Tag Archives: Sacramento City Cemetery

2018 Bay Area Cemetery Tours

IMG_1788Sunday, September 23 at 1-3 pm
Spirits of St. Helena Cemetery Walk
St. Helena Public Cemetery
2461 Spring St, St Helena, CA 94574
This is the St. Helena Historical Society’s 16th Annual Cemetery Tour, featuring stories of German decedents, including Charles Krug and Jacob Schram. St. Helena High School drama students, under the direction of Patti Coyle, will be acting out scenarios from the lives of the deceased and their families. 1 to 3 pm at the St. Helena Cemetery. 967-5502 or shstory.org.

Saturday, September 29 from 9-1 pm
San Lorenzo Cemetery Clean Up and Open Day
Usher Street and College Street, San Lorenzo, CA 94580
Drop by to help preserve our local historic cemetery! Bring gloves, rakes, and water. The cemetery will also be open during this time for the public to visit the grounds and ask questions.
http://www.haywardareahistory.org/calendar/2018/9/29/san-lorenzo-cemetery-clean-up-and-open-day

Saturday, October 6 from 8:30-10 am
Yountville Veterans Home & Cemetery Photo Walk
100 California Drive, Yountville, CA 94599
Imagine you and your camera being guided on a historical photowalk tour in the heart of Napa Valley by our nation’s veterans. They will be your “imagery guide” to the oldest and largest of eight California homes. The home was established in 1884 by veterans of the Civil and Mexican American Wars. The walking tour will include: The 1918 Armistice Chapel that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, The home’s cemetery where nearly 6ooo men and women have been laid to rest, including four Medal of Honors, and the Arboretum that includes trees from all over the world. After your tour, you will have the opportunity to re-group in the Tug McGraw Foundation’s Brain Food Garden, enjoy delights provided by the foundation and chat about your images! Bring comfortable shoes and water. The entire campus is wheelchair accessible.
https://worldwidephotowalk.com/walk/the-historical-yountville-veterans-home/

Saturday, October 6 from 1-3 pm
Redwood Memorial Gardens Pioneer Cemetery Tour
Cemetery Road, Guerneville, California
$10 helps to pay for restoration. Make sure you map the drive. I’m having trouble finding an address.
https://www.russianriverhistory.org/event/redwood-memorial-gardens-pioneer-cemetery-tour

Friday & Saturday, October 19-20, beginning at 7 pm
Lantern Tours of Old City Cemetery
1000 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95818
Tickets are $40 and should be purchased in advance. This will sell out.
Tour the tombstones in “They Had It Coming,” the theme of the 2018 Lantern Tours. There will be five tours per night, beginning at 7 p.m. and every half hour thereafter. The evening will begin with period music, games of chance, and encounters with some characters out of the city’s past. On the tour, meet other eternal residents who will tell their tales of crimes of passion, rash judgment, and just rewards. The experience ends with a stage show of merry cemetery murderesses dancing, singing and telling their own stories. The price includes all this and refreshments. Proceeds support cemetery preservation.
http://events.sacbee.com/performer.aspx?perf_id=2528342

Friday, October 19 from 7–10:30 pm
Ghosts of Dublin Pioneer Cemetery tour
Dublin Heritage Park & Museums, 6600 Donlon Way, Dublin, CA 94568
Tickets are $14 and should be purchased in advance. This will sell out.
Take a flashlight tour through Dublin’s historic Pioneer Cemetery, where Dublin’s buried past comes alive. Hear haunting stories of ghosts thought to be lurking in Dublin, including reports of recent findings by local paranormal researchers. See ghostly images of long dead pioneers in Old St. Raymond Church.
https://patch.com/california/dublin/calendar/event/20181019/394748/ghosts-of-dublin-flashlight-tour-2018-pioneer-cemetery-dublin

Saturday, October 20 from 10:30-noon
Tour of Cypress Hill Cemetery
430 Magnolia Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952
Tickets are $15 + a service fee available online at https://cemeterytour2018.brownpapertickets.com.
We continue our fun and spooky tradition this year with Petalumans of Yesteryear in period attire and personas guiding visitors through the historic Cypress Hill Cemetery.
https://www.petalumamuseum.com/calendar-event/annual-cemetery-tour/

Sunday, October 21 at 1:30 pm
Tour of Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Ave, Oakland CA 94611
Tickets are $18.
Every visit to Mountain View Cemetery is like a trip back in time. It is like shaking hands with railroad builder Charles Crocker, admiring the brushwork of Yosemite landscape painter Thomas Hill, and hearing architect Julia Morgan rhapsodize about her designs for Hearst Castle.
https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/events/details?event_id=27734

Wednesday, October 24 at 6:30-7:45 pm
Hunters Tour of Alhambra Cemetery
211 Foster St, Martinez, CA 94553
The Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, established in 1851, has stunning views of the Carquinez Strait and a rich history. A tour guide will introduce you to families with names you know and some you don’t. You’ll learn more about local war heroes, personalities, politicians and a most creative caretaker. Tours are designed to enlighten, not frighten. Wear sturdy comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. Sorry, no children please! Bring a flashlight.
https://patch.com/california/martinez/calendar/event/20181024/398582/alhambra-cemetery-halloween-full-moon-tour-martinez

