Friday, January 18, 2008

Meet the Ancestors - Samuel Sawyer Thompson and Margaret McKamy Thompson

Samuel Sawyer Thompson and Margaret McKamy Thompson were among the early arrivals in El Monte, October 22, 1852. He was a Los Angeles County Supervisor in 1854 and an El Monte justice of the peace in 1861. They have twenty-three descendants buried in the cemetery and many living descendants, including the new board president, Eric Chase. This is the family story of their trip west, dictated by their daughter, Mary McKamy Thompson Cunningham Wyatt (1839-1915) to her granddaughter Eva May Chase Akers.

“Wishing to go west, Samuel Thompson and his wife built a large flatboat and with all their goods floated down the Tennessee River into the Ohio and into the Mississippi River down to the Red River in Louisiana up which they floated and paddled to Shreveport, Louisiana, where they lived. They journeyed about in Louisiana and up to Fort Smith, Arkansas. They went on to St. Augustine, Texas, where their child Mary was born January 28, 1839. At last they went to Bonham, Texas, where they helped form a train of 27 wagons which left Bonham April 10, 1852, to go to the goldfields of California. They went southwest through El Paso, down into Mexico and west through Arizona and Ft. Yuma. On October 22, 1852, they reached El Monte. Due to typhoid fever in his family, S.S. Thompson bought a house and remained in El Monte and a wagon train went on north to gold.”

Their household in California included two young African-American girls, Amelia and Paulina, born in 1847 and 1851 respectively. This story of their presence comes from Martha Russell, another great-granddaughter of the Thompsons: “I’ve always heard that the S.S. Thompsons had slaves and that he didn’t believe in slavery so when he started west he gave them up. The mother of the 2 girls begged him to take them with him for she said they would only live the life of slaves if they stayed behind. They were with the family when they lived on the ranch in Rivera.” One of the girls reportedly became a leading midwife in Los Angeles.

Submitted by David W. Hassler,
another one of their great-great-great grandchildren
From the March 2007 issue of El Monte Cemetery Association Newsletter

Meet the Ancestors - Benjamin Franklin Maxson

Benjamin Franklin Maxson was born in Friendship, New York, in 1841. In his early twenties he served with the Wisconsin Infantry in the Civil War. On June 7, 1867, the day after his twenty-sixth birthday, he bid adieu to family and friends and began his journey to California to gain for himself “a competence and to aid in establishing a permanent fund for educational purposes.”

His journey began in New York, two years prior to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. New York city was “rainy and muddy” upon his arrival on the morning of June 8, 1867, but he visited Barnum’s Museum and in the evening he saw America’s first blockbuster musical, The Black Crook. On June 10th he boarded the San Francisco and sailed out to sea. He wrote about the many sea sick passengers during the first several days, as well as the large schools of porpoises and flying fish, and the pleasant feeling of seeing islands such as Cuba and Santo Domingo.

After ten days the San Francisco dropped anchor in the bay near Greytown (San Juan del Norte),Nicaragua, and passengers boarded river boats without landing and began the trip up the San Juan river. Here the natives approached, offering oranges, bananas, pol cakes, rum, wine, etc. Maxson wrote that the tropical scenery was the most beautiful he had ever beheld. “Such rare plants! . . . The clinging vines decked with beautiful flowers forming natural arbors which far surpass any which I have ever seen constructed by the hand of man.” The exotic fauna, the historic ruins of El Castillo, as well as the geology were equally impressive.

This route across Central America followed the San Juan between Nicaragua and Costs Rica by boats, horses and mules, hikes around rapids and sand bars, to Lake Nicaragua, then by boat to La Virgen and overland by mules, horses or carriages to San Juan Del Sur, where Benjamin arrived on June 23, 1867. From there he boarded the steamship America and headed for San Francisco. With sightings of whales and one false fire alarm, the voyage was “rather pleasant”.

On July 6 he wrote that he was in San Francisco, “thank goodness,” put up at the International Hotel. He explored the city, went to Prospect Hill for a bird’s eye view, and to “the Chinese portion to observe their customs and dress.” On July 8 he went aboard a river steamer and started to Sacramento. The “evening pleasant, country
fine and rolling and middling. Thickly settled. Wheat and oats in the sheath ready for gathering. Large droves of cattle . . . feeding in the valleys and on hillside. Arrived at Sacramento next morning after being stuck for two hours on a sand bar.” He stayed at the What Cheer House, now a landmark in Old Sacramento, then camped at Richmond Grove while “fitting out for the mountains.”

The portion of his journal to which this article refers ends at this point. He later farmed in Colusa, then Tustin and El Monte, being among the first commercial walnut growers in that area. He was an early member of the Lexington Lodge (El Monte Masons) and was a trustee on the Mountain View School Board. El Monte’s Maxson Road and Maxson School were named in his honor. He died in 1899. He and his wife, Olive (Merwin) are interred at Savannah.

Submitted by Reed B. Maxson, great-grandson
From the Journal of Benjamin Franklin Maxson

Meet the Ancestors - The Jesse B. Blue Family

Jesse B. Blue, Sr. was born in 1892 and served as a member of the 330 Unit of the Ohio National Guard in 1916. On June 22, 1918 his unit arrived in France to fight World War I. At the end of the war in 1919 he returned home to Ohio as a Major.
For health reasons his doctor suggested he leave Ohio and come to California. In 1924 Jesse and his wife, Pansy and two children; Burl age six and Barbara age four moved to El Monte. The Blue family bought a lot in the Savannah area between El Monte and Rosemead where they built their family home. The family soon grew with the addition of three more daughters; Katie, Annebel and Alyce.

