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The Secret Garden…

Treasures from Highgate Cemetery

A 170 year old cemetery is not typically on a “To Visit While in London” list.  However, Highgate, a mysteriously overgrown and historically elegant cemetery should be a definite addition as it represents a unique view of Victorian tastes and social pretensions.

Curiosity is whetted by the some of the more fascinating tombstones such as Nero the Lion, protecting owner George Wombwell who was the English forerunner of Barnum and Bailey. His collection of exotic animals became a highlight of British town fairs in Victorian times. Over there is the column to scandalous George Eliot who deliciously shocked society by openly living with her married lover. Then shocking them all again by marrying a man 20 years her junior. Beyond that curve in the path is Elizabeth Siddal, the model for drowned Ophelia who is still so familiar today. And of course, bare knuckle prize fighter, World Heavyweight Champion Tom Sayers is here, watched over by his faithful dog.  

 

And there are so many more tombstones tucked away in various nooks and crannies of Highgate. But perhaps the most important question of how all of this came to be, should be answered first. 

Highgate was one of seven cemeteries established in Victorian times to accommodate a rising demand for burial plots. Traditionally, the dead were buried in and around the local churchyards that operated as the common focal point in smaller town society.  To this day, old family generational plots dotting the English countryside can still be seen.  However, during Victorian times something occurred that dramatically changed this aspect – something called the Industrial Revolution.  More jobs were to be found in the factories than on the farms, thus more people were migrating to the bigger cities.  More people in larger cities meant a greater strain on urban resources resulting in fewer available burial sites. As a result, burials beneath church floorboards, the re-use of plots, river-dumping and body snatching by medical students, became the norm. To counter these occurrences, seven cemeteries were established in and around London. Out of these seven, Highgate arguably became the most elegant and socially desirable of them all and today, the visitor finds many unique architectural treasures from the Victorian period.

 

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Soquel Cemetery: Generations of Metaphors

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Soquel, California (pronounced “so-kell”) is a quiet town off the Northern California coastline, rooted within Spanish land grants dating back to 1776. Located approximately 70 miles south of San Francisco, most beach tourists driving the winding Highway 1 route to Santa Cruz beach spots rarely give it a second thought. However, those opting for the quieter, redwood tree-lined back roads have an opportunity to see this town first hand.

To the left and on the hill from the main four corners is a beautiful New England-styled church. Straight down the street is the unique Porter Memorial Library built in 1912 while to the right, is the Ugly Mug coffee house. But it’s the spot just outside of town at 550 Old San Jose Road that draws the most interest from fans of Skip Spence and genealogists tracing family history.

cemetery sign_SP

Photo by Shelly Peters

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Teddy’s Story: Decoding the kanji stones

This week’s guest post comes from Kristy Lommen whose website serves as a tribute to the Auburn area’s Japanese communities, both past and present. Over the past year, Ms. Lommen worked with Yoshiko Kato to decode as many of kanji stones as possible before they faded away. Here is one of their discoveries:

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

When Yoshiko Kato visited the cemetery to translate the kanji stones, I was particularly excited when she reached the fourth marker in the first row. Although the family surnames had been previously translated from most of the stones, this particular stone was marked on our transcript with only a mysterious, black question mark. We had, at that time, not even the least idea who might be buried in that grave.

Yoshiko kneeled in front of the marker, leaning forward and backward alternately in order to make sense of the nearly illegible marks. She resorted to using a finger to attempt to trace the kanji, gleaning by feel information that proved to be too faint to read by eye.

At this fourth stone she almost immediately announced that “Sato” was the family name, but the given name seemed to puzzle her. She was expecting a traditional Japanese name, but after studying the writing for some time, she reached a different conclusion. “Teddy,” she said, rocking back on her heels. “You know, like a teddy bear? It says Teddy. Teddy Goro.”

