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Cemetarios of Old Monterey

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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:10 pm    Post subject: Cemetarios of Old Monterey Reply with quote

IN THE MATTER of early cemetarios, nearly all the first settlers and soldiers, with their families in and about Monterey—from the Monterey River (Salinas) to the Santa Lucias—were laid to rest in and about the Royal Presidio Chapel. Of record, with baptisms and marriages, in the Church register.

The second place of interment of the gente de razon, as shown on the old maps, adjoined the north wall of the Presidio. It is marked today by the east line of Tyler Street at Pearl. A griseled old cypress, gnarled and twisted by the storms of a century, keeps vigil over the resting-place of many Hispanic pioneers; likewise, a beautiful old pepper tree, whose branches sweep the remnants of a stone wall that may, or may not, be a part of the original enclosing wall.

The next cemetario was established on the east bank of El Estero in 1832, on a soft rise from the lake, where it still takes to its bosom those who "fall asleep in the Lord."

There is not in California a more interesting "God's Acre," Its occupants and its epitaphs deserve a monograph by a sympathetic interpreter.

From the dank, picket-fenced family plot of Don Jose Abrego, with its quaint obelisk monuments, large and small—the small over the little ones that left the hearthstone cold—to the unforgettable tomb of beautiful Kathleen Peters and her little son, who perished together in flames—wife and child of Charles Rollo Peters, the famous painter of nocturnes—it is a mellow garden of romance for those who possess the spirit, and the leisure, to explore it.

On the main drive is the grave of Dona Rosalia Vallejo Leese, wife of Jacob P, Leese, and sister of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo—a lonely, grassy spot on the east side. It is chiefly of interest now, because of the much-discussed tablet in San Francisco, at the corner of Clay Street and Grant Avenue, concerning the birth of her daughter—put into position a few years ago by a patriotic society of Nordic women. More patriotic than informed. The tablet reads: "SPOT WHERE THE FIRST WHITE CHILD WAS BORN IN SAN FRANCISCO—1838” Following the Nordic line of thought to a logical con-clusion, Dona Rosalia was only half "white," since her mother was of Spanish blood, having been born in Monterey. The "first white child"—beloved of one-hundred-per-cent Americans—"born in San Francisco" was born at Mission Dolores in August, 1776, to the De Sotos, according to the baptismal records at the Mission. A mere detail of sixty-one years earlier. If the dear ladies had substituted "Yerba Buena" for San Francisco, they would not have gone so far afield from established facts; but Dona Rosalia would still be only half "white," on their own basis of race classification. Another interesting grave is that of Mary Smith. Who Mary was does not appear. But she must have been an insistent person, for on her tombstone appears, "ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF MARY SMITH. BY HER HUSBAND. SHE WAS ALWAYS RIGHT."

As stated elsewhere, Charles Warren Stoddard sleeps under a cypress tree—he loved them always—not far from Dona Rosalia, a tile from Carmel Mission upon which to rest his head.

East of the cemetario is the City's "God's Acre." Here are buried many of the dramatic characters of the later days—the late '60s, '70s and '80s, when Monterey had taken on the externals of a "tough" town—in its own terms, part "Greaser," part "Gringo." And the leaders of the Old Town, Americanos dominating, were thrown into strong relief by need of their force and character—though many had force without character. Alas, "The evil that men do lives after them, tho' the good is oft interred with their bones."
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