Gateway to Yosemite
Exact Center of California
Westfall Burial Ground
Off Highway 41 at Westfall Ranger Station
In 1968 an article in the Fresno Bee (a newspaper
in Fresno County California) ran an article asking for information about
a grave site found in the Sierra Nevada mountains, below the Westfall Ranger
Station. The article reads as follows:
"On a lonely hillside under the big pines, about a mile west of 41 highway, and near Westfall Ranger Station, are two graves, tended for many years by Cora Ives. Since her death in 1966, Joe Schmeller, U.S. Forrest Service Bass Lake District, and his wife and four children have placed a fence around the graves and cleared the debris from them, honoring the One grave has a marker that states "J. E. La Touche died May 17, 1893, aged 45 years nine months. At the top is the word father. Was his father here in the woods with him? Who was he? What did he do? The other grave had only a broken wooden cross with O Neill on it. Schmeller has replaced this with a sturdy wooden marker and seeks information about the correct spelling and complete initials and date for O Neill, so the grave may be marked properly. Was he the homesteader that built his log cabin beside the hidden meadow about 3 miles west of Westfall Station? If so he probably came to the mountains in the 1880's for his health. The homesteader was cutting post sections one day, his saw blade pinched, the log rolled on his legs, he could not get to water, tried to dig out with his hands but died there. In 1928 Cora Ives moved to the meadow, which was a grazing allotment owned by the Ives family. For many years she shared her knowledge of wild life and wild flowers in her writings. Anyone knowing more of the history of O'Neal or the O'Neill whose grave she tended or about J. E. LaTouche is asked to contact Joe Schmeller, Bass Lake District Ranger, Oakhurst. The meadow lies green and lush, surrounded by trees. A timber sale is in progress and an improved campground is planned along Carter Creek nearby. The old cabin has been torn down and a Boy Scout Troop will stage a cleanup as part of their conservation program. The rotting grape arbor still stands, the orchard trees still blossom each spring, and a yellow roses blooms, as if in memory of those who lived here."
Sharon Hillhouse adds the following on J. E. Latouche:
I got my information from a newspaper article in the Fresno Bee dated 6/18/1968. Last year a forest ranger found the site for me and drew a map. I visited this summer  and found the grave no longer has a headstone. Previously there was a headstone with the date of death. There is an old fence and one other grave marked as O'Neil. Mr. J. E. Latouche was the husband of Phebe E. Branson of Hornitos and father of William, Isaac, Henry, Jeannie and an infant girl.
Zelda Dubel adds the following:
John Rufus "Ruff" O'Neil died at age 55 (Obituary: Mariposa Gazette 26 Sept 1891).
From "As We Were Told," (1990, Coarsegold Hist. Soc.), page 75, interview
of Lewis Kinser Duncan 25 Oct 1983.
O'Neals Meadow. "The other grave was George LaToush's. He had a cabin in the timber by Miami Lodge, above Miami Road. The Madera Sugar Pine Company owned all timber except this little place he had--ten or fifteen acres. Timber was being cut around his house. The loggers told him to get out because they were going to fall the timber and if he didn't leave, they might fall a tree through his house. He owned the land and didn't think they had a right, so he didn't leave. The loggers cut a great tree which did fall through the cabin and killed him. Those are the two people who are buried in the little cemetery alongside the road. My grandmother told this story."
Last update: 30 June 2004
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