Many notable people were interred at St. Mary’s Cemetery

Joe Marty was a star slugger and outfielder for the Sacramento Solons. He was also the first Sacramento native to hit a home run in a World Series game. Photo courtesy of Alan O’Connor

Joe Marty was a star slugger and outfielder for the Sacramento Solons. He was also the first Sacramento native to hit a home run in a World Series game. Photo courtesy of Alan O’Connor

Editor’s Note: This is part three in a series regarding Sacramento area cemeteries.

St. Mary’s Cemetery, the historic cemetery featured in the last edition of this publication, is the resting place of many notable people.
Among those interred on the grounds of this cemetery, which is located at 6700 21st Ave., at the 65th Street Expressway, are the Sacramento Solons baseball greats Tony Freitas and Joe Marty.
Tony Freitas
The 5-foot, 8-inch-tall, left-handed pitcher Antonio “Tony” Freitas, Jr. (1908-1994) was undoubtedly one of the most renowned Sacramento Solons players.
His clutch performances in the Solons’ drive to winning their only pennant in 1942 were sufficient enough to earn him legendary status in the capital city.
Freitas made his professional baseball debut in 1928 with the Class D Phoenix Senators in the Arizona State League.
During the 1929 season, Freitas became a member of the Sacramento Senators, the predecessor of the Solons.
While playing for two major league teams during the 1930s, Freitas compiled a won-loss record of 25-33.
He is recognized as the all-time winningest left-handed pitcher in minor league history.
Freitas, who won at least 20 games in nine different seasons, was inducted into the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame and the Sacramento Athletic Hall of Fame, was named a member of the Pacific Coast League All-Century Team and was selected by the Society of American Baseball Research as the all-time best minor league pitcher.
Freitas returned to Sacramento and worked as a non-playing manager for the Solons in 1954 and 1955. He compiled a 282-win and 344-loss managerial record in 627 games.
Joe Marty
A Sacramento native and a product of Christian Brothers High School’s sports program during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Marty was born Joseph Anton Marty on Sept. 1, 1913. He received a three-sport scholarship in baseball, football and basketball from St. Mary’s College of California, where he studied and played sports in 1932 and 1933.
In 1934, the San Francisco Seals, a Double-A minor league baseball team of the Pacific Coast League, acquired the rights to the then-20-year-old Marty.
Marty’s third season with the Seals was so successful that he attracted the attention of major league teams through such statistics as a league best .359 batting average, 215 hits and 17 home runs.
His five seasons in the majors included World Series appearances, one of which occurred in an Oct. 8, 1938 game, in which he became the first Sacramento native to hit a home run in a World Series game.
Marty also enjoyed success as a Solons player for seven seasons, including the 1950 season when he held the role of player-manager.
As a businessman, Marty, who passed away on Oct. 4, 1984, operated his bar, Joe Marty’s, at 15th Street and Broadway in Land Park.
Max Baer
Another notable former athlete to be interred at St. Mary’s was Max Baer (1909-1959).
Born Maximillian Adelbert Baer, the Ancil Hoffman-managed Baer, who fought in 84 professional fights, was not only a capital city boxing legend, but he was also inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1968, the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1984 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995.
Baer, who first trained in a gym on his father’s ranch, fought his first professional match at the Oak Park Arena in Stockton on May 16, 1929, when he knocked out Chief Caribou in the second round.
Although Baer, who was known for his charismatic personality and hard-hitting punches, had many great moments in his boxing career, his greatest achievement came on June 14, 1934, when he knocked out Primo Carnera at Madison Square Garden in New York to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
One of the fights that Baer is most known for is his June 13, 1935, 15-round defeat against James J. Braddock. The match is celebrated in the 2005 film, “Cinderella Man.”
More than a decade following his 1941 retirement from professional boxing, Baer described his Jack Dempsey-like approach to the sport during a Sacramento boxing party held at Christian Brothers High School.
Baer was quoted in The Sacramento Bee as telling attendees of the event that his favorite target was an opponent’s chin.
“Boxers are always looking for an advantage and try to slip over a quick punch in the early rounds,” Baer said. “When a boxer is cold during the first or second rounds, a punch to the jaw will do a lot of damage.”
Earl D. Desmond

