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.
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 . . . ?