Certainly one of the Land Park area’s most notable landmarks is the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery at 1000 Broadway, between Riverside Boulevard and Muir Way.
This cemetery has the notoriety of being Sacramento’s oldest existing cemetery, as it dates back to the mid-19th century.
The initial acreage for the cemetery was donated on Nov. 28, 1849 by Capt. John Augustus Sutter, who a decade earlier established one of the area’s most historically important sites, Sutter’s Fort, and Henry A. Schoolcraft, who came to California in 1847 and became the first alcalde of Sacramento in the spring of 1849.
On Dec. 3, 1849, the city passed an ordinance establishing a public cemetery and regulating interments.
The ordinance included the following words: “Be it ordained by the president and council of Sacramento City, that from and after the passage of this ordinance, the (10-acre) square donated to the city by John A. Sutter and H.A. Schoolcraft, south of Y Street (now Broadway), between 9th and 11th streets, shall be the public grave yard (sic), where the bodies of deceased persons shall be buried.”
The cemetery was laid out sometime in 1850.
A report regarding the city’s common council meeting of Nov. 26, 1850, notes: “The committee on the subject (of the city cemetery) recommended that the sexton in charge of the burial ground be requested to make out a plat defining the places where persons have been buried.”
Four days later, the Sacramento Transcript reported that common councilmember Dr. J.M. Mackenzie had commenced making a list of those who had been interred at the city cemetery.
By 1858, the cemetery included about 3,000 graves, 300 trees, a well and irrigation pipe.
Although the cemetery’s earliest known burial was that of a Capt. James T. Homans of the U.S. Navy in 1849, the grave of Franklin B. Davis has a more historical background, considering that his original burial occurred three years earlier.
The remains of Davis were relocated to today’s Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, either from Buckeye Knoll – an earlier established burial place that was located on the city block bounded by 9th, 10th, V and W streets – or from another early Sacramento burial site.
Among the earlier residents to be buried at the cemetery was James H. Crocker, who was the son of Capt. Rowland R. Crocker, who was known as having crossed the Atlantic Ocean more times than any then-living shipmaster.
James H. Crocker, a New Bedford, Mass. native who worked at Capt. Rowland Gelston’s Sacramento store, died from dysentery at the age of 43 on April 1, 1850.
According to James H. Crocker’s obituary in the April 10, 1850 edition of the Transcript, his coffin, which was covered with an American flag, was carried to his grave in a long procession, which was accompanied by music played by a band.
A few of the most notable people buried at the cemetery are: Sacramento’s founder John Augustus Sutter, Jr. (1826-1897); lawyer and famous art collector, E.B. Crocker (1818-1875); storekeeper and railroad mogul, Mark Hopkins (1813-1878); and several California governors and early Sacramento mayors.
Bigelow, who was shot in Sacramento’s tragic squatter riots in August 1850, passed away at the age of 41 on Nov. 27, 1850.
Also interred at the city cemetery was Col. William Stephen Hamilton (1797-1850), the second youngest son of Alexander Hamilton, the first treasurer of the United States.
Although William has been speculated to have died of cholera during the city’s nearly three-week cholera epidemic in 1850, the Transcript, on Oct. 8, 1850, recognized his death as occurring the previous day, or about two weeks prior to when cholera was recorded to have arrived in Sacramento.
According to the 1880 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” cholera was brought to Sacramento from San Francisco on Oct. 20, 1850.
A trivia regarding William was that he was buried at two previous locations before being interred at his present burial site near the then-future location of the mortuary chapel on May 29, 1889.
Other notable persons who were interred at the city cemetery include former state Senator William Johnson and Henry Elliot, builder of the first Weinstock, Lubin & Co. store at 400-412 K St.
Visitors of the cemetery can also tour special sections such as the Exempt Firemen’s plot (1858), the Pioneer Society plot (1862) and several war veterans memorials, including the Spanish-American War Memorial (1898).
Another special monument at the cemetery was established in memory of about 1,000 people who died during the city’s aforementioned cholera epidemic of 1850.
At the time of the epidemic, no one knew what caused cholera or how one became infected with it.
Thousands fled from the city in panic, and 17 local physicians died.
Historical cemetery records indicate that 16 of these 17 physicians are buried at the cemetery, although their exact locations are unknown.
The cemetery also consists of the Sacramento Historic Rose Garden, which is located on a portion of the cemetery’s land that was donated by John Augustus Sutter, Sr. and Henry A. Schoolcraft.
In the middle of the cemetery sits the aforementioned mortuary chapel, which was constructed 120 years ago and is now used as a museum and archives library.
The building, which originally served as a holding vault, where remains were kept until proper burials could be arranged, presently serves as a different and more permanent style of holding vault, as it houses the official records of the cemetery.
In contrast to its beginnings on a 10-acre parcel, the cemetery consists of 31.8 acres and about 30,000 burials.
However, the cemetery, which had gradually expanded with the growth of the city, actually reached a size of nearly 60 acres in 1880, with a property donation by one of the city’s all-time greatest philanthropists, Margaret Crocker, who was the widow of E.B. Crocker.
That donation was described in the July 1, 1880 edition of The Sacramento Union, as follows: “Margaret E. Crocker to Sacramento City – Addition to city cemetery, June 25th, 2.22 chains wide by 10.51 chains long, fronting Y Street, and lying on west side of city cemetery.”
The Margaret Crocker addition, which remains a part of the cemetery, was laid with lots blocks, and avenues named Azalea, Eglantine, Linden, Maple, Mulberry and Myrtle.
As the years unceasingly pass by, the value of the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery as a historic treasure continues to increase.
The cemetery’s present winter hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
For additional information about this cemetery, call 448-0811.