Los Angeles Sunday Times, January 5, 1902

An Old Los Angeles Burying Ground Fast Getting Buried.

A WEIRD REMINISCENCE of the long-ago is the old Roman Catholic burying ground, on Buena Vista street in this city. [It is now the site of Cathedral High School. Buena Vista street is now North Broadway.]

A strange fascination takes possession of the intruder, as he wades in among the tangled brambles, brushes away the dust and cobwebs and peers at the half-obliterated inscriptions on quaint and crumbling tombs.

Top: The Brambled Entrance. Left: A Nameless Monument of Brick and Mortar. Right: A Picturesque Corner. Bottom: Briswalter Chapel.

To you and I [sic] many of the epitaphs may be but a jargon of words in Spanish, but more eloquent than words are the evidences of affection that tell of heartaches left behind. Many of the decayed wooden crosses and headboards that mark a vast number of the older graves are only too evidently the handiwork of the bereft husband or father, most of them showing some mark of affection that will admit of no other interpretation. . . .

The old graveyard, now flanked on one side by oil derricks and on the other by railroad yards and street-car tracks, is known as the old Calvary cemetery, and is fast passing into the stages of graveyard-obliteration. It may be only a matter of a few years that this, one of the most interesting old spots in the city, will have been completely wiped out of existence. . . .

The first ground for this cemetery was consecrated about the year 1844. . . . The hillside . . . is gray with dead mustard grass and is crowned by a large, weather-beaten wooden cross. Here the boards are thickly set . . . there are half-obliterated words, . . . “our darling,” “nuestra hija” . . . so matted with weeds, grass and mustard are these little graves that many of them are quite indistinguishable. . . . the grass grows rank and untrimmed.

There are a number of vaults, some of them of costly stone and marble, that will long outlast the poor bones they cover. The most notable is the Briswalter vault, which was designed as a mortuary chapel . . . and is handsomely decorated; but the side walls are now cracked, the windows broken, and the whole place forlorn. The fine front is still in a good state of preservation.

There are inscriptions in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian . . . One is surprised at the large number of French among the pioneers of Los Angeles. “Ici repose” occurs almost as frequently as “aqui yacen.” . . .

One fallen and broken stone speaks a whole history — one that is too common in our fair Southland. Beneath the name of a man, young in years, is the line: “Erected by his friends and co-travelers.” Not every consumptive who comes to California to die finds such traveling companions. . . .

Away off to the north side of the cemetery, where the trees have grown thick, is a nameless monument twenty feet high, built of brick and covered with plaster. At its base is an oven-like red brick tomb, the end broken away so that the bones of the silent dead lie in full view through the opening, surrounded by fragments of the brass-bound coffin.

Here is a stone created to memory of Joseph Chapman, the first English-speaking inhabitant of Los Angeles. Near by is the grave of Abe [sic] Stearns, the genial Don, whose palacio stood on the present site of the Baker Block [on Spring street near First], and Juan Bandini, the gentlemanly politician, lies beside . . . [it].

The tomb of Dona Isabel Pico, wife of Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, is located in the midst of a clump of pepper trees, flanked by the vaults of the Forster and Williams families, all in fair condition. Near by are stones bearing the names of many members of the Dominguez family; also of the Avila, de Rivera, Aguilar, Coronel and many others . . ..

The old cemetery has now become a barrier in the way of progress. Already there are many yawning openings, where bodies have been removed, and soon all those who have loved ones among the dead of old Calvary will seek for them a new resting place; but what is to become of the friendless and forgotten . . . ?

According to the L.A. Past Present and Future site, a new Calvary Cemetery had been established on Whittier Boulevard in 1896, to which most of the bodies interred on the first site were eventually moved. “Cathedral High School was built on the grounds of the old burial site, and [fittingly] its athletic teams became known as the ‘Phantoms.’ ”

Abel Stearns, a native of Connecticut but a naturalized Mexican, came to L.A. in 1829. Click here for more.

Juan Bandini. Abel Stearns married his daughter.



In an early version of this page, I wrote that Abel Stearns had Jewish ancestry. This statement was based on a reference I found in a biography of Arcadia Bandini-Stearns deBaker on the Web site of the Historical Society of Southern California.