Friday, October 26 from 7–10:30 pm
Ghosts of Dublin Pioneer Cemetery tour
Dublin Heritage Park & Museums, 6600 Donlon Way, Dublin, CA 94568
Tickets are $14 and should be purchased in advance. This will sell out.
Take a flashlight tour through Dublin’s historic Pioneer Cemetery, where Dublin’s buried past comes alive. Hear haunting stories of ghosts thought to be lurking in Dublin, including reports of recent findings by local paranormal researchers. See ghostly images of long dead pioneers in Old St. Raymond Church.
https://patch.com/california/dublin/calendar/event/20181019/394748/ghosts-of-dublin-flashlight-tour-2018-pioneer-cemetery-dublin

Saturday, October 27 at 10 am
Tour of Mt. Olivet Cemetery
270 Los Ranchitos Rd, San Rafael, CA 94903
Join us to visit the burial sites of many of the founding pioneer families of Marin County. Some who found their final place here led scandalous lives but now rest peacefully. From James Miller, founding father, to Barbara Graham, criminal, all have a story to tell.
https://marinhistory.org/event-2960661

Saturday, October 27 at 7:30 pm
Nighttime Walking Tour of Cypress Lawn Memorial Park
1363 El Camino Real, Colma, CA 94014
Meet docent Terry Hamburg at the Nobel Chapel for the annual nighttime walking tour.
http://www.cypresslawnheritagefoundation.org/events/walking-tours/

Sunday, October 28 from 10 am–5 pm
Ghost Tour: Shipwrecks of Point Reyes
Starts at the Historic Life-Saving Service Cemetery
18618-19084 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
For youth, ages 12 and up, with adult supervision.
Tickets are $40.
Do the ghosts of doomed sailors haunt Point Reyes’ treacherous shores? We’ll pay our respects at a historic cemetery and travel out to the sites of myriad maritime tragedies, seeking personal connection to long lost ships and those who wait to tell their stories from the bottom of the sea.
http://www.ptreyes.org/camps-classes-programs/field-institute/classes/ghost-tour-shipwrecks-point-reyes-1

Sunday, October 28 from noon-3 pm
Cycles of History: Haunted Colma
$15-50 sliding scale donation (but we are flexible and you can pay less–or more!–as you see fit), benefiting Shaping San Francisco. Please RSVP to shaping@foundsf.org or 415.881.7579.
Meet at the Colma BART Station at 12 noon and then take a spirited tour of several massive cemeteries where famous San Franciscans are buried. Visit Woodlawn, Home of Peace and Hills of Eternity, Cypress Lawn, and Holy Cross. Return to Colma or South SF BART together at the end of the tour. Bring water and a snack.
https://sfbike.org/event/cycles-of-history-haunting-tour-of-colma-cemeteries/

Wednesday, October 31 at 6:30-7:45pm
Halloween Tour of Alhambra Cemetery
211 Foster St, Martinez, CA 94553
The Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, established in 1851, has stunning views of the Carquinez Strait and a rich history. A tour guide will introduce you to families with names you know and some you don’t. You’ll learn more about local war heroes, personalities, politicians and a most creative caretaker. Tours are designed to enlighten, not frighten. Wear sturdy comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. Sorry, no children please! Bring a flashlight.
https://patch.com/california/martinez/calendar/event/20181024/398582/alhambra-cemetery-halloween-full-moon-tour-martinez

Saturday, November 3 at 10 am
Tour of Old St. Mary’s Cemetery
Meet at the St. Joseph Family Center, 7950 Church Street, Gilroy, CA 95020
Contact the Gilroy Museum at 408.846.0446 for more details.
https://visitgilroy.com/event/historic-walking-tour-william-weeks-buildings-copy/

Death’s Garden: Dancing on May’s Grave

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May Woolsey’s gravestone, Old City Cemetery, Sacramento, California

by M. Parfitt

“You have the same hair as May Woolsey.” That comment from the volunteer coordinator at the Discovery Museum was my introduction to the twelve‑year‑old girl who would virtually take over my life during the Fall of 1996.

I was an occasional volunteer for the museum. When I originally volunteered, I offered myself as an artist. Occasionally they gave me interesting sign-making projects, and once they let me set up a small display, but to my disappointment, they just loved my speed and accuracy at the cash register. They stuck me in the gift shop for hours and hours and hours.

Many times, I’d walked past May’s hundred‑year‑old trunk full of Victorian goodies. May herself never reached across the decades and spoke to me until that day, when I peered closely into the jumbled collection of relics and saw her thick, two‑foot‑long auburn braid. It was, indeed, just like mine.

