Ooh! That’s Interesting! Gold Rush Cemeteries

A few weeks ago, I did a blog post about the Sonora cemetery. At the time, although I’ve been to Sonora many times, I’d never visited the old cemetery. I decided to remedy that last weekend. I dragged my kids out of the fog and up into the Sierra foothills, and we ended up visiting three cemeteries: the old Sonora cemetery, the Sonora Jewish cemetery, and the Columbia cemetery (about 3 or 4 miles away).

I have lots of pics to post, but today I want to share these because they tell intriguing stories.

017 We’ll start with these two men buried in Sonora. First there’s the tale of two men making the long and difficult journey from England to California. They came well after the Gold Rush, so I wonder what brought them. Mining jobs, perhaps–even today, there are active mines in the area. And one of them died pretty young, which was common then. According to this census, he died of “miner’s consumption”. I wonder how they ended up buried together, though. They must have been friends. Business partners? Lovers? Sharing a single gravesite and tombstone seems an intimate thing to do.



044 These two men were also countrymen, this time from Italy. Their headstones don’t tell us how old they were when they died, only that they died a few months apart. They’re buried in Columbia. Their plot is a large one, and I wonder if the entire plot was bought by a collective of Italian immigrants. If anyone else is buried there, there’s no marker.


053This is the one that intrigues me the most of all. It’s just inside the entrance of the Columbia cemetery. Judging by their ages and dates of birth, I’m guessing both men came to California in search of gold–and both met tragedy. Joel died at age 30–we don’t know from what–and Jacob was murdered 4 years later. What interests me isn’t just that they’re buried next to each other. Look at the inscription on Joel’s stone: it says the stone was erected by his friend, Jacob. What kind of friendship did they have that not only involved Jacob paying for the stone, but actually putting his name on it? You don’t have to be a novelist to start imagining possibilities.

Here’s today’s final photo. There’s no mystery here–just my daughters in the Columbia jail.

I hope you’re interested in this part of the country, because I’m getting ready to submit a novel set very near Columbia and Sonora. It’s a contemporary and I am especially in love with the main characters, Jimmy and Shane. It’s called Rattlesnake. I’ll keep you updated.

I have lots more pics to post, plus more photos from the Stockton Asylum, so stay tuned on upcoming Wednesdays!

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