City’s first Jewish cemetery was located in today’s East Sacramento

By LANCE ARMSTRONG / Valley Community Newspapers writer

The East Sacramento/midtown Sacramento area is undoubtedly one of the most historic sections of the city, considering that this area is home to Sutter’s Fort, the site of the 1839 settlement, which predates the founding of the city of Sacramento by a decade. When the city was only about a year old, Sacramento’s first Jewish cemetery was founded about a half-mile north of the fort.
The Home of Peace cemetery on Stockton Boulevard replaced the original Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento in 1924. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

The Home of Peace cemetery on Stockton Boulevard replaced the original Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento in 1924. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

Across the street from the area’s first cemetery, Sutter’s Burial Ground – later known as the New Helvetia Cemetery – which had its first interment in 1845, was the aforementioned Jewish cemetery.

Property for this Jewish cemetery, which was located on J Street, between what would be 32nd Street, if the street were to extend to this location, and 33rd streets, was purchased in 1850 from Ring Rose J. Watson by Louis Schaub, in trust for the Hebrew Benevolent Society.

Moses Hyman, a prominent merchant who came to the area from New Orleans in 1849 with Samuel Harris Goldstein, donated $150 to the Jewish Benevolent Society for the establishment of the cemetery.

Cemetery’s first resident

An account regarding Hyman and Goldstein is documented in the June 3, 1850 edition of the Placer Times – Sacramento’s first newspaper – as follows:

“On the downward trip of the (steamboat) Gov. Dana on Friday (May 30, 1850), Mr. Harris Goldstein, a merchant of Marysville, fell overboard in an attempt to get a bucket of water from the (Feather) River, about four miles below Marysville. He swam well at first, and all aboard, including his son, about 14 years of age, had perfect confidence that he would reach the shore. He was observed to turn on his back, as if to rest himself, and then sank to rise no more. He had some $1,600 in (gold) dust on his person. We are furnished with numerous testimony to Capt. Young’s exertions to rescue him. The scene, when hope had fled, was most distressing. The agony of his son (Jacob) drew forth many a manly tear of sympathy and the truest commisseration (sic) was expressed for the wife (Rosina) and children home in New Orleans.”

This headstone marks the gravesite of Samuel Harris Goldstein, who was possibly the first person buried at the Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

This headstone marks the gravesite of Samuel Harris Goldstein, who was possibly the first person buried at the Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

Although it is unknown where Goldstein was originally buried, his remains were re-interred in the Jewish cemetery on J Street and later moved to the city’s current Jewish cemetery, Home of Peace of Sacramento, which is located on Stockton Boulevard at El Paraiso Avenue.

Robert Wascou, cemetery project coordinator of the Jewish Genealogical Society, said that based on his personal research, he believes Goldstein may have been the first person to be buried at the Jewish cemetery on J Street.

“At the time of Goldstein’s death, there was no Jewish cemetery in Sacramento, so therefore he would have been buried in another cemetery,” Wascou said. “Since the New Helvetia Cemetery was closed to burials due to recurrent flooding, he was likely buried in the city cemetery (which was established at the present day corner of Broadway and Riverside Boulevard in 1849). Unfortunately, there was no superintendent of the city cemetery at that time and no records were kept. My feeling is that he was probably the first or one of the first people buried in the Jewish cemetery, because of his friendship with Moses Hyman.”

Hyman later had another connection with Goldstein, as he married his widow, Rosina.

Original location on J Street

During the existence of the city’s original Jewish cemetery, which is presently the site of about a dozen businesses, including the historic Club Raven at 3246 J St., about 500 bodies were buried at the cemetery.

Early additions to the Jewish cemetery occurred in 1863 with the construction of a chapel and a brick wall, which bordered the cemetery.

This present day view of J Street in East Sacramento shows the site of the city’s first Jewish cemetery. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

This present day view of J Street in East Sacramento shows the site of the city’s first Jewish cemetery. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

A reference to the Jewish cemetery in the May 29, 1886 edition of The Sacramento Union describes the site as follows: “This cemetery is well kept and contains many handsome monuments, five of which were placed in position during the last month. This cemetery is under the charge of Nicholas Mohns.”

Mohns, who resided at 2830 O St., where Meritage Insurance is presently located, maintained the title of the cemetery’s sexton, a position that he also held at the New Helvetia Cemetery by as early as 1889.

During this era, the cemetery was located near Nehemiah, Albert and George Clark’s Pacific Pottery at 34th and J streets.

The Clarks’ business, however, was destroyed by fire during the afternoon of Dec. 18, 1887. The fire was reported to have originated in the kiln room on the eastern end of the business’s two-story, wood-frame, main structure.

Move to present location

In 1924, the property for the Jewish cemetery on Stockton Boulevard was purchased from Walter W. Bassett, a bank cashier who resided at 1224 40th St.

Club Raven at 3246 J St. is the most notable landmark on the former site of the Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Club Raven at 3246 J St. is the most notable landmark on the former site of the Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

While observing historic Home of Peace records, Wascou presented the following information regarding the relocation of the remains at Sacramento’s original Jewish cemetery: “They started moving the 500 remains to Home of Peace in the spring of 1926 and by June 1926, 104 bodies had been moved,” Wascou said. “It was noted in the cemetery’s minutes of May 16, 1927 that 70 bodies were moved and 10 more would be moved in the coming week. In the May 21, 1928 minutes, there were yet 48 bodies to be moved from the old cemetery. In the Nov. 14, 1929 minutes, there were about 25 graves yet to be moved. The last section of the old Jewish cemetery was sold to Paul and Isabel Prom (of 1545 38th St.) on Nov. 6, 1945.”

Wascou added that about 250 bodies were moved to the Home of Peace cemetery and that other bodies were moved to the Jewish cemeteries in Colma in San Mateo County, or to other Jewish sites.

Today, the Home of Peace cemetery, which consists of more than 2,500 burials and is under the direction of its executive director, Lewis Rosenberg, represents a continuation of 160 years of serving the Jewish community of the Sacramento region.

The original main gate of the Home of Peace cemetery is located at the corner of Stockton Boulevard at El Paraiso Avenue. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

The original main gate of the Home of Peace cemetery is located at the corner of Stockton Boulevard at El Paraiso Avenue. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

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