The story of May’s life and death is mundane — an ordinary childhood cut short byencephalitis, a common 19th‑century disease. She was born in 1866 to Luther and Mary Woolsey of Sacramento, California, attended Primary School No. 3, belonged to the First Congregational Church, and died suddenly on September 21, 1879. Her brief existence would’ve faded from memory as her family grew old and died off, were it not for an act of her distraught parents: they packed all of May’s personal belongings into a trunk and, in keeping with the melodramatic customs of the time, sealed the trunk into a secret compartment below the stairway of the Woolsey home.

Toys, dolls, clothing, shoes. Schoolbooks, calling cards, newspaper clippings, party invitations. A sepia‑toned studio portrait of May herself, her long wavy hair gracefully arranged over her shoulder. All these ephemeral remains, the tangible evidence of an obscure, brief life, remained carefully hidden away until 1979, when the new owner of the Victorian house in the Alkali Flat neighborhood fortuitously happened upon the hatch cut into the second-floor landing.

I wasn’t living in Sacramento in 1979, so I missed the media attention May achieved that spring. Her time capsule, discovered exactly one hundred years after it had been so carefully concealed, was studied by local historians and put on display in the museum. May Woolsey had earned her fifteen minutes of fame.

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“Where are You Going and What Will You Do When You Get There?” collage by M. Parfitt

Fast forward to 1996: My tenuous connection to May, via our matching hairstyles, was about to intensify. I was soon to become May Woolsey.

The volunteer coordinator brought it up casually. “The Old City Cemetery is planning a Halloween Moonlight Tour as a fundraiser,” he explained. “They need volunteers to portray interesting people who are buried in the cemetery. You know, with that hair, you could be May Woolsey.”

I cut him short with a reminder that it had been a long, long time since I’d been a twelve‑year‑old.

“It’ll be dark, you’ll be in a costume, and the audience will be pretty far away. C’mon, you like cemeteries. It’ll be fun.”

I couldn’t come up with an argument. The thought of hanging out in a cemetery at night — and not getting kicked out — was intriguing. He had me by my two‑foot‑long braid.

My transformation into May Woolsey required research. I stared at her belongings through the glass display case, taking in the details of her fancy Victorian gloves, beaded purse, and satin slippers. I imagined what it was like for her to play with the archaic games and toys found in the trunk, their rules and instructions guided by the straitlaced etiquette of her day. She had quaint things like small patchwork quilt fragments, dolls, bits of knitting, and some very serious-looking little textbooks.

My portrayal would involve reading excerpts from May Woolsey’s diary — and May, it seemed, was obsessed with fashion. Her diary entries described a “lovely fan,” pink silk “stockens,” and a new party dress of black silk trimmed with velvet. She also listed the colors and styles of the dresses worn by her friends. She was a hip twelve‑year‑old, by 1879 standards.

May’s tale featured a postscript straight from a Victorian ghost story. Mrs. Woolsey, disconsolate in her loss, had hired a spiritualist to communicate with May from beyond the grave. And sure enough, tucked in the trunk among May’s possessions was a letter seemingly written by the late, lamented daughter: “Dear Mama, I am so happy as I did write to you and say I was happy. Now, Mama dear, do not weep for me….”

The letter offered hope of a reunion and, no doubt, gave Mrs. Woolsey a bit of solace. However, the lower edge of the letter had been torn off before it was placed in the trunk. The last words, and the signature, were missing. This enigma lay at the heart of May Woolsey’s story: Had she communicated from beyond the grave?

My job was to look and sound like May Woolsey: stand at her grave, read her words, recite that mysterious unsigned letter. I thought back to my own pre‑teen years: my passion for the New York Yankees, my appetite for Mad magazine, those knockdown-dragout battles with my brothers. I had nothing in common with this 19th‑century girl. How could I possibly pull this off?

I also had absolutely no acting experience. Four other volunteers, portraying Mr. and Mrs. Woolsey and two incidental characters, would round out the plot of our little drama, but May was the central character. The idea of speaking in front of a crowd didn’t scare me. In fact, I relished the idea of a captive audience. I wanted to be seen and heard — but being seen and heard as this Victorian maiden that didn’t thrill me. Although I didn’t know it at the time, May had her own plans. She, too, wanted to be seen and heard.

The final rehearsal went off without a hitch. The logistics of setting up a theatrical lighting system in a cemetery proved to be a nightmare, but we had an experienced technical staff and, after some fine‑tuning, it did work. Plenty of sound checks assured us that the wireless mikes were functional. We would give our performance for an early audience, relax for an hour, then do it again for a late audience.

The sun went down. The first audience filed in.

From our hiding places behind nearby headstones, we watched the other actors play out their scenarios of sad and mysterious deaths. There might’ve been forty or more volunteers for the Moonlight Tour. Our story was fourth on the route through the cemetery, so we had plenty of time to get ready. It should’ve gone off without a hitch, but May Woolsey had other plans.