In December 2004, Joanna M. Ashmun messaged me that:

No, Abel Stearns was not born Jewish. Stearns is a New England colonial name. Abel was a descendant of Isaac Stearns and Mary (Barker) Stearns who immigrated on the "Arbella" of the Winthrop fleet in 1630.

Go here for more on Stearns.

(From the consulate of France in Los Angeles)
     Not only did 1859 have one of the highest rates of French immigration to Los Angeles, but it also signaled the importance of the French Colony in civil matters with the election of Damien Marchessault as Mayor. He would be reelected as Mayor in 1861, 62, 63, 64 and 67. In 1865 and 66, it was another Frenchman, Joseph Mascarel, who was elected mayor of Los Angeles. It is particularly significant to note that Angelinos elected Frenchmen to serve as Mayor of Los Angeles during the entire period of the American Civil War.

     Marchessault and his partner Victor Beaudry were ice vendors. At first, they sold ice blocks to saloon keepers. But after building their ice house in 1859, they sold ice door to door throughout the Summer months. Marchessault also built the first water distributing system with Charles Lepaon in 1863.

     Marchessault's success in these activities certainly kept him in contact with a large part of the population. This was also the case of numerous other Frenchmen, including his nephew Jean Trudel, who supplied the city with salt reclaimed from Playa del Rey.

     Also in this period, an Alsatian by the name of André Briswalter pursued farming and sold his vegetables door to door with a horse and wagon. The growth and success of his business allowed him to purchase vast tracts of land, including most of what is today known as Playa del Rey. At his death, he left $25,000 for the building of a church over his tomb (St. Peters Church at 1039 North Broadway [map here]).
Los Angeles Daily Times, January 9, 1902


Judge Trask Decides Question for Chinese Chan

Court interpreters will be interested in an opinion rendered by Judge Trask yesterday in the test suit begun by Chan Kiu Sing against the city of Los Angeles to recover $7.50, alleged to be due for compensation as Chinese interpreter in the local Police Court.

Chan presented his claim to the county, and it was rejected on the sole ground that, because he was an alien, he could not lawfully be compensated out of public moneys. . . .

Chan was subpoenaed and sworn as an interpreter, and [according to Judge Trask’s reading of Supreme Court decisions] . . . he is entitled to the same considerations as a witness. . . .

 “The alien resident is thus compelled to render to the government an involuntary service. For a like service a citizen is compensated. It would be a violation of treaty rights to refuse to an alien resident compensation for involuntary service . . ..”


For timeline of Chinese in Los Angeles, click here.
Fourth Ward Difficulty

There is an incipient war brewing in the Fourth Ward. William Biddell has moved a big barn onto a lot at the corner of Pico street and Magnolia avenue [two blocks west of Alvarado], and the neighbors have a suspicion he intends to start a livery stable.

. . . many fine residences have been built in the vicinity, and no such thing as a barn on the front of a lot was ever heard of in that section before. Yesterday, the Building Inspector was started on the track of the possible offender. . . .

Oil on Bond Street

This afternoon an interesting exhibition of applying oil to streets will be given on Bond street south of Pico street . . . for the benefit of the League of California Municipalities.

Los Angeles Sunday Times, January 5, 1902



Jollity and good nature ran high at the banquet given in Hollywood last night to Col. Griffith J. Griffith, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his birth.

Glen Holly Hotel was the scene of the festivities . . .

For thirty years Col. Griffith has been identified with the development of this city and its beautiful suburbs . . . several years ago he deeded to the city the famous Griffith Park of 3,000 acres — the greatest pleasure park owned by any municipality in the world.. . .

[He and many business and commercial leaders] left the city in the luxurious parlor car “Mermaid” of the Los Angeles-Pacific Railroad Company, and after a pleasant five-mile ride, were at the Hollywood hotel with a keen appetite. . . .

Before the party’s return to the city, Col. Griffith was presented with a handsome pineapple plant by J.B. Rapp, who is the most successful, and perhaps the only, pineapple “farmer” in California.

The farm was at Franklin and Beachwood, where bananas were also raised.


To read about the day a few months later when Col Griffith went berserk and shot his wife, thereby earning a two-year vacation in San Quentin, click here.

To read an account of the Glen Holly Hotel and the Los Angeles-Pacific Railroad line that served it, click here.
Los Angeles history

For a personal look at Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s, click for
He Usually Lived With a Female: The Life of a California Newspaperman