graveyard in marysville california
All the years passing by this graveyard I have always wanted to know the History of it. It looks a bit spooky and kinda reminds me of the beginning of the movie "Night of the Living Dead". So I got intouch with Roberta Shurtz and she was awesome! She gave us a tour through the Graveyard and let me take pictures and video. The graveyard needs constent upkeep so if you are interested in volunteering some of your time please contact Roberta Shurtz.
History of the Marysville City, CA. Cemetery
The Historic Marysville City Cemetery was established in 1850 and the city charter was approved in 1851. One of the first orders was to place fencing around the burial grounds. The streets and pathways were given names such as Locust, Acacia, Agave and many others. This beautiful and interesting Grave-Yard was one of the first “City Owned” Cemeteries west of the Rockies (Sacramento was the first) and is indeed a Pioneer Cemetery. A California Pioneer is someone who was in California before September 9th, 1850. Out of the 125 Male Members of the Marysville Pioneer Society, 30 of them lie within these grounds.
Within the confines of this 14.24 Acre Graveyard there are over 10,000 people buried here. Among them are Masons, odd fellows, Chinese, woodmen of the world, Black, Japanese and military Ppots. The Jewish section is set aside in the southwest section and owned by the Jewish people. The first Burial in this section was in 1855. It seems that the Jewish people have a tradition where they purchase land for their cemetery wherever they settle. Included in the Marysville City Cemetery are a “Babies” section and a potter’s field, sometimes called pauper’s row. (An ancient term of Biblical origin)
The thousands buried without marble or stone of any sort were given a burial number that is one the cemetery map as well as the burial book at City Hall. The Burial Register with the burial number was placed upon the graves of those of little means. “Pauper’s Row” originated in England as a term for those of little means. During 1850, S.R. Tull buried unknown deceased paupers for the county and probably for their private individuals.
It wasn’t until 1851 that a professional undertaker came to town. The first Sexton (one in charge of burials in cemeteries was Ebenezer Hamilton who came to California in 1849. He was also an undertaker and held the position of sexton until around 1870. During that time period, he refused to surrender Burial Records to the City unless they paid him. They refused. His wife inherited the records and also wanted the money. The city never got the records, so the burials between 1850 and 1870 are a missing fragment of gold rush history. Our city was fortunate that the cholera was not as prevalent as it was in Sacramento where 500 were buried in mass graves.
Unmarked graves were a common occurrence in the early west, especially on the wagon trains where 1000’s died of cholera along the way. Many graves were not marked as protection from marauding Indians. There was no protection from the animals and, although rock slabs were used and tailgates from wagons, the gravers were still ravaged. Many mining camps had not established burying grounds; the only requirement was that it be ground “free of gold.”
Funerals of the 1990’s and earlier were often held at home. The family prepared the body and services were held in the parlor. The deceased was taken to the cemetery for burial. Coffin “warerooms”, hearse and carriage and burial robes were available, as well as several undertakers during the period of the gold rush.
McReady and Brothers were the first marble carvers in 1859, Italian marble and granite were commonly used for head stones. One monument in this cemetery was made of metal. Many of the bricks surrounding different graves were laid by Isaac McComas, a brickmason.
In the earlier times, death was time for extensive mourning. Black bordered funeral notices were nailed on trees and posted up and down the countryside. Female’s relatives made trips t the dressmaker to have new dresses made of black material to be worn for the next year as a symbol of their mourning.
Some of the old superstitions concerning cemeteries and death still continue to this day. Most graves face east and west in order to face the sun as it came up. However, one old timer requested his grave face north and south so he would not be turned heard over heels as the world removed with would just roll over.