The audience approached our site and settled into place on the benches and bleachers set up for the occasion. The lights went up and we started our performance. Suddenly, all the lights went off — all, that is, except the one that was aimed directly at little May Woolsey, the star of the show. The support staff scrambled to illuminate my cohorts with flashlights, but our seven‑minute skit was performed almost entirely in shadow.

The audience didn’t seem to mind. We bowed to their polite applause, stood at our positions until they trudged off to the next grave, then shook off our panic with a bout of frantic equipment checks. The next performance would be perfect.

A strange wave of mischievous energy washed over me. I felt like giggling, like dancing. My high‑collared lace blouse, recently picked up at a thrift store for 99 cents, suddenly looked pretty and feminine. (I forgot I was wearing an old sweatshirt underneath it for warmth.) My stockinged legs were warm. My tall lace‑up boots were sturdy. My petticoats and layered skirts rustled and spun around me. I wore a slip, a two-layer crinoline, and a calf-length skirt with three flounces. Not historically accurate, but it was the best I could do with very little money. In the dark, it looked fine. It gave the effect of Victorian opulence, and that was all that mattered.

The big satin bow in my flowing auburn curls fluttered in the wind. I wanted — needed — to be free and silly and ridiculous.

I ran to the chainlink fence that separated the cemetery from Riverside Boulevard. Finding a spot illuminated by the full moon and a conveniently placed streetlight, I jumped out of the shadows, into view of the passing cars. Horns honked, fingers pointed — the sight of a Victorian girl dancing in a cemetery on Halloween night nearly caused a five‑car pileup. A pirouette and a curtsy, and back I went into the shadows. I ran gleefully back to my grave. I mean, May’s grave.

The late audience arrived on schedule and we took our places in the dark. The lights went up. No problem. The first actor started speaking. Without warning, his microphone died. He was forced to shout his lines. The next actor took his cue and, within seconds, his microphone crackled and fell silent. On it went, each actor hollering lines meant to be spoken softly and reverently. My cue approached. I spoke. My mike worked. May’s mike worked.

The evening belonged to May Woolsey. Her lights, her microphone. No one could overshadow her this night. Afterward, the actor who played Mrs. Woolsey swore the spirit of May had been angry about the scene enacted on her gravesite. However, I knew better. I was May Woolsey for a few minutes. I knew she simply wanted to show off and dance and be a kid again, after all those silent years.

May didn’t mind the scene. She just wanted to steal it.

This piece originally appeared in Morbid Curiosity #2. Check out M. Parfitt’s other essay about the Old City Cemetery here.

***

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M. Parfitt is an artist, writer, collector of exquisitely awful junk, keeper of hair, saver of broken toys, and hoarder of yellowed newspaper clippings.  You may find her wandering down a deserted alley, traipsing through an old cemetery or peering into an abandoned warehouse.  Her mixed-media work incorporates fabric, paper, blood, hair, lint, nails, dog fur and other unexpected materials.  

Cemetery Travel interviewed M. Parfitt about guiding tours here.

 

 

***

Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

For the next couple months, I’m planning to put a cemetery essay up every Friday. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married in one. The submissions guidelines are here.

Death’s Garden: A Tale of 25,000 Tales

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Tour photos of Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery by M. Parfitt.

by M. Parfitt

It’s seven o’clock on a Saturday morning and I’m getting dressed. First, the stockings and shoes. Yep, shoes first. Then the voluminous hoop skirt, 150 inches in circumference, followed by the pillowy little bustle, then the dress skirt. Next, the bodice with its three-layer sleeves. Finally, the bonnet and gloves. Now I’m dressed and ready to step out into 1860. I’ll admit I’m cheating: there’s no uncomfortable corset holding me tight under that bodice. And I won’t be riding a horse-drawn stagecoach to my volunteer job today. I’ll catch the bus across the street from Home Depot, then I’ll transfer to a light rail train.

Along the way, drivers, pedestrians, and bus riders will stare, wave, and point. The brave ones will actually talk to me. My favorite question is, “Are you Amish?”

I’m not Amish. I’m a volunteer tour guide at Sacramento’s Historic City Cemetery. I traipse around in my Civil War-era mourning dress, leading visitors from one tragic tale to the next, exposing the secrets Sacramento’s early residents took to their graves. Some of those secrets now feel like they’re my stories. Over the last five years, I’ve told the tales of nearly fifty “residents” of the cemetery. Some of these people performed heroic deeds; others died tragically. Some died in ridiculous circumstances that could peg them as Darwin Award winners. I’ve researched, rehearsed, “performed,” and internalized the stories of their lives (and deaths). I feel like I know these people. That sometimes makes it difficult to tell their stories without a pang of guilt.

10577091_10152290892596452_545556492729661978_nWould Emily York really want people to know she accidentally set herself on fire in the same manner as a woman who accidentally set herself on fire only one week before? Didn’t she read the newspaper? Didn’t she learn from the other woman’s fatal mistake?