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

The image that “Teddy” brought to mind was that of a child, perhaps even a baby, who tragically passed away early in life (as was too often the case for the children of Auburn’s Japanese families).

A few steps away from Teddy Goro’s grave was another Sato marker. From this gravestone Yoshiko was able to read “Junko” as the given name and October 9, 1931 as the date of death. Were Junko Sato and Teddy Goro Sato related? On that sunny afternoon when Yoshiko visited the cemetery, there was no way to know.

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

Subsequent research eventually answered our questions about the Sato Family. We discovered that Komakichi Sato arrived in the United States in about 1907. He first settled in Tacoma and established himself there as a businessman—he operated a laundry in the city’s downtown district. His early days were otherwise shrouded in mystery.

There is some indication that he may have had a family when he lived in Japan, and that some of his relatives may have come with him to the United States. He was perhaps even widowed by the time he came to Tacoma. Nevertheless, we do know that he married Sayo Naikaido sometime around 1921. Their first child together was a son named Buell Kazuro Sato. Just over a year after Buell’s birth, Sayo gave birth to a second son, Crayton Akira Sato.

Sometime after Crayton’s birth, Komakichi turned the laundry business over to a young relative, Tatsuo Sato. Komakichi and Sayo then moved on, eventually landing in Auburn, Washington, where the family made their living by farming. They can be found there in the 1930 Federal Census with their older boys and two younger children, daughter Lena and son Yoshi. Sayo must have been pregnant at the time the census-taker visited the family. She gave birth to a daughter, Junko, on June 4, 1930.

As we learned at the cemetery, Junko passed away on October 9, 1931. She would have been a 16-month-old toddler. She was probably walking by that age and learning to talk too. She was certainly developing her own personality and learning, as toddlers do, to charm both beloved adults and total strangers. Her loss at such a young, enchanting age must have been a tragic blow to the family. Unfortunately, losing children early in life wasn’t unusual in those years, and, no matter what, life went on for the surviving family.

Two years later Sayo gave birth to another son, James. Daughters Reiko and Mitsuko followed in 1935 and 1936 respectively. Finally, on March 20, 1938 Sayo gave birth to her last child: a little boy named Teddy Goro. This little brother was, tragically, almost exactly the same magic age as Junko had been when he too died of unknown causes and was buried in the Auburn Cemetery.

Like all of Auburn’s Japanese, the surviving Sato Family was sent to internment camps in 1942 after the outbreak of World War II just a few months earlier. The Satos were sent first to California’s Pinedale Assembly Center before being sent on to Tule Lake.

After the war, the family did not return to Washington; perhaps they didn’t have the means to re-establish themselves there. Instead they put down roots in Hayward, California. They were there in the 1950’s when, after more than 40 years in their adopted country, Komakichi and Sayo Sato were finally able to petition for U.S. citizenship.

Komakichi, regrettably, lived only a few years after this momentous event. He died in California in 1958; Sayo passed away there in 1974. Both are buried in Mt. Eden Cemetery in Hayward, California.

Although Junko and Teddy Goro’s family longer live in Washington State, it’s comforting to know that their family, including some of their siblings and many nieces and nephews, continues to live and thrive even today. I’m sure both Junko and Teddy hold special places in their memories.

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A sincere thank you to Kristy and Yoshiko for their work in discovering this story behind one of earliest Japanese families in Auburn. For a more general overview, please see a previous Beyond The Ghost article, Auburn Pioneer Cemetery: a tiny cemetery with many stories.

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Auburn Pioneer Cemetery: A tiny cemetery with many stories

Auburn Pioneer entry way

“One of these days, I’m going to check that place out.”

Everyone has an Auburn Pioneer Cemetery in their life. It’s that one place we see every day that piques our interest as we drive to and from work. Sometimes the traffic or red light gives us a chance to look more closely as we pass by. We take a moment to admire the archway’s elegant carving and idly survey the rows of moss-covered stones. Then we wonder how a cemetery ever got sandwiched between a boat seller and a major thoroughfare.

