Thursday, June 4, 2009

Searching For The Old Cemetery

Once I asked a professional genealogist what was her best tip. Without hesitating she said “maps.” I have thought of her often as I have used several maps trying to locate the old cemetery in town. Maps and lots of clues from any source.

Kathleen, a fellow researcher, and I have followed every clue available. We have scoured the newspaper, the maps, the obituaries, the deeds in both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Some written histories mention the old burying grounds briefly. Each word is a clue to us. “North of the depot”. “North of the tracts”. “On the bank of the wash”. “On the north bank of the wash”. “North of town”. The only thing for sure is that it is north.

The new cemetery was started in 1892, that is agreed upon by all historians and we found the deed for verification. With that in mind I checked the several transcribed projects to find any grave before 1892 in the new and current cemetery. They must have been moved from the old cemetery. I looked for the obituaries and almost without fail they say “burial at the cemetery north of town.” Apparently there was no real name for the cemetery. I picture the carriage carrying a coffin down Main Street to the makeshift cemetery, but then what? This ground is very hard because it is packed clay. I would hate to leave someone I loved in a makeshift grave “north of town.” A cemetery is supposed to be pretty and peaceful, with a fence around it and a caretaker. Corona, known as South Riverside at the time, was all scrub and desert back then.

My research tells me there were only about a dozen burials at the old cemetery. Then the floods of the winter of 1891/92 came. It rained so hard it was impossible to get to the cemetery (another clue?). Since it was on the north bank of the (Temescal) Wash, did the cemetery wash out or could one just not get across the bank to the cemetery? A group of citizens decided at this point to relocate the cemetery and form a cemetery association. This part is well documented.

In trying to locate the old cemetery, the route of the creek/wash/river has been changed. This is one more minor complication. Thank Goodness for the old maps.

I was hoping to find some articles in the newspaper that would describe carriages bringing the old burials to the new cemetery. Not a one. Wouldn’t that be noteworthy? That would be in the paper today if something like that happened. An aside: it sure would be noteworthy if horses and carriages went through town hauling old coffins down Main Street in 2009! I went through the newspapers several times and Kathleen went through several more times to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

There were also people that died after the flood and before the new cemetery was formed; these bodies were buried wherever space was available. Usually they were buried on their own property. The newspaper would indicate the location, such as “on the property of H.H. Anderson on Main Street” and state “deposited for the present.”

Still another complication: some persons that died before the formation of the present Sunnyslope Cemetery on Rimpau in Corona are found in the then new Sunnyslope cemetery, while others can’t be found anywhere yet. They must have been moved somewhere else, or they have no marker, or they were forgotten.

We may never find the exact locations of these displaced loved ones, but I can point with confidence as I drive down Main Street, north of the depot and pass the Wash and say “It is in this area.”

Of course it is most important to locate the people; their stories continue and need to be told.

I feel like I am on a treasure hunt!

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