Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rose Hill Cemetery Visit November 2008

I recently made it out to Rose Hill Cemetery, and the family and I were blessed to enjoy a beautiful day of it. I've actually been to Rose Hill cemetery once before, about 7 years ago, before my interest in genealogy really got going. It's a beautiful spot in what is now the Black Diamond Mines Regional Park. Located on the outskirts of the Bay Area, and set back in a cove of hills, Rose Hill is located in what used to constitute a booming mining area in the nineteenth and early-twentieth century. After the mines closed, the area was vacated and the towns that the cemetery once served (Somersville and Nortonville) were abandoned. Here's a view of one of the former townsites today (to prove that when I say abandoned, I really mean "not a trace left"):



After dealing with the consequences of a cemetery on lockdown, it was interesting to visit a relatively rural cemetery that suffered egregiously from years of being unguarded. According to literature from the park service that now owns the land on which the cemetery is located (East Bay Regional Park District) the cemetery was decimated by vandalism from the 1950's through the 1970's. Trucks were driven around the cemetery and smashed into gravestones, and headstones were even stolen. As a result, only about 64 headstones remain in the cemetery, out of hundreds of burials. The cemetery now looks in better shape, as it is under the care of the EBRPD, but there are still aching reminders of what is missing in the many, many jagged headstone fragments left on their bases:



To make matters more complicated, The Black Diamond Mining Company kept their records, which included burial records for the cemetery, at their offices in San Francisco, and those records were apparently destroyed in the fires after the Great Earthquake. I ran across some great articles (like this one and this one) detailing the work of one woman who is working to restore the cemetery and re-establish a listing of all burials within it. I hope to track her down and talk to her about the cemetery more in-depth.

The area in which the cemetery is located is beautiful, and typical of the landscape around here. The hills are a lovely dry golden color throughout most of the year. They take on a greenish hue towards late spring, at least in years when we've had enough rain (which hasn't been any year of late!).

Here's a shot of the cemetery from the trail. As you can see, the cypress trees make it stand out, otherwise it is a lonely little perch on the side of the hill:



For more perspective, here's a longer shot:



From within the cemetery, here are some shots looking back to where the above photos were taken:





I spent about an hour or so photographing all of the remaining headstones, and placed those photos online here.

Some of my favorite headstones:







All in all, a small cemetery, but an historic one. Again, to see photos of all of the surviving headstones, visit the Rose Hill Cemetery page on my website.

3 comments:

Judith Richards Shubert said...

What a beautiful, beautiful place. Your photographs have such a wistful, lonely but comforting look. You've done a great job on this post.

Judy

Apollo Idol Prudence said...

actually there are traces left of the communities of Summervile, lots of old crubled brick. As well, digouts where buildings used to be.

Rock on. Beautiful pics

samantha said...

I found this lovely cemetery in Feb. 1950; I was out riding my horse and stopped to rest awhile. The grave stones seemed to reveal a pretty sad time for a lot of families; most were young people- probably struggling mine workers. There are probably many stories of them that we can only suppose.
In 1973 I happened to attend a show of Ansel Adams photos. There in that group was the Cemetery and the cypress trees! I was delighted. Thanks for my trip to Rose Hill after such a long time. Samantha