Among the notable people interred at St. Mary’s Cemetery was former California Senator Earl D. Desmond of Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Among the notable people interred at St. Mary’s Cemetery was former California Senator Earl D. Desmond of Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Also interred at St. Mary’s was former California Senator Earl D. Desmond of Sacramento.
A Sacramento native, Desmond, who was born on Aug. 26, 1895, attended Christian Brothers and Sacramento high schools.
While attending Santa Clara University, Desmond left the school to join the Navy during World War I.
Following the war, he worked as an agent for the Florin Fruit Exchange in the old town of Florin, and later operated a 2,000-acre ranch eight miles south of the town of Franklin.
Desmond, who married Sacramento native Edna Nicolaus in 1920, attended and graduated from the McGeorge College of Law (later renamed McGeorge School of Law). He was admitted to the bar in 1931.
Eventually, Desmond became the senior member of the law firm, Desmond, Miller and Artz.
He was elected to the California Assembly in 1934 to represent the 9th district.
A decade later, he was elected to the Senate. He was reelected in 1948, 1952 and 1956.
He also served as chairman of an interim committee on water projects. The committee’s activities included taking a role in the controversial north-south water issue.
Desmond, who many people have referred to as the “Father of Sac State,” authored the successful bill to bring a four-year college to the capital city.
Gov. Earl Warren signed this bill – Senate Bill 1221 – on July 1, 1947.
He was also involved in the efforts to relocate the State Fair from a site on Stockton Boulevard to its current Cal Expo site.
Additionally, Desmond served as the secretary of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, an elementary school and high school trustee, a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West, Elks Lodge No. 6, the Knights of Columbus and the Loyal Order of Moose.
Desmond, who had six children, was also past state president of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, past president of Sacramento Aerie No. 9 of the Eagles and past commander of American Legion Post No. 61.
Desmond passed away in his home at 5232 Marione Drive in Carmichael on May 25, 1958, a day after he had assisted in a fundraising drive for a proposed Catholic seminary in Galt.
In commenting about Desmond following the senator’s death, Gov. Goodwin J. Knight said, “California has lost one of its outstanding legislators in the passing of Earl D. Desmond. He gave unstintingly of his energies for the benefit of his state and community, and many of our most important statutes and programs today were the product of his sponsorship. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues and constituents alike.”

Mystery of the Missing Markers

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding the history of East Sacramento’s former New Helvetia Cemetery.

It has been nearly 162 years since Captain John A. Sutter set aside 10 acres for his establishment’s first formal burial ground, the now nonexistent New Helvetia Cemetery.

The cemetery, which was eventually doubled in size, served the community for many years before evolving into a public park, which was known as Helvetia Park.

The old cemetery grounds, with the exception of a tombstone-like marker presenting information about the former cemetery, are no longer distinguishable. The land is presently the site of Sutter Middle School at 3150 I St.

In the process of creating Helvetia Park, the old cemetery, which actually adjoined East Park (today’s McKinley Park), had its headstones removed and replaced with flat gravesite identifying markers.

Unfortunately, various decisions and actions connected to the processes of creating the park and removing the cemetery in its entirety resulted in many missing tombstones and markers and even unidentified graves.

Other gravesites were presumably left unidentified in earlier times due to such possible causes as the deterioration of wooden markers and flooding that carried away wooden markers. Because of recurrent flooding in the area, there were no burials at the cemetery from 1850 to 1857.

A classic example related to the old cemetery’s missing markers was presented in the Aug. 11, 1989 edition of The Sacramento Bee, as a story was related in which a lecture about Sacramento cemeteries at California Middle School was interrupted by a boy who raised his hand and said, “We have some of those stones in our yard.”

In a meeting with the East Sacramento News last week, Dr. Bob LaPerriere, co-chair of the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission, discussed the topic of missing tombstones and other markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery.