How would A. P. Smith feel if he knew I was telling his riches-to-rags tale over and over? The ending is always the same. The master horticulturist lost his vast, beautiful garden to a flood. His white Victorian mansion, his acres of fruit trees and flower gardens — everything he’d tended and cared for — washed away. He died old and broken in a small shack.

And Daisy Dias, whose story I cannot tell without choking up: How can you calmly describe the death of a seven-year-old in a pit of red-hot ashes? She died a hundred years ago, but her story is no less horrifying today.

11754412_10153072363286452_729999009092471518_oI wish I could change the endings for these people, but I’m telling true stories. Each tour features an average of twelve tales of sorrow or bravery or foolishness, and I tell ’em as I find ’em. Hours of research — mostly in online newspaper repositories — brings long-forgotten events back to life, for better or worse.

That’s really what this is about: bringing the past back to life. The cemetery’s tongue-in-cheek motto is “Where history comes alive.” I don’t believe in heaven or an afterlife, so resurrecting the stories of Sacramento’s early residents is my way of bringing them back to life and sharing them with others so they’ll be remembered.

11205528_10153030609241452_7402202906627997120_nThe cemetery’s tour season runs from February through November, with at least one Saturday-morning history tour each month. Every December, the Tour Commitee (a loose-knit group of tour guides) meets to hash out the following year’s tour topics and schedule. With over 25,000 “residents,” the topics seem endless and we never have to repeat a story. We’ve held tours about women, African Americans, brewers, baseball players, labor history, disasters, trains, headstone carvers, horse breeders and riders, politicians, drugs in the old west, temperance and prohibition, veterans. The list goes on and on. Oh, and we occasionally do repeat a story. Some stories are just that good.

I attend nearly every tour throughout the season. My main task is to take photos for the cemetery’s Facebook page. On those days, I wear jeans and a souvenir Historic City Cemetery t-shirt. Several times a year, however, I arrive early in my big black dress, hang out in the visitors’ center, rehearse, and wait for showtime. The clock strikes ten, and off we go. I never know what to expect when I step out of the visitors’ center with my headset microphone and portable amplifier. A small group of ten or twelve visitors is disappointing; a crowd of eighty is thrilling. I’m one of those crazies who loves public speaking. The more folks I can speak to, the better.

11052460_10152884661446452_7177891324845766836_nMost tours are conducted by a lead tour guide and a “helper” guide. Occasionally, a few other guides pitch in to tell a story or two. I’ve developed a good working relationship with Jean, a guide who’s smart and dependable and who obsesses over telling a good story, the same way I do. We’ve come up with a winner of a topic, and we’ve decided we’ll keep offering it every year as long as people are willing to show up for it. The topic? “A Dozen Ways to Die.” With so many thousands of stories, we figure we can keep going for close to 900 years without repeating a story.

I’m the lead tour guide by default. Jean doesn’t like to wear historic costumes and my dress attracts attention, so I do the introduction and conclusion. We’re actually equals, since we each tell six stories. After the twelfth story, when the audience expects us to thank them and send them away, we instead agonize over whether this audience has been really, really good — and therefore deserves a bonus story! So far, we’ve always decided to give it to them. Sometimes one of us tells the thirteenth story; other times another guide tells it. Having a third guide on hand is becoming increasingly important for this tour, because the crowd it draws seems to get bigger every year.

“A Dozen Ways to Die” is such a wide-open topic that each year brings new surprises. A friend once e-mailed me a yellowed newspaper clipping about her great-grandfather’s death, and asked if we’d ever told his story. We’d never heard of it! The following summer, Peter Beardslee’s fatal wagon-and-train collision made it into the tour, and my friend and her mother were there to hear it. When I introduced them as Peter’s descendants, the crowd broke into applause, which delighted me.

People like to complain about crime these days, kids these days, danger these days, and all the other problems we experience “these days.” I tell them to come to a cemetery tour. Nothing has changed, folks. A downtown park with a reputation as a hangout for transients and shady characters is no worse now than it was in the 1870s, when a pregnant woman shot her no-good boyfriend to death following a band concert, or the 1890s, when a gullible young man was tricked into shooting an innocent man who appeared to be arguing with a woman.

People died in workplace accidents, they died in house fires, and they died at the hands of jealous lovers. Despondent people committed suicide in a variety of shocking ways: by gunshot, by poison, even by drinking creosote. By telling their stories, I hope I can dispel the myth that “the good old days” were a time of innocence, peacefulness, respect, and integrity. People were just as petty, careless, irrational, and unfortunate as they are today.

11665418_10153030609816452_1123057498260095013_nThe Tour Committee had its meeting last month. Jean and I need to start searching for this year’s Dozen. Often, while reading about a particular subject in an old newspaper, “shiny object syndrome” will hit — an unrelated article about another unfortunate person will jump out, and we’ll fall down the rabbit hole of endless research. Sometimes another guide will accidentally discover a good story this way, and pass it on to us.

