Cemetery of the Week #174: Union Cemetery Address: 227 East 28th Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64108 Phone: (816) 472-4990 Founded: 1857 Size: 27 acres Number interred: 55,000 Open: 7 am to 5 pm daily.
Atop a hill overlooking the city lie the founders of Kansas City, Missouri. Union Cemetery is Kansas city’s oldest public cemetery, the final resting place of politicians, artists, war heroes, business leaders, and everyday people. Today it is advertised as Kansas City’s “most serene and historic public park.”
John Calvin McCoy came to this area as a surveyor working for the US government in 1830. In February 1835, he filed the plat for the town of Kansas. He owned a store which outfitted settlers moving west on the Santa Fe Trail.
The cholera epidemic of 1849 filled the existing family plots and the first city cemetery in Kansas City. City leaders spent years searching for a suitable replacement until James W. Hunter deeded 49 acres of his hilltop farmland to the Union Cemetery Association. The land lay halfway between the town of Kansas on the Missouri River and the town of Westport, which was a supply stop for wagon trains as they moved west. The cemetery, which opened in 1857, was envisioned as a “union” between the two towns.
A fire in August 1889 damaged the sexton’s cottage and destroyed the burial records. The loss was total, as many of the graves had only been marked by wooden or limestone markers, which have eroded over time. The cottage was burned again in 1985, but by then, the cemetery records were kept off-site. The Women in Construction in Kansas City rebult the cottage for the third time. It was rededicated in October 1990. Now it serves as a visitor center and gift shop. It’s only open Thursday and Friday from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm.
Missouri’s most famous 19th century artist, George Caleb Bingham, was a landscape painter concerned with the effects of light. His best-remembered work was the 1845 “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri,” now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Bingham chose to be buried facing south in the cemetery, although the tradition was to bury everyone facing east, toward Jerusalem and the resurrection. Bingham apparently claimed that the Lord would find him, no matter which way he faced.
Alexander Majors was a partner in a freighting firm that led settlers across the prairie. His company founded the Pony Express during the Civil War. Although it only lasted 18 months, it cost Majors his fortune. He died penniless in 1900.
A small monument in the Kearney family plot remembers Hattie Drisdom Kearney. On Christmas Day 1855, she was sold as a slave. She was 11 years old. She begged a “kindly looking” man to buy her. After Charles Esmonde Kearney placed the winning bid, he freed her. When she told him she had nowhere to go, he hired her as a housekeeper and nurse. She worked for the Kearney family for 80 years, raising several generations. Now she lies amongst them.
By 1910, the cemetery was sadly deteriorated. The Cemetery Association sold 18 acres to fund upkeep. In 1937, the remaining 27 acres were deeded to Kansas City. The Native Sons of Greater Kansas City began a major restoration as its first community service project. The present gated entry was funded by the Native Sons in the 1950s. The iron fence enclosing the cemetery was added by the city in the 1990s.
The Union Cemetery is now maintained by the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation. It’s a beautiful place, full of history and beautiful monuments, well worth a visit.
411 Coombsville Road
Napa, California 94559 Telephone: 707-252-4727 GPS: 38.297821°N 122.271808°W Established: 1859 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.
The Coombs mausoleum stands in the shadow of the Tulocay Memorial Mausoleum.
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.
The Sloopers monument
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.
Re-enactors stand beside the Grand Army of the Republic monument in Tulocay Cemetery, June 2015.
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.
John Brown Farm State Historic Site 115 John Brown Road Lake Placid, New York 12946 Telephone: (518) 523-3900 Size: small Number of interments: 15? Open: The grounds are open year round, but the cottage and other buildings are only open May 1 through October 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Admission: Adults $2, Seniors/Students/ Groups $1. Children 12 and under are free.
To protest New York’s law that black men must own $250 worth of property in order to vote, abolitionist Gerrit Smith announced in 1846 that he would grant 40 acres of land to any black man who wanted to farm it. In 1849, fellow abolitionist John Brown bought an additional parcel of land for $1 an acre with the promise that he would move to the area and teach farming to the grantees. Many of them had worked previously as coachmen, cooks, and barbers and had no idea how to farm.
The land in New York’s Adirondack Mountains was rocky and difficult to work. Most of the black families gave up quickly. Brown himself stayed on his farm only briefly before heading off to oppose slavery in a more personal fashion. Some of his sons were homesteading in Kansas, which was vacillating between entering the Union as a slave or free state, so Brown joined them in 1855. He served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, guiding runaway slaves to freedom in the North.
Vintage postcard of john Browns’s gravesite
Even that wasn’t bringing change quickly enough. On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown led 19 men in an assault on the US Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (now in West Virginia). His plan had been to use the weapons to liberate slaves in the South.