The boat seller’s shop

But then traffic speeds up or the light turns green and suddenly, the day’s demands crowd everything else out. Work, grocery runs, children, or upcoming project presentations block out everything but the daily necessities. The idea of visiting a non-descript cemetery disappears until the next time we’re held up and need to kill two minutes worth of time before moving on.

And once again, the intriguing entry way beckons.

The demarcation line

For those who do manage to finally get to Auburn Pioneer, a number of intriguing perspectives compete for the visitor’s attention almost immediately upon entering the site. On the side closest to the boat seller’s shop are rows of seemingly identical, almost-homemade, Japanese markers…

Cement markers from the 1920s

…while located on the side closest to the highway, are the more haphazardly situated, pioneer headstones. It almost seems as if there’s a deliberate separation between the early Japanese and pioneering settlers. Further research in the White River Museum archives shows this to be the case.

While the actual cemetery was originally the burial plot for a local family (Rachel Ann and John Faucett) who established their homestead in 1864, the Japanese community was not granted the right to inter family remains here until 1917, when they were finally permitted a 25-foot strip of land. Following that, burial eligibility depended on whether one had an ancestor already buried in the cemetery.

The Faucett family markers

Local cemetery researcher and writer, Kristy Lommen, reminds us that, “Early Japanese burials were often marked with wooden stakes but in the fall of 1928, the Rev. Giryo Takemura of the Buddhist Church, with the assistance of his father-in-law Chiyokichi Natsuhara, created concrete markers to replace the early, perishable wooden markers. Most of these concrete markers—many in a deteriorated state—are still in place as the sole markers of their respective graves.”

Kanji-style writing closeup

A closer examination of the cement markers reveals the 1920’s kanji-styled calligraphy is still visible on many stones while others are quickly succumbing to the Pacific Northwest weather.

Pacific NW weathering effects

A boulder runs through it

Another peculiar sight is a massive rock situated almost smack in the middle of the cemetery itself.

A dedicated pioneer memorial

Carrying a plaque dedicated to the earliest pioneering families, the stone isn’t just one of those typically generic memorials. No, this boulder was a deliberate, in-your-face response to an argument between the City of Auburn and the descendants of those buried at the site.

According to records from the 1950s, the city proposed straightening out the main highway running past the site (Auburn Way North). This idea meant slicing off a large portion of the western side of Auburn Pioneer Cemetery and ultimately, exhuming a large number of burial plots. For a while, it looked as though the city would get its desired right-of-way until a re-discovery of additional pioneer burials came to light. As a means of putting a stop to the swarming tar trucks and construction equipment, the local pioneering heritage group decided to take matters into their own hands. “We put a big rock right in the middle of where they wanted to go.”

However, it wasn’t until 1965 when the commemorative plaque was formally affixed and dedicated during a special ceremony.

The case of mistaken identity

Angeline Seattle – courtesy White River Museum

One of the more surprising headstones in this cemetery is the one for Angeline Seattle, who died in 1907. Often confused with the famous Princess Angeline, daughter of Chief Seattle, Auburn Pioneer’s Angeline was Angeline Tumas. She and her husband were farmers and members of the local Muckleshoot Indian tribe. The more well-known Princess Angeline is buried in Lot 111 of Seattle’s Lakeview Cemetery and unlike the Auburn Angeline’s elaborate marker, Princess Angeline’s grave is marked by a rough cut stone and plaque.

A lingering sadness

The Kato family murder/suicide

Probably the most well-known story from Auburn Pioneer Cemetery involves the Kato family tragedy.

The 1930s were difficult times for most Americans but for the Kato family, financial difficulties and apparent ill-health eventually became insurmountable. By 1937, suicide seemed the only way out. On Valentine’s Day, the wife and four children ingested sleeping pills and after falling into a deep sleep, were killed by the husband, Enichi.