Tour season starts with Sacramento Museum Day in February. I love Museum Day. We don’t schedule tours; we just wait at the front gates for visitors to show up, then we take them on abbreviated, unrehearsed tours that could feature anything from Mark Hopkins’ massive red-granite vault to Georgia Fisher’s sadly vandalized headstone. It’s a good way for tour guides to get back into the swing of things after a few months off, and it’s always fun to introduce the cemetery to people who had no idea we offered tours until they read about it in the Museum Day flyer.

My hope is that some of these newcomers will return for a tour, get hooked, and become “regulars.” One of our regulars travels all the way from Marysville every month. Bringing history alive for our visitors, both newcomers and regulars, is my job, and I take it seriously. Bringing back the stories of people whose lives have slipped into oblivion is my passion. I enjoy it tremendously.

I love being a cemetery tour guide. Maybe one of these days, I’ll make that sacrifice to comfort and wear a corset. Until then, I’ll continue to float among the headstones in my billowing hoop skirt, in search of the next fascinating story.

***

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Photo by Lori Mattas.

M. Parfitt is an artist, writer, collector of exquisitely awful junk, keeper of hair, saver of broken toys, and hoarder of yellowed newspaper clippings.  You may find her wandering down a deserted alley, traipsing through an old cemetery or peering into an abandoned warehouse.  Her mixed-media work incorporates fabric, paper, blood, hair, lint, nails, dog fur and other unexpected materials.  

Cemetery Travel interviewed M. Parfitt about guiding tours here.

 

 

 

***

Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

For the next year, I’m planning to put a cemetery essay up every Friday. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married in one. The submissions guidelines are here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

Broken bud

Broken bud

This week’s photo challenge is to show two things side by side that comment on each other.  I like the juxtaposition of the broken rosebud on the gravestone beside the lovely pink rosebush behind it.

Broken buds like this one are often found on the monuments to Victorian children.  It’s hard to imagine a more perfect illustration of a parent’s shock and sadness when faced with burying their child, the sense of the beauty and potential cut short.  I couldn’t imagine what that kind of loss would feel like until I had an irreplaceable bud of my own.

I took this photo on a blisteringly hot afternoon in Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery. The Heritage Rose Group of the Friends of the Cemetery carefully tend the antique roses.  The cemetery’s website has this wonderful quote on it: “Many of these antique roses were brought across to California in the holds of ships or carried in wagon trains by early pioneers… Because roses are propagated by taking a piece of the original to start a new plant, they are, in essence, the same plant.  Therefore, roses in a Mandarin’s garden in old China or Empress Josephine’s famous 18th-century French garden are now planted in Sacramento’s Historic Rose Garden” in the cemetery.

I love the idea of these immortal flowers blooming and fading and blooming again over the centuries, thriving atop the graves of people who are gone to bloom again in another garden.

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My other posts about the Sacramento City Cemetery:

A lamb on another child’s grave

Do not bury me in the cold ground.

Interview with one of the tour guides.

Upcoming tours & garden events in the cemetery.

2012 Northern California Autumn Cemetery Tours & Events

The Graves family monument, Cypress Lawn

Many cemeteries host tours or fundraisers in the autumn to increase awareness and raise funds for the upkeep of these fragile community treasures. I hope this list inspires you to check around your own area to see what’s being offered. If you find anything intriguing, please post the link in the comments below.

Also, if you find misinformation or broken links in my list below, would you let me know? While I’ve done my best to be accurate, I cut and pasted from a number of sources. Something may have gotten garbled in translation.

Here’s the list:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
First Wednesday presents: Preserving San Jose’s Cemeteries, Honoring Our Past
San Jose’s official City Historian, Judge Paul Bernal, will present highlights of his activities with the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County’s In Grave Danger Gang, which locates lost headstones, restores markers, maintains a historic cemetery, and honors those who came before us. Judge Bernal will also discuss the recent rediscovery of a cemetery on the grounds of the county hospital.
Location: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, 550 Schiro Program Room 5th floor, San Jose
Phone: (408) 808-2137
Admission: Free
Event link: http://library.sjsu.edu/events/first-wednesday-presents-preserving-san-jose-s-cemeteries-honoring-our-past

Thursday, September 6, 2012 (repeated September 22 & October 27)
10 a.m. – Noon
National Cemetery Walk
Hear about Medal of Honor recipients, a Union spy, an Indian scout, Buffalo Soldiers, and others buried here at the San Francisco National Cemetery. This one-mile walk has a steep uphill climb. Dress warmly. Rain cancels.
Location: San Francisco National Cemetery, Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco Meet docent Galen Dillman at the cemetery entrance gate, corner of Lincoln Boulevard. and Sheridan Avenue.
Reservations required! Phone: (415) 561-4323.
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.parksconservancy.org/events/park-interp/national-cemetery-walk-3.html