He was captured two days later, imprisoned at Charlestown, Virginia, convicted of treason, and hanged on December 2, 1859.
Brown’s second wife, Mary, escorted his body back home from Virginia. On the journey home, his body lay in state, under guard, at the Elizabethtown Court House. On December 8, 1859, he was buried in front of his home near a boulder where he’d carved his initials in case he did not return home from the raid.
Captain john Brown’s Revolutionary-era gravestone
At some point later, the gravestone of his grandfather Captain John Brown, who fought and died in the American Revolution, was moved to the farm from Connecticut. Brown’s name and Oliver’s — his son who’d died in the Harper’s Ferry raid — were added at the bottom.
In 1870, Kate Field discovered that the property was about to be sold by the Brown family. She collected donations and purchased the farm and graveyard as an historic site. The farmstead was acquired by the State of New York in 1895. The house and barn have been restored to circa 1859. Some original furnishings remain.
In 1899, the bodies of 12 of Brown’s followers, who fought and died at Harper’s Ferry, were reinterred in this small graveyard. A picket fence was added, to be replaced later by an ornate iron fence. The Revolutionary War gravestone was protected by a wooden frame. Around 1900, a bronze plaque was added to the boulder, to mark Brown’s actual gravesite.
The farm remains a popular tourist destination near Lake Placid. Outdoor displays provide photos of Brown’s men and explain their fates. In May, Civil War re-enactors camp out, paying homage to a man who had hoped that a small insurrection might stave off all-out civil war.
Palm trees and sailboat masks from the cemetery. Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.
The Cemetery of Marigot on Saint Martin aka Cimetiere de Marigot-Saint Martin
Boulevard de France
Saint Martin Island
GPS coordinates: 18°3’54″N 63°5’18″W
Marigot, capital of the island of Saint Martin, has been called “the most French in spirit of all the cities of the Caribbean.” A steady influx of cruise ships supports everything from cafes to luxury boutiques, including Chanel and Lacoste.
The first people came to Saint Martin around 1800 BCE, when they arrived from South America. They left behind stone tools. Another wave of immigration happened after 500 BCE when more people arrived in 60-person canoes. Their presence was marked by polished stone tools, worked shells, painted pottery, and tombs. A replica of one stands in the city’s museum.
Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.
Life on the island remained pretty sedate until the French arrived in the 1760s. They built plantations and imported African slaves to grow sugar cane, which they exported back to Europe and the Americas. They also fermented the cane juice into rum.
Chevalier Jean de Durat, governor of the island and Saint Barths, oversaw the construction of Fort Louis (or Fort St. Louis, sources disagree) above Marigot Bay in 1767. The plans for the fort had been sent from the court of Louis XVI at Versailles. The fort was meant to defend the island’s warehouses full of salt, coffee, sugar cane, and run.
In 1772, de Durat married the heiress to the plantation of Saint Jean. Although he died in 1814, his children and grandchildren continued to run the plantation until slavery was abolished in 1848. Even after that, sugar production continued on the land until 1860, when the plantation was abandoned. The ruins still stand along the main road from Marigot toward Philipsburg.
Photo of grave decorations by Kathleen Rhoads.
The Dutch occupied Fort Louis temporarily after the slave revolts on Guadeloupe in 1789. After the French regained the fort, the English attacked from their base on Antigua to loot the warehouses on a regular basis throughout the 19th century.
Martinique-born Francois-August Perrinon is Marigot’s most famous resident. As a shareholder in a company that produced salt from Saint Martin’s swamps, he experimented with paying slaves. He discovered, unsurprisingly, that slaves who were free — and paid — worked harder than those who were mistreated. He joined Victor Schoelcher’s Commission in Paris that lobbied to abolish slavery. Schoelcher announced the abolition of slavery throughout the French Colonies on April 27, 1848.
Afterward, Perrinon retired to Saint Martin to resume his salt harvesting. He died in 1861. His tomb still stands in the Marigot Cemetery.
These days, the cemetery stands between the bay and the marina. Grave plots are often surrounded by a poured concrete curb. Some are completely covered with slabs of imported granite or with ceramic tile. Epitaphs tend to be in French. Decorations range from ceramic or silk flowers to conch shells to hearts outlined with small stones.
Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.
Lately, dengue fever and chikungunya fever have grown to epidemics on Saint Martin. Wear long sleeves and pants or use DEET-based bug repellent when exploring the cemetery, where water might be standing in vases, giving a home to the mosquitoes who carry the disease.
