Since human beings arrived in the Sierra foothills, they have set aside places to bury their dead. While some of these burial grounds are well-protected and preserved, others are lost and forgotten over the years.
Such is the case with Gold Hill House hospital cemetery in San Andreas. Between 1869 and 1891, the hospital operated near the current intersection of Highway 49 and Pool Station Road. The hospital’s cemetery was placed north of the intersection, where those who perished in the hospital were interred.
After a new hospital was built at the site of the current Government Center, the hospital property was sold into private hands.
However, the cemetery wasn’t included in the 1895 deed recording the sale, which specified “reserving, however from said sale and this conveyance so much of said first mentioned lot as has been used for cemetery purposes and now enclosed by fence.”
Only a few years later, the cemetery had already fallen into disrepair. An 1898 article from the Calaveras Prospect reads: “The fences surrounding the old hospital cemetery west of town are all broken down and cattle innumerable roam at will over the graves. If it is the supervisors’ business to keep these fences in repair it is high time something was being done. The lowly graves in the potter’s field should be held as sacred as the last resting place of those who were more fortunate in life.”
While the property remained in the hands of the county, it was largely forgotten over the years, and its exact location remains unclear.
Archaeologist Julia Costello and historian Judith Marvin, of Foothill Resources Ltd., have recently conducted research on the cemetery at the request of local resident Susan Tribble, whose great-great-grandfather was interred there in 1882. Their research indicated that there are 82 identified burials at the site.
Costello and Marvin recently wrote a letter to the current owner of the property, requesting access to the 9-acre parcel in order to identify the location of the cemetery.
“We contacted the current landowner and he is well aware that he has a county-owned property within his parcel,” Costello said. “As long as this cemetery is undefined, it is a liability for the current owner if he wants to develop his land.”
On Jan. 16, Costello and Marvin wrote a letter to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors seeking support for identifying the boundaries of the cemetery in order to “release the surrounding landowner from development restrictions resulting from having the county’s undefined cemetery reserved within his parcel,” and “protect the county burial ground and respect those interred within its boundaries,” the letter states.
The study would be limited to locating the cemetery, according to the letter.
“Current archaeological techniques have been very successful in identifying unmarked gravesites and cemetery boundaries,” the letter states. “The survey would be restricted to surface examination of the area suspected of containing the cemetery – there will be no disturbance of soils or removal of any artifacts.”
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Jan. 28, Tribble is planning to address the board about the issue during open public comment, in the hopes of getting an item on the agenda for the following meeting.
Costello said that she hopes the county will take responsibility for the cemetery and contribute to the effort to locate and preserve it.
“We have had some indication that the Calaveras County Historical Society may be willing to put up a fence,” she said. “The Clampers are often willing to erect a monument. The county could deed the property to the San Andreas Cemetery District.”