411 Coombsville Road
Napa, California 94559
GPS: 38.297821°N 122.271808°W
Size: 49 acres (only 30 of which are developed)
Number of interments: More than 30,000
In 1841, California-born Don Cayetano Juarez received the 88,000-acre Tulucay Rancho from General Mariano Vallejo, the last governor of Mexican Alta California. Juarez used the land grant along the east side of the Napa River to ranch cattle. His 1845 adobe home still stands in the city of Napa and, after serving as a restaurant for many years, is currently being restored.
In December 1858, at the first meeting the new cemetery committee, Don Cayetano donated almost 50 acres of his land to the people of Napa for Tulocay Cemetery. (Apparently, the spelling was changed in the process.) In return, Juarez received a token payment of five dollars. Upon his sudden death in 1883, he was buried not far from the cemetery’s gate. His wife Maria Higuera Juarez joined him in 1890.
A little more than a mile away from the Juarez adobe, the cemetery stands east of downtown Napa on Coombsville Road. Called “one of Northern California’s most beautiful final resting places,” the cemetery spans Napa Valley history from the Mexican government through the Gold Rush and into the modern wine-making era.
Salvador Vallejo, sometimes called the Last Conquistador, was the brother of General Mariano Vallejo. The General gave his brother two land grants in Napa Valley, on which Salvador built three homes. As the head of the militia in Sonoma, Salvador served as his brother’s assistant. They were both captured during the Bear Flag Rebellion in Sonoma in June 1846 and imprisoned for two months at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. Salvador died in 1876 and was buried in Tulocay with his wife Maria Luz.
Nathan Coombs, who came to Napa Valley in 1845, purchased some land from Salvador Vallejo. Coombs went on to found the city of Napa in 1847. He was the first of four generations to serve in the state legislature. He owned a stagecoach line with Sam Brannan and also raised racehorses. When Coombs died of consumption in 1877, 150 carriages rode in his cortege and 50 local pioneers marched. He was buried in the Coombs family mausoleum, beneath the statue of an angel called Resurrection. The angel had been imported from Italy for $1000.
Tulocay’s most important permanent resident is Mary Ellen Pleasant. Despite having been born enslaved, she went on to become a millionaire known as the Mother of Civil Rights in California. After she came to San Francisco in 1852, Pleasant owned several successful boarding houses and laundries and served as the terminus of the Underground Railroad, providing jobs and housing to people escaping the South. Pleasant was one of the financiers of John Brown’s attack on the Armory at Harper’s Ferry in 1859.
In addition, Pleasant supported the 1863 Right of Testimony bill that gave blacks the right to testify in California courts. In 1868, she sued the Northbeach and Mission Railroad in the California State Supreme Court for the right of blacks to have equal access to public transit. Her house at Octavia and Bush was known as the Black City Hall. Toward the end of her life, she lost her fortune after testifying in the divorce proceedings against millionaire senator William Sharon. He called her “Mammy” Pleasant in the press. That disparaging nickname stuck, despite Pleasant’s protests.
Although she died in poverty in San Francisco in 1904, Pleasant was buried in a friend’s grave plot near Tulocay’s front fence. A group now called the San Franciscan African American Historical and Cultural Society placed an impressive marker by R. Alan Williams there in 1965. The metal sculpture depicts “a forceful stand, holding a body of purpose,” according to the artist. The white Sierra granite slab was added in June 2011.
Other historic figures at Tulocay:
In 1846, scout and mountain man James Clyman warned the Donner Party not to take the Hastings cut-off over the Sierra Nevadas. Clyman noted that the route was barely passable on foot and the wagons would never be able to make it. Unfortunately, he was right. Clyman kept a diary, which has survived.
Lilburn William Boggs, former Governor of Missouri, came to California in a wagon trail in 1846. He served as alcalde of Sonoma, then went to the California state constitutional convention as a delegate in 1850. Panthea, his second wife, was a granddaughter of Daniel Boone’s. Boggs died in Napa in 1860.
John Patchett came to Napa in 1850. He planted grapes and became the first commercial winemaker in the Valley in 1858. That first year, Patchett used a cider press to extract the grape juice. Somehow, the title of first winemaker was given to Charles Krug (who had apprenticed in Patchett’s winery). Patchett’s last vintage was 1865.