San Francisco National Cemetery 1 Lincoln Boulevard, Presidio of San Francisco
San Francisco, California 94129
Telephone: (650) 589-7737 or 1646 Founded: 1846 First known burial: 1854 Size: 28.34 acres Number of interments: 30,000 Open: Daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Of the two official graveyards remaining in San Francisco, one is a military cemetery with a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The cemetery, part of the 1480-acre Presidio, provides a link to the earliest European history of the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1776, the Spanish founded a garrison here to guard the mouth of San Francisco Bay.
In 1922, 38 skeletons—believed to be the remains of Spanish conquistadors—were discovered in an isolated area of the Presidio. The U.S. Army transferred them to a mass grave inside its post cemetery.
In fact, the American history of the Presidio began in1846—four years before California became a state—when the U.S. Army took it over from Mexico. The Presidio became a Union outpost to prevent Confederate seizure of the gold fields during the Civil War. In the 1870s, the Presidio served as a staging center for the Indian Wars. Later, the Sixth Army used it as their headquarters as they fought World War II in the Pacific.
Looking toward the San Francisco Bay at the Visitor Center
The original American post cemetery covered nine and a half acres. In 1851, the hillside on which the graveyard stood was all sand dune and scrub. Prior to the discovery of marble in the Sierras, graves were only marked with wood. Galen Dillman of the National Parks Conservancy told me, “The wind would come up in a storm and send headboards flying all over the place.” Consequently, most bodies lost their identification. Dillman said, “The Army re-interred those that they’d lost track of, plus the original Indian, Spanish, and Mexican burial grounds, in front of the visitor center.” Now a monument to the unknowns labels the mass grave, saluting the valiant dead of past conflicts.
In 1866, Congress established six all-Black regiments to patrol the remote western frontier and fight in the Indian Wars. Although the pay was only $13 a month, many African Americans enlisted because the Army “offered more dignity than typically could be attained in civilian life,” according to the Park Service brochure. Legend has it that these soldiers became known as Buffalo Soldiers because Native Americans thought their curly dark hair resembled a buffalo’s coat. 450 men from the all-Black units are buried inthe San Francisco National Cemetery. Some graves are proudly labeled “Buffalo Soldier.”
In 1884, by order of Lieutenant General Sheridan, the Presidio’s post cemetery became the first national cemetery on the West Coast. The graveyard expanded as needed until it now covers almost thirty acres.
After its rise in status, a lot of the burials at the San Francisco National Cemetery came from re-interments. As the U.S. Army closed its forts in the west, they refused to leave their dead behind. Also, when San Francisco evicted its public cemeteries early in the 20th century, any military personnel unclaimed by their families were brought to the Presidio.
Despite its status as closed since 1992, burials continue in the San Francisco National Cemetery.
Looking past the headstones at Alcatraz Island
Among those buried in the Presidio is Archie Williams. In 1936, Williams ran the 400-meter at the Berlin Olympics, winning the gold medal. Adolf Hitler snubbed Williams and his teammate Jesse Owens, refusing to shake their hands because they were African American.
Upon graduation from the University of California in 1938, Archie Williams had trouble finding work because, Dillman explained, there was so little call for black engineers. Williams became interested in flying and entered the Tuskegee Institute. The quota system of the time guaranteed that if one hundred white pilots graduated from flight school, only ten black pilots could graduate from Tuskegee. Williams made the cut and flew in World War II and Korea.
After his retirement from the Air Force, Williams taught high school mathematics in San Anselmo, not far from San Francisco.
Toward the end of our tour, Dillman pointed out one final trailblazer. The San Francisco National Cemetery is the resting place of Congressman Philip Burton, who wrote legislation to create the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The 75,500-acre national park stretches from south of the city in the San Francisco Watershed (which includes the lakes resting atop the San Andreas Fault) north across the Golden Gate past Point Reyes Station and along Tomales Bay. The park spans redwood forests, beaches, marshes, and grassy hillside meadows. Hawks, deer, and seabirds live there, along with an occasional mountain lion, bobcat, and eagle. Whales visit. The park, a haven for city dwellers, has thirteen million visitors a year.
A clause in Burton’s bill said that if the Army ever pulled out of the Presidio, the land would be turned over to the National Park Service. When the bill passed into law in 1972, the Army claimed it would never leave. However, in 1989, budget measures closed the base. Transfer to the Park Service occurred in 1994.
An island in the midst of parkland, the National Cemetery itself does not belong to the Park Service. It continues to be overseen by the Department of Veteran Affairs. Still, if you’re looking to hear a few stories in a peaceful green oasis, I encourage you to check out the National Park Conservancy’s web site. Its calendar will let you know when you can link up with Galen Dillman’s tour. Ask him to tell you about the Buffalo Soldiers, the Union Army’s female spy, and the daring rescue from the submarine. He brings those stories to life.
Dillman’s next tour is scheduled for March 16, 2013 from 10 a.m to noon.
Useful links: History of the San Francisco National Cemetery
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