The original plan had Enichi following his loved ones into death but curiously, this never happened. Worrying that there would be no funeral markers for his family, he buried the bodies in the back yard and left for California. Presumably, he sought to earn enough to pay for individual headstones before taking his own life.

Law enforcement officials eventually caught up with Enichi and he was sentenced to life in prison.

The original stones – courtesy White River Museum

In time, local community collection efforts pooled enough money to pay for a family marker with four jizo statues signifying the children’s tragic death. Unfortunately, the statues’ mysterious smiles proved too irresistible and three jizos were stolen from the cemetery.

What now remains…

Eventually, one statue was returned after it was discovered masquerading as a local garden gnome. Visitors peeking around the northwestern foliage can still see the two remaining statues keeping their poignant guard over the Kato family plot.

Note: A special thanks to the White River Museum journal archives and to researcher/writer Kristy Lommen, Auburn Pioneer Cemetery webmaster. For those readers interested in learning more about the 1920s kanji stones, Ms. Lommen’s previous article posting can be found here.

 

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The ghost town of Bodie, California

If you ever find yourself wandering the Eastern Sierras, this is one of the most spectacular places you can visit (besides Mono Lake where Clint Eastwood filmed Pale Rider). I love this area so much, I couldn’t resist re-posting this article.

The lonely road back to civilization

Hundreds of miles from civilization.

Gold is a funny thing.

It will drive a human being to live far out on a desolate, arid plateau baked by summer heat, frozen by zero degree winter temperatures and blown apart from vicious blizzards and 100+ mph winds. Keeping warm means lighting a fire with expensive, imported lumber and, due to the gold’s remote location, probably everything (food, liquor, clothing, wood) has to be brought in over a long, dusty trail, making the camp one of the most expensive and dreariest places to live.

All this for an opportunity to strike, gamble, or steal it rich.

Bodie, California started out pretty much like most mining towns. In 1859, a prospecting group that included former New York State resident, W.S. Bodey, found gold in the desolate California wastelands east of Tioga Pass.

By 1876, 30 miners were living in the Bodie mining camp. Four years later, there were 10,000.

Unfortunately, W.S. Bodey never realized the potential of his little mining site as in 1860, he was caught in a blizzard while getting supplies from Mono City, 26 miles away. However, from 1877 to the late 1880s, the town boomed and predictions of it being the next Comstock Lode ran rampant. Yet where Comstock produced almost $400 million in gold and silver ore, Bodie was only able to produce approximately 8% of that payload, or $34 million. Nonetheless, the town did its best to keep up other appearances where rowdy mining life was concerned.

The red light district, complete with brothels, opium and gambling dens, was found at the north end of town and at one time there were approximately 65 saloons to choose from. With nowhere else to go after a hard day’s work but the saloons and brothels, it’s little wonder at least one killing per day was estimated. As a result, the cemetery quickly became filled up with markers commemorating fatal gun, knife or fistfights.

Unfortunately, few of these wooden markers have survived over the decades and those that remain, are mostly stone memorials. Interestingly enough, while Bodie had its own Chinatown, few Chinese, were buried here. Instead, their remains were shipped back to China as soon as possible to be joined with family ancestors on native soil.

One marker seen near the cemetery is dedicated to Rosa May. Rosa May was a prostitute who allegedly helped nurse the sick miners during an epidemic but her line of work did not allow for a burial inside the cemetery gates.

Rosa May - nurse during an epidemic

Rosa May – nurse during an epidemic

Another sad story concerns Lottie and Eli Johl.

Lottie worked at one of the Bodie brothels and Eli was the town butcher. They fell in love and eventually married, much to proper society’s dismay. As a result, Lottie was never accepted into ‘normal’ social circles and the two lived a comfortable but lonely life without friends on the edge of town. After her death, she was allowed a burial just inside the cemetery gates and Eli built her a magnificent memorial which he decorated in her honor each Memorial Day.