Saturday, September 8, 2012
10 a.m. – Noon. Tour begins promptly at 10 a.m.
Tomb Walk
Please join Professor Michael Svanevik for an all-new walking tour of Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. You will see amazing monuments and grand tombs and hear fascinating tales. Michael Svanevik, a specialist in cemetery lore, is a longtime professor of history at College of San Mateo. Please park inside the cemetery gate and meet in front of the office. Comfortable shoes strongly recommended.
Location: Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma
Reservations required! Phone: (650) 522-7490
Admission: $25 per person, payable to the San Mateo Senior Center.
Event link: http://www.holycrosscemeteries.com/blog/?cat=8

Saturday, September 8, 2012
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Exploring Mountain View Cemetery
This docent-led tour by Jane Leroe will highlight the people, architecture, beauty and history of the cemetery.
Location: Mountain View Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone: (510) 658-2588
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/calendar.html

Friday, September 14 and Saturday, September 15, 2012
Tours begin every 20 minutes between 7:30 p.m. and 9:50 p.m.
Lamplight Tours of Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery
Walk at night through Santa Rosa’s oldest cemetery to see and hear all new dramatic portrayals of some of our city’s early settlers. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a flashlight. Tours leave from the McDonald Gate.
Location: Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, Santa Rosa
Reservations required! Phone: (707) 543-3292.
Admission: $30 per person.
Event link: http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/departments/recreationandparks/parks/cityparks/cemetery/Pages/events.aspx

Saturday, September 15, 2012
3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Beyond the Pale Cemetery Tour
Enjoy an evening of dinner, dessert, tours, entertainment, silent auction, historical re-enactments, and a complimentary glass of wine while raising funds for the Plumas Museum.
Location: Quincy Cemetery, Cemetery Hill, Quincy, CA 95971
Reservations required! Phone: (530) 283-6320
Admission: $65 per person.
Event link: http://plumasmuseum.org/events.html

Saturday, September 22, 2012
10 a.m.
Redwood City: Union Cemetery tour
During a docent-led tour, learn how the redwood industry helped the famous people buried in 19th-century Union Cemetery build Redwood City.
Location: Union Cemetery, Woodside Road and El Camino Real, Redwood City.
Phone: (650) 593-1793
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.historysmc.org/walkingtours.html

Saturday, September 22, 2012
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Design, Architects, and Architecture
Following the ‘father’ of Landscape Architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, Mountain View Cemetery began in 1864 an interaction with a wide variety of architects and designers, both quick and deceased, which continues to this day. Come see their work and hear their stories. Docent Stafford Buckley is a garden professional and long-time Mountain View Cemetery docent.
Location: Mountain View Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone: (510) 658-2588
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/calendar.html

Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13, 2012
Tours at 5:30, 6:15, 7, and 7:45 p.m.
10th Annual Barbara Bull Memorial Cemetery Walk
Sebastopol women’s stories come to life with Cemetery Walk. This year’s vignettes feature stories of a woman aviator, our first librarian, a mayor’s daughter from 1906, Sebastopol’s woman city clerk, a woman who witnessed Queen Victoria’s coronation, and a woman journalist. The event includes dinner, cemetery walk with six performances of historical vignettes, and dessert and coffee at the historic Luther Burbank Experiment Farm Cottage adjacent to Sebastopol Memorial Lawn Cemetery.
Location: Sebastopol Memorial Lawn Cemetery
Phone: (707) 823-0884 or (707) 829-1757
Admission: $25 for the 5:30 p.m. tours. $30 for the 6:15 p.m., 7 p.m., and 7:45 p.m. tours.
Event link: http://www.wschsgrf.org/

Saturday, October 13, 2012
1:30
Gargoyles, Foo Dogs and More: Interesting And Unusual Monuments at Cypress Lawn
Join other cemetery enthusiasts and lovers of history, art, and nature in discovering the cultural treasures of our beautiful organic outdoor museum and arboretum. Cypress Lawn has been a part of the San Francisco Bay Area’s cultural heritage since its founding in 1892. It is a 200-acre living museum of magnificent funeral art, architecture, and horticulture unlike any other museum in the world, full of the life stories of the men and women whose visions and dreams have shaped the Golden State of California.
Location: Tours start at the Noble Chapel located on the East Gardens of Cypress Lawn left past Cypress Lawn’s 120 year old Archway. Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma.
Phone: (650) 550-8810
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.cypresslawnheritagefoundation.com/events.html#walking

Saturday, October 13, 2012
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Exploring Mountain View Cemetery
This docent-led tour by Ruby Long will highlight the people, architecture, beauty and history of the cemetery.
Location: Mountain View Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone: (510) 658-2588
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/calendar.html

Saturday, October 13, 2012
10 a.m.
Children’s Tour of Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery
Docent-led tour.
Location: Old City Cemetery, 1000 Broadway, Sacramento
Phone: (916) 448-0811
Admission: free
Event link: http://www.oldcitycemetery.com/calendar.htm

Friday, October 19, and Saturday, October 20, 2012
Four tours per night after dark
Lantern Tours of Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery
Costumed actors speak for those in the graves at your feet.
Location: Old City Cemetery, 1000 Broadway, Sacramento
Phone: (800) 839-3006
Admission: $30 + handling fee
Event link: http://www.oldcitycemetery.com/Flyers/Lantern%20Tour_2012_SEPT.pdf

