East Lawn Memorial Park’s establishment inspired by great flood of 1904
Editor’s Note: This is part two in a series about the rich history of and associated with East Sacramento’s award-winning East Lawn Memorial Park.
For those who are familiar with Sacramento’s earlier years, it is no secret that floods influenced many decisions in the area. And today’s East Lawn Memorial Park was established as a result of the Edwards Break flood of 1904.
The flood inundated about 10,000 acres in the Riverside and Pocket areas and washed through the old city cemetery – today’s Sacramento Historic City Cemetery on Broadway, between Riverside Boulevard and Muir Way.
So great was the flood’s effect on the city cemetery that many headboards were carried away by its waters and, according to a 1905 edition of The Sacramento Bee, “there was no place to bury the dead.”
In reaction to the flood’s damage to the city cemetery, Louis Breuner, the son of John Breuner, who founded the well known John Breuner Co. home furnishing business, led an effort to establish a cemetery on 42 acres of the old Newton Booth place, which was previously known as Twin Oaks Farm.
The site was a desirable site for a cemetery due to its high ground above the city’s flood plain.
Louis F. Breuner, who was then serving as the president and manager of the John Breuner Co., which was at that time located at 600-608 K St., purchased the old Twin Oaks Farm site in 1904, following the Edwards Break flood. However, the property was for some reason placed in the name of Louis’ wife, Clara.
In addition to pursuing the construction of a cemetery on this old farmland, Louis, who served as the president of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce in 1901 and 1902, had his home built on a portion of the property in about 1911.
This residence had the address of 4028 Folsom Blvd. by 1918, and Louis’ home address was recognized as 4110 Folsom Blvd. by the following year.
Louis, who had previously resided at 1103 O St., continued to live in his Folsom Boulevard home until about 1923, when he moved with his family to 1128 45th St.
Assisting in Louis’ venture to have a nondenominational cemetery established east of the eastern edge of the then city limits at 31st Street – today’s Alhambra Boulevard – were other local residents, including Fred W. Kiesel and Chauncey H. Dunn.
The proposed cemetery site met the approval of Sacramento County coroner George C. McMullen.
McMullen was quoted in the March 14, 1904 edition of The Bee, as follows: “While I have not given the proposed new cemetery full consideration as yet, still it must be obvious to even a casual observer that Sacramento requires a new burying ground – and that badly. The city itself has practically no more lots for sale in the old (city) cemetery. Under political influence, the tendency is productive of inferior results. Unquestionably, the (former) Twin Oaks Farm property is the very best available for a burying ground. The proposition advanced is quite feasible. With the enterprise of those behind the project, I believe satisfactory results will follow. I have every confidence in them and understand they are going ahead, if they can secure sufficient encouragement from our citizens.”
McMullen added that even if the city desired to enlarge the old city cemetery, little space was available for such a project.
Also among those in support of the proposed cemetery was Leon H. Jacox, proprietor of Jacox Bros., a new and used furniture and upholstery store at 920 K St.
Jacox, who resided at 1901 P St., was quoted at the time as saying, “I believe a modern lawn cemetery, with a good crematory, will be a necessity within the next few years. Recent high waters has (sic) shown that all the desirable portion of the city cemetery is already occupied. No finer location could be secured than the one under discussion. It is far enough from the city, yet near enough for the purpose.”
Even at the planning stages of East Lawn Cemetery (the original name of the cemetery), many well known Sacramentans, as well as notable San Francisco residents, had arranged for lots at East Lawn.
Among these people were: McMullen, William E. Gerber, vice president of the California State Bank and president of the Earl Fruit Co.; George Peltier, manager of the California State Bank; Daniel W. Carmichael, proprietor of the Curtis, Carmichael & Brand insurance company; and H. Edward Yardley of the Clark & Booth Co. funeral home at 1017-1019 4th St.
After the proposed cemetery site gained its necessary approval and the cemetery was established, the first burials occurred on Dec. 24, 1904.
It was then that the William F. Gormley funeral home, which was located at 912-914 8th St., disinterred the remains of seven people from a lower, flooded section of the city cemetery and relocated them to the East Lawn property.
These people were Katie, Arthur W. and Theodore Bowles of Brighton, John Bowles of Sacramento, John D. Winters of Stockton, Elizabeth Winters of Brighton and Earle A. Dudley of Arizona.
East Lawn Cemetery was dedicated on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1905.
The event, which began at 3:30 p.m., was presented from a platform that had been constructed for temporary use on the cemetery’s grounds.
Participating in the ceremony were the Rev. H. K. Booth of the Congregational Church (opening prayer); the Rev. Charles F. Oehler of the German Lutheran Church (benediction); Frank D. Ryan, president of the East Lawn Cemetery Association (short address); and Judge Carroll Cook of San Francisco (oration).
The gathering also included music by an 18-member chorus and an eight-piece orchestra.
At the time of this dedication, the cemetery included about 50 burials, which is in stark contrast to its present 99,661 burials. This latter figure does not include the 4,691 unidentified human remains that were relocated to East Lawn from East Sacramento’s old New Helvetia Cemetery in the 1950s.