Blog updated 12/3/2017
As an avid lover of history, visiting old cemeteries is one of my favorite hobbies when passing through historic towns in my travels along the West Coast. Cemeteries contain a wealth of history, in the names of internments buried within or the inscriptions one can read on many of the headstones. I’ve learned about the different types of headstones that were popular at the time and are no longer being produced. In particular, zinc headstones (also known as ‘white bronze’) were a popular style used as a cheaper alternative to granite or marble. These are often distinguishable by their metal ‘clang’ sound when tapped on by a finger because these metallic headstones are hollow inside.
Another headstone type that was common in the late 1800s to early 1900s were the Woodman of the World headstones, whose trademark look was a marble tree trunk with ivy and ferns and cut off branches, giving them a very distinguishable appearance. They often have the Woodman of the World symbol of a dove over a cross of an axe and maul and the phrase ‘Dum Tacet Clamat’ under it.
I also enjoy coming across broken column headstones (which depict a life cut short), centenarian graves (those living to be 100 year or more), graves of unusual deaths (those graves which have the cause of death mentioned on their headstone) and homemade tombstones. One very uncommon type of grave to be found on the West Coast is a Death Mask grave (those graves having a three-dimensional sculpted representation of the deceased on the headstone). I have only seen one of this type and it is also located in the same cemetery as an American Revolutionary War veteran grave in Sonoma, CA (more on that ahead).
When visiting older cemeteries, coming across Civil War Union veteran graves is surprisingly not that uncommon in cemeteries I’ve visited in Oregon and California. Much rarer are the few graves of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War located on the West Coast. One grave in particular is of David Sansom McCollum, who fought for the Confederate States Army in K Company, 2nd Regiment for the Missouri 1st Infantry. He is interred in a cemetery in Keno, OR. You may visit his grave here. Another Civil War Confederate veteran’s grave is located in Salem, OR. Leonida Willis was a colonel for the United States Confederacy under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. You may visit his grave here.
What about veterans of the War of 1812 who may be interred in cemeteries on the West Coast? Well, in the past five years that I’ve been visiting cemeteries in Oregon and California, I’ve only encountered two graves of veterans from this war. One of the graves is of Isaac Fredenburg, Jr. who is buried in Hays Cemetery, a few miles southwest of Gold Hill, OR. You may visit his grave here. The only other War of 1812 veteran grave I’ve discovered is of William Hilt, who is buried in Henley & Hornbrook Cemetery in Hornbrook, CA. You may visit his grave here. I’m sure there are other War of 1812 veteran graves along the West Coast but they are much less common than Civil War veteran graves.
Finally, we come to the two rarest war veteran graves on the West Coast: Two Revolutionary War veteran graves exist, one in St. Paul, Oregon and one in Sonoma, California. I’ve personally visited the grave of Captain William Smith in Sonoma, who served in the American Revolutionary War as a young teen. With California being such a large state, visiting the only known American Revolutionary War veteran to be buried in the entire state of California was a special treat. Surprisingly, Smith’s grave was never pinpointed and its exact whereabouts within this cemetery is unknown. A grave marker and historical marker highlighting Captain William Smith exists in the heart of the cemetery and you may visit them here. Oregon’s only veteran grave from the American Revolutionary War is that of William Cannon. You may visit his grave and bio here.
As time goes by and I come across any other interesting veteran graves on the West Coast, I’ll update that information here.
*UPDATE 12/3/2017* I came across a War of 1812 veterans grave at a small cemetery in Callahan, CA for Richard Voss Hayden. His headstone reads that he was a corporal in Sherwin’s Regiment for the Massachusetts Militia. You may visit it on Findagrave.com here.