Sunday, October 21, 2012
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Douglas Keister presents Stories in Stone: New York
Location: Cypress Lawn’s Reception Center, 2nd Floor of the Administration Building, 1370 El Camino Real, Colma, California
Phone: (650) 550-8811
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.cypresslawnheritagefoundation.com/events.html#walking

Friday, October 26, and Saturday, October 27, 2012
Four tours per night after dark
Lantern Tours of Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery
Costumed actors speak for those in the graves at your feet.
Location: Old City Cemetery, 1000 Broadway, Sacramento
Phone: (800) 839-3006
Admission: $30 + handling fee
Event link: http://www.oldcitycemetery.com/Flyers/Lantern%20Tour_2012_SEPT.pdf

Saturday, October 27, 2012
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
UC Berkeley’s Blue and Gold
Docent-led tour by Ron Bachman and Jane Leroe. Come explore the history of UC Berkeley at Mountain View Cemetery. Meet famous founders, faculty, and alums. Go Bears!
Location: Mountain View Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone: (510) 658-2588
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/calendar.html

Saturday, October 27, 2012
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Spooky Tales at Evergreen Cemetery
Get ready for Halloween with this spook-tacular journey through the cemetery. Docents will tell ghost stories from those buried at Evergreen (Don’t worry, it’s nothing too scary), teach you how to make a tombstone rubbing, send you on a spooky tour through the cemetery and much more. Be sure to wear your costume!
Location: Evergreen Cemetery, Evergreen Street, Santa Cruz, CA, 95060
Phone: (831) 429-1964 x 7020
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.santacruzmah.org/event/spooky-tales-at-evergreen-cemetery/

Saturday, October 27, 2012
Noon – 3 p.m.
7th Annual Pumpkin Festival
Celebrate Halloween at our fun-filled pumpkin patch meadow with free pumpkins, activities, and treats for the kids!
Location: Mountain View Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone: (510) 658-2588
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/calendar.html

Saturday, October 27, 2012
1:30 p.m.
The Only in October Tomb Walk with Michael Svanevik
Join other cemetery enthusiasts and lovers of history, art, and nature in discovering the cultural treasures of our beautiful organic outdoor museum and arboretum. Cypress Lawn has been a part of the San Francisco Bay Area’s cultural heritage since its founding in 1892. It is a 200-acre living museum of magnificent funeral art, architecture and horticulture unlike any other museum in the world: a place full of the life stories of the men and women whose visions and dreams have shaped the Golden State of California.
Location: Tours start at the Noble Chapel located on the East Gardens of Cypress Lawn left past Cypress Lawn’s 120 year old Archway. Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma.
Phone: (650) 550-8810
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.cypresslawnheritagefoundation.com/events.html#walking

Sunday, October 28, 2012
Noon
Halloween Tour of Colma’s Cemeteries
We meet at the Colma BART station at noon, then take a spirited bike tour of several massive cemeteries where famous San Franciscans are buried. We’ll visit Woodlawn, Home of Peace and Hills of Eternity, Cypress Lawn, and Holy Cross.
Location: meet at the COLMA BART STATION at 12 noon
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.chriscarlsson.com/events/event/halloween-tour-of-colmas-cemeteries/

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
5 p.m.
Halloween Walking Tour of the Redding Cemetery
Cemeteries are “history books” that give insight regarding important changes that have occurred in the local area and in society as a whole. The Redding Cemetery is the oldest remaining cemetery in Redding and is the last resting place for many important, famous, and notorious people who lived in or traveled through the area. The walks focuses on the history of cemeteries in the U.S.; symbolism found in cemetery traditions and headstones; and the inter-relationship between people buried here. Actually, history at the cemeteries’ site goes back before there was a town of Redding.
Location: Meet at the Corner of Eureka Way and Continental Street.
Admission: Free
Event link: http://shastahistorical.org/events/

Saturday, November 3, 2012
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Walking Tour of Old St. Mary Cemetery
Join the Historical Society for a walking tour.
Location: Meet at St. Joseph Family Center, 7950 Church Street, Gilroy.
Phone: (408) 846-0446 to RSVP.
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.cityofgilroy.org/cityofgilroy/community/community_calendar/calendar_details.aspx?date=11/3/2012&type=0&typeindex=0

Saturday, November 10, 2012
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Exploring Mountain View Cemetery
This docent-led tour by Stafford Buckley will highlight the people, architecture, beauty and history of the cemetery.
Location: Mountain View Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone: (510) 658-2588
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/calendar.html

Saturday, November 24, 2012
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Symbolism in the Cemetery
This docent-led tour by Sandy Rauch will highlight the architecture and symbolism of the cemetery.
Location: Mountain View Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone: (510) 658-2588
Admission: Free
Event link: http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/calendar.html