African American veterans buried near El Dorado Hills remain unknown, little honored
As he does almost every Memorial Day, Michael Harris turned onto a dusty country road in the hills Monday above the American River to place an American flag next to 36 unmarked graves from what was once the thriving Gold Rush town of Negro Hill.
His flag joined 15 others adorning the graves of veterans of foreign wars buried in the Mormon Island Relocation Cemetery, established in 1954 on Shadowfax Lane by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for more than 400 bodies displaced from their original resting places by Folsom Dam. The 13 cemeteries relocated here date to the 1840s. They include 289 from the vibrant Gold Rush community of Mormon Island, 85 from Salmon Falls, 10 from McDowell’s Hill, seven from Dolton’s Bar, six from Natural Dam and five apiece from Carrollton Bar and Condemned Bar.
Harris, a local African American historian, honored all those who died in the service of their country who rest here, including veterans from World Wars I and II, the Spanish American War and the Civil War. But he has a special place in his heart for the 36 unmarked graves moved from Negro Hill, once a town of more than 2,000 people about a mile and half above Negro Bar and Mormon Island along the American River.
When those 36 unmarked graves were moved to make way for Folsom Lake, each bore a label with a racist version of the town’s name ...