Pioneer Spirits rests in El Dorado County
Publisher’s note: This is the first of two stories about El Dorado County’s pioneer cemeteries.
I first moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1979, and lived there off and on for more than three decades. Seven months ago, I moved to Placerville, where I now live near the top of Sacramento Hill, which rises steeply up from Main Street. For a month or so, I drove carefully up and down my narrow, winding driveway that dead ends onto Chamberlain Street, focused only on not sliding off. One day, as I stopped to get the mail out of my box on Chamberlain, I looked across the street and realized there was a cemetery there. I’d driven past Happy Homestead in South Lake Tahoe thousands of times, but never had the occasion to go in. From Johnson Boulevard it seemed neat and well tended, with cropped green grass in summer and tidy flowers at the gravesites. This cemetery was different. There was a wooden fence across the front and an arched wrought iron sign with the words “Old City Cemetery” in delicate capital letters. I walked across the street and looked over a low part of the fence. There was a weather-beaten gravestone carved from variegated white marble just two feet away. I went inside the open gate and saw the burial date on it – 1856. I had to know more.
– Joann Eisenbrandt
PLACERVILLE — Those who live in Placerville and the Sierra foothills of El Dorado County are surrounded by reminders of Gold Rush history, often without knowing it. The area is dotted with more than 100, some say closer to 200, Pioneer Cemeteries dating back to the 1850s. Eighteen of these cemeteries are formally operated by El Dorado County, two by the city of Placerville, and others by family or nonprofit groups or rural cemetery associations. Some have been lost to history, with older graves buried over, unmarked, or partially hidden under modern parking lots or buildings. Some are well cared for. Others have been severely vandalized or remain largely untended and overgrown with weeds and broken gravestones.
These pioneer cemeteries tell the history of Placerville and El Dorado County...