Upcoming tour of Union Cemetery

The Grand Army of the Republic plot at Union Cemetery

The Grand Army of the Republic plot at Union Cemetery

In 1850, sailors discovered that Redwood Creek emptied into the San Francisco Bay in a natural deep-water channel. Within a year, men began to log the redwood trees of the Santa Cruz Mountains. A village originally called Redwood Landing took root beside the creek, where the trees could be milled for boards to build the Gold Rush towns springing up everywhere.

Early in 1859, a cemetery association purchased land along Woodside Road. They oversaw the cemetery’s design and sold burial plots, then deeded the cemetery to the Governor of California — and his successors — as trustees. This led to California’s first cemetery legislation, as the government didn’t wish to be made responsible for every graveyard in the state.

The Union Cemetery’s name “reflects the controversy that erupted in the Civil War,” according to the historical plaque placed in the cemetery. “Founders of the cemetery strongly opposed the secessionist sentiment that threatened the nation’s unity.” The GAR plot in the Union Cemetery was the only burial space to be purchased by the Grand Army of the Republic in California.

Union Cemetery obeliskAmong those buried in the cemetery are:

  • Approximately 40 veterans of the Civil War, along with a pair of wives and “a drinking buddy.”
  • Charles Benjamin, survivor of more than 30 major Civil War battles.
  • Members of the Masons, the Odd Fellows, the Improved Order of Red Men, and the United Ancient Order of Druids
  • …..And a host of local characters.

Docents from the Historic Union Cemetery Association will be joining us as guides for this special tour, tailoring their stories to the morbid sensibilities of Obscura Society members. This walk was organized specially for the Society by our resident Bay Area tombstone historian, Loren Rhoads, author of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel.

A portion of ticket proceeds from this walk will be donated to the Historic Union Cemetery Association to help them continue their work with this historic cemetery.

Death on a headstone in Union Cemetery

Death on a headstone in Union Cemetery


  • Date: Saturday, June 28, 10-11 a.m.
  • Meet at the cemetery gate at 316 Woodside Road, Redwood City.
  • Tour starts promptly at 10 a.m. Please allow time for parking.
  • Wear comfortable shoes for standing. This cemetery is flat and easy to get around.
  • Bring water and dress in layers suitable for the potentially warm weather.

Space is limited. Advance tickets suggested. Walk-up tickets may not be available.

Here’s the link for tickets: http://www.atlasobscura.com/events/obscura-society-sf-expedition-to-union-cemetery-in-redwood-city

5 responses to “Upcoming tour of Union Cemetery

Leave a Reply