Eventually, as the town slipped further into decline, Eli made the hard decision to move away, leaving his Lottie behind. By 1921, there were 31 people living in Bodie.

By 1940, only 20 remained.

In 1961, the town was designated a National Landmark and in 1962, it became Bodie Historic State Park. During the summer, thousands will make the difficult drive in to visit, making it one of the most well-known ghost towns in the country.

Below is a YouTube video clearly showing Bodie’s desolate environment.

Below is a YouTube video giving an overview of Bodie’s place in history.

 

Other resources:

• Find A Grave: Bodie Cemetery listings

The Bodie Photo Gallery

• Google Books: Bodie’s Gold: Tall Tales and True History from a California Mining Town

• Google Books: Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra, Lottie & Eli Johl

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Crown Hill Cemetery, Part II

Disease, fire, and unsolved mysteries… 

 (this is a continuation from Crown Hill Cemetery Part I)

The infant & children’s section

 

Crown Hill denotes more than a risky sawmill legacy.

The community’s early years were also difficult times for infants and children. The cemetery has at least two sections filled with closely placed rows of markers that poignantly testify to childhood disease and infections during those pre-vaccination times. Typhoid, cholera, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and even the 1918 influenza epidemic. All of these left their mark.

Another view of the children’s section

 

Fire also left its mark.

In 1919, a fire broke out in the cemetery office that destroyed just about all of the records. Luckily, copies were at an offsite location, although many were incomplete. This necessitated a re-walk of the grounds in order to confirm the simple plat record information. Today, a library search is recommended for those searching out in-depth family information requests but for those genealogists armed with names and looking for a stone, the caretaker can help with dates and marker locations.

Today

Japanese jizo marker

 

As with most local neighborhood cemeteries, time and real estate transfers make their marks. Walk westward away from the older Scandinavian section and other ethnicities begin to appear. Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and even a few quirky stones catch the eye.   Even the mysterious Mary Anderson, also known as The Cipher in Room 214, has become part of today’s Crown Hill Cemetery community.

And then there’s Lilly’s unsolved murder.

Lounging Lilly

 

Lilly was a 5-year old tabby cat that wandered into the cemetery offices in 1998.  Like most cats, she imperiously  decided this would be her new home and from that day on, all humans either working in, around, or even visiting a family memorial would bow down before her.

And so they did.

Lilly became known for her quiet devotion to the office staff, a friendly approach toward visitors, and her love of picnic table sun-bathing. Tragedy struck after a failed burglary attempt in which she was brutally stabbed to death. Attempts to find the responsible person came to nothing and today, she’s buried with her catnip and her favorite toy not too far from where she used to sun herself.

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Crown Hill Cemetery: Part I

A sawmill heritage 

Crown Hill Cemetery, Seattle WA

 

It takes a little bit of effort to find Crown Hill Cemetery near Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Surrounded by hedgerows and with a sign half-swallowed by rhododendrons, the low profile is so effective, some local residents don’t even realize it’s there. And that’s how the old Scandinavians probably would have liked it.

Acknowledged heritage

 

Ballard was a mill town in Seattle. It was made up of sawmills and ship chandleries and machine shops and fishing docks and dry docks. It was a place of working men, hardworking people, union men with big calloused hands, some of whom died young because they worked too hard. Ballard was not pretty…just a district of honest immigrant Swedes, Norwegians and Finns who sought to make their lives better, who sought dignity and decency without flair or fanfare.” *

Overview

 

Pine, cedar, and fir trees are scattered throughout the site, offering both shade and a reminder of the area’s logging roots. Another surprising aspect is the amount of seemingly open, park-like space in the oldest sections. The unexpected, in-ground headstones can claim this credit. Discreetly receding into the lined distance, the markers are simply inscribed with such old-fashioned names like Hedwig, Torbjorg, Inga, and Lars.

Hedwig Wicks: 1872-1943

 

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