimagine End of Life festival across San Francisco from April 16-22. The evening I’m part of is called Memento Mori.

Memento Mori is an ancient Roman phrase meaning “Remember Your Mortality.” Come experience a night of amazing creators sharing their work and unique backstories on the topic of mortality, loss, memory, and love.

The lineup for Memento Mori is:

  • investigation of the history of the lost cemeteries of SF – Loren Rhoads
  • Emotions and the end of life ( Fear and Panic) from the Western Psychological Point of view, how secular Buddhism can help (Separate-Selflessness and Impermanence) – Dr. Paul Ekman and Dr. Eve Ekman
  • death of neighborhoods and the effect on the people that live there – Liz Ogbu
  • the art of shadow puppetry and the stories within -Daniel Barash
  • a poignant visual symphony covering a recent police shooting of a young man, from a healing mother’s perspective – Angelica Ekeke
  • tracing the roots of the themes of dying, death and mourning at the end of life, and how we can deal with it – Dr. September Williams
  • and a thought provoking look at the sound in hospitals and how it effects our ability to heal and to die in peace….Yoko Sen

You can get tickets here: https://letsreimagine.org/event-share/5/event/487

You can find the whole Reimagine End of Life schedule here: https://letsreimagine.org/san-francisco/schedule/all.

 

Posted in Cemetery event, Good cemetery news | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Mississippi Churchyards

Country ChurchyardsCountry Churchyards by Eudora Welty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a charming little book this is! It contains 90 black-and-white photographs, snapped by the grand dame of Southern literature in Mississippi churchyards during in the 1930s and 40s. “Mississippi,” she said, “had no art except cemeteries.”

Miss Welty merely trained her lens on whatever interested her. Angels appear more often than any other figure. One unusual stone that I particularly like is coffin-shaped, sheltering a moon-faced girl with staring eyes. She bears the outline of her life written on a tablet on her chest. I’ve never seen anything else like it. There’s a life-sized rendition of the Old Rugged Cross, complete with clinging virgin. Several stone dogs guard their masters’ graves. A whole flock of lambs sleep atop children’s graves, including a startled sheep whose eyes bug out at the camera.

Amongst the photographs, excerpts from Welty’s fiction and essays appear, along with her reminiscences of the photographing trips which were recorded in her 90th year.

As Welty’s friend Elizabeth Spencer notes in her introduction, all of Welty’s art — whether photography, fiction, or essays — “is an effort to rescue life from oblivion.” These lovely photos definitely serve that function. It’s noted at one point that these memorials have suffered decades of winter and abuse since Welty snapped her photos. It’s likely that if any of these sculptures still survive, they are worse for wear. Welty preserved them. This book, like a time machine, brings them into the present.

Although the hardcover book is 18 years old, it’s still available on Amazon both used and new.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Posted in Cemetery book review | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Cemetery Photos from the Library of Congress

CemeteriesCemeteries by Keith Eggener

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure why this book is so expensive. Yes, it’s full of black and white photographs, but really, $75? It’s not worth that.

Assembled from the Library of Congress’s photo archives, Cemeteries is a “visual sourcebook” of images of American graveyards taken by families, news photographers, stereograms, advertisers, and government agencies. Sections focus on gates, grave markers, mausoleums, and other details of graveyards — which is what I bought the book for and its most useful attribute.

Unfortunately, the author assembling the photos got lazy. Rather than show a variety of African Americans working in cemeteries across the country, he includes a series of photos of the same people in the same cemetery. I would’ve found comparison and contrast more interesting than depth, especially since the depth is at odds from the way the rest of the book is put together. The same cemeteries and photographers do keep coming up over and over more than is truly necessary in other sections, but “Comings and Goings in the Silent City” is the most repetitive. It’s disappointing.

If you are a cemetery fanatic, you might need to have this book (you can get it discounted on Amazon). The historical overview in the first section is particularly useful. The photos throughout lean toward documentary rather than art, but if you bring a fair amount of knowledge to the book, it will reward you, even as it frustrates you. It could have been really spectacular. Instead, it seems rushed.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Posted in Cemetery book review | Tagged , , | 2 Comments