A tall monument marked with a sailing ship marks the graves of Jacob and Serena Anderson. Jacob Anderson Slogvik served on the sloop Restauration, which brought the first group of Norwegian immigrants to the US in October 1825. (Norwegian Americans consider it the Norwegian Mayflower.) Traveling on the Restauration was 11-year-old Serine Tormodsdatter, who married Jacob six years later. They came to California in 1854 by wagon train. The monument was placed on their graves in May 2004 by their descendants. The Norwegian stone honors them as the “Sloopers” who came the farthest west.
Emanuel Manasse, a German immigrant, joined Napa’s B.F. Sawyer Company in 1871. At the time, the company only used the sheep’s wool and wasted the sheepskins. Manasse pioneered a process for tanning sheepskins which made them waterproof. Later he developed a process to waterproof cowhide. Manasse’s so-called Napa Tan process revolutionized the tannery business.
John Greenwood was a retired sea captain who had a ranch in Napa. In February 1891, robbers attacked Greenwood and his wife Lucina, killing her. When the thieves were eventually captured, Billy Rowe, the murderer, was hanged in Napa’s Courthouse Square in 1897. Supposedly, Rowe haunts the Old Napa Courthouse at night. Lucina’s ghost has been blamed for computer glitches at Doctors Insurance Company, which stands on the site of her former home.
The Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans of the civil war) purchased a lot in Tulocay Cemetery in 1914. The Ladies Relief Corps, the women’s auxiliary group, paid for the monument, which was dedicated on Memorial Day 1915, the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.
Another Civil War veteran is buried beneath a marker labeled “Here Sleeps the Brave.” Lt. John Tuthill served in the Ram Fleet on the Mississippi River, using a heavily armed steamboat to ram Confederate ships to clear the Mississippi for shipping. Tuthill developed tuberculosis (called consumption in those days) and came to California for his health after the war. He died in 1868.
William Franklin Brandt was the last Civil War veteran buried in Tulocay. He died in Napa on April 9, 1937. After he was born in 1842 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, his family moved to Iowa, where he enlisted at the age of 20. He served in Company F, 12th US Infantry for three years, fighting at Gettysburg. He met President Lincoln on a battlefield at one point and was lavish in his praise of the president afterward. Brandt was discharged in Richmond, Virginia in 1865 and brought his family to California in 1884, farming first in Sebastopol, then in Napa.
A historic plaque was placed in June 2012 to remember Eino Lindquist, a Finn who survived the sinking of the Titanic. After working in the Pennsylvania steel mills, Lindquist came to California, where he suffered from schizophrenia. He lived at the Napa State Hospital, where he succumbed to a stroke on Halloween 1958 at the age of 66. The exact site of his grave isn’t known, but he’s buried alongside other patients from the psychiatric hospital in the potter’s field section of the cemetery.
The cemetery contains casualties of both World Wars, victims of the Spanish flu pandemic, and Chinese laborers. In fact, Tulocay has a large Chinese immigrant section. If the graves were ever marked, their temporary wooden monuments have either deteriorated or burned in one of several fires to sweep the cemetery.
Tours of Tulocay were hosted formerly by Napa Valley Landmarks. These often drew between 150-200 attendees, but were discontinued when historian Nancy Berman retired. Her work continues in the series of self-guided walking tours at http://www.tulocaycemetery.org/cemetery-tours.
Tulocay’s homepage: tulocaycemetery.org
Napa County Landmarks: https://napacountylandmarks.org/
Mysterious monument in Tulocay Cemetery: https://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/the-mystery-of-a-child-s-grave-stone-at-napa/article_60d75e1d-8201-50c6-b981-5bf6f993100b.html
The restoration of the Juarez adobe: https://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/napa-s-old-adobe-a-relic-of-the-th-century/
One of Juarez’s descendants visits the Juarez adobe: https://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/a-napa-forefather-s-descendant-comes-home-to-say-goodbye/article_de5286c6-dd72-5b60-ba06-48a5e683c3c3.html