“When they removed the bodies in the 1950s, we’re not sure exactly what happened, but some people recall that these concrete markers were kind of stacked up along the street,” LaPerriere said. “A couple years ago, we located – just between two homes behind Sutter Middle School – over 70 of these flat, concrete markers. They were used for stepping stones and kind of to widen the driveway.”

LaPerriere said that a unique event occurred following the discovery of these markers, as the stones were transported from Sutter Middle School to East Lawn Memorial Park at Folsom Boulevard and 43rd Street via a horse-drawn wagon.

The decision to deliver these markers to East Lawn Memorial Park was a simple one, considering that the city had purchased property at the cemetery for a mass, unmarked burial site, where 4,691 unidentified human remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were reinterred.

Unfortunately, this large number of “unknowns,” as these unidentified remains are often referred to, account for the majority of the remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery.

The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery at 1000 Broadway is the site of the remains of about 400 additional people who were once buried at the New Helvetia Cemetery.

However, these remains are individually identified and are located in three separate areas at the Broadway cemetery, west of Riverside Boulevard.

Other individually identified remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were reinterred at the following Sacramento city and county cemeteries: East Lawn, Masonic Lawn Cemetery at 2700 Riverside Blvd., Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery at 2720 Riverside Blvd., St. Joseph’s Cemetery at 2615 21stt St., St. Mary’s Cemetery at 6700 21st St., Sacramento Memorial Lawn at 6100 Stockton Blvd., Elk Grove Cemetery at 8540 Elk Grove Blvd. in Elk Grove and the Sylvan Cemetery at 7401 Auburn Blvd. in Citrus Heights.

Despite this long list of other cemeteries, LaPerriere notes that a relatively low number of remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were relocated to these cemeteries.

LaPerriere provided the following numbers regarding the relocations of these remains: 410 sent to Broadway cemetery, 84 to East Lawn, 32 to Odd Fellows, six to Sacramento Memorial Lawn, three to St. Joseph’s, three to Elk Grove, two to St. Mary’s and one to Masonic.

In regard to the many flat markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery site that are still missing today, LaPerriere mentioned that he would not be surprised if some of these markers are presently located on residential properties within the nearby vicinity of this former East Sacramento cemetery.

Although the aforementioned mass burial at East Lawn Memorial Park is recognized as consisting of “unknowns” or unidentified remains, this does not mean that there are no records of any of the names of the deceased people from the New Helvetia Cemetery who were reburied there.

To the contrary, records exist for many people who were buried at the New Helvetia Cemetery and it is by deduction from the names of those who were reinterred in other local cemeteries that a list of assumed names was created for the mass burial site at East Lawn Memorial Park.

LaPerriere said that East Lawn Memorial Park, although it was not obligated to do so, greatly contributed to the cemetery’s mass burial site.

“The city never put up a marker or anything (at the mass burial site), absolutely nothing,” LaPerriere said. “It took John Bettencourt (the late cemetery historian and preservationist who was vital in the formation of the Old City Cemetery Committee) and I working with East Lawn, quite a few years ago, to get the area memorialized. East Lawn, of course, had no responsibility to do it. The city bought the area, buried the people and the city should have taken care of things. But East Lawn, being very community minded, worked with us and they put four (right angle) corner walls in around the area to demarcate the area and they put a nice monument in the center memorializing those who were moved from New Helvetia (Cemetery).”

In addition to this burial site’s corner markers, most of the perimeter of the site is outlined with the flat, concrete markers that had been retrieved from the residential yards near Sutter Middle School.

As of about two years ago, the whereabouts of only one verified original tombstone from the New Helvetia Cemetery was known.

But fortunately, it was discovered that another original New Helvetia Cemetery tombstone – that of members of the Asch family – was located in Auburn.

About a month ago, the stone was relocated to Sacramento and it will soon be placed in the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery’s already existing Asch plot.

LaPerriere said that anyone with information regarding missing headstones or markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery is encouraged to call the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission at (916) 874-9103 or write to the e-mail address:

Anyone with information regarding missing headstones or markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery is encouraged to call the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission at (916) 874-9103 or write to the e-mail address: cemeterycommission@sac