Jesse (J.B.) Blue became active in the development of the Rosemead area as a realtor; he served on the local school board for many years and helped to organize the local Chamber of Commerce, where he served as President for several terms. Pansy M. Blue passed away in 1932 and Jesse B. Blue, Sr. passed away in 1963. Both are buried near the “Magnificent Camphor Tree” in Savannah Memorial Park.

Submitted by Burl Blue, son of Jesse B. Blue
Source: The City of Rosemead - An Historical Sketchbook
1959 - 1984 Silver Anniversary Edition

From the September 2007 edition of the
Savannah Update, El Monte Cemetery Association

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cemetery Clean-Up Day Scheduled for May 26

The Board of the Savannah Memorial Park is reviving the tradition of sprucing up the decade-old cemetery on the Saturday preceding Memorial Date. The Board's announcement notes, "A little trimming, a little painting, a little picking up, a little headstone cleaning." Savannah Memorial Park, 9263 Valley Blvd., Rosemead. Saturday, May 26, 2007 from 9am to 5pm. Bring your gardening tools and gloves. No power tools or mowers needed. All are invited to help. Email for more information.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Savannah Cemetery to Exhibit at Genealogy Conference

The Savannah Pioneer Cemetery / El Monte Cemetery Association will be in attendance at the 38th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. This genealogy conference will be held at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, 2500 Hollywood Way, Burbank, California, on June 8, 9, and 10. Stop by and meet the Association Board members and other interested individuals. For information on the Genealogy Jamboree, see

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Savannah Update - September 2006

The Board of the El Monte Cemetery Association has released its first update. The September 2006 issue of Savannah Update is available upon request by emailing

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Savannah Cemetery Email Address

The Cemetery Board has announced a new email address for individuals who would like to contact them directly.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Meet the Ancestors - Jonathan and Phoebe Point Tibbet

Jonathan Tibbet, Sr., was born in Michigan, December 18, 1822, of Old Colonial stock. He was married to Phoebe Jane Point, February 12, 1844. This young married couple attended a meeting where John C. Fremont and his father-in-law, Colonel Benton, lectured on California, the then unknown region, and told about the great possibilities of acquiring quantities of cheap land, and distributed circulars giving a description of the country as they knew it. Mr. and Mrs. Tibbet became interested and decided to migrate to this new country. They started for the Missouri River working their way from place to place.

The first stop was at Keokuk, Iowa, where James Henry Tibbet, their first child, was born. Their next stop was at Nauvoo, where Mr. Tibbet was employed by the Mormons making wagons and ox yokes for their trip to Salt Lake. In 1848, Mr. and Mrs. Tibbet left Council Bluffs. Mr. Tibbet drove an ox team and Mrs. Tibbet did the cooking for their transportation. Soon after leaving Council Bluffs, the principal owner of this train had a falling out with most of the immigrants and, to save him from personal injury, Mr. Tibbet was forced to hide him in the bottom of the prarie schooner. The immigrants then elected Mr. Tibbet captain of the train. They followed the Old Mormon Trail to Salt Lake along the North Platte River through the South Pass. They stopped at Salt Lake to recruit their stock, then came on across the Salt Lake Trail through the Cajon Pass to the present city of San Bernardino, where they stopped to recruit their stock.

At the San Gabriel River this party of immigrants had the first Christmas tree ever had in the State of California. A willow tree was selected where Bassett now is located on the east bank of the San Gabriel River. False limbs were put in place, the tree was decorated with Indian beads, moccasins, rag babies, pop corn and such other things as they had in the train. The women sang Christmas songs, the men marched around the tree shooting off their guns and their pistols.

They camped for a while at the Old San Gabriel Mission, then they went to the Los Angeles River and established a camp there. Mr. Tibbet secured work at San Pedro on a boat at ten dollars per day. Mrs. Tibbet was an expert needlewoman, and when the California women learned of this they induced her to do some sewing for them. Prices were one dollar for each button hole, all other work in proportion.

Mr. Tibbet became acquainted with all the leading rancheros of that time. Among them being Senor Dominguez of the Dominguez ranch, who traded work horses and mules for oxen. With this outfit Mr. Tibbet started for the mines in Northern California, making his headquarters at Hang Town. There he engaged in mining, merchandising, had a boarding and lodging house and ran a pack train from Sacramento and another from Stockton. He also had a branch business in Indian Diggins. He was very successful, in one day taking out $8,580 worth of gold.

In 1852, they sold their business, and with their accumulation of gold returned East by way of Panama, Mrs. Tibbet riding on a Kanaka's back across the Isthmus. They purchased a large farm in the East. But the call of the West was so strong that in 1852 they sold their farm, went to the Missouri River, purchased cattle, sheep and horses, and drove them across the plains, arriving in California the latter part of that year. Mr. Tibbet purchased the interest of heirs to a large tract of land hear the San Gabriel Mission, engaged in stock raising and driving cattle from Southern California to the mines. The highwaymen and desperadoes often planned to waylay the return drovers but were never successful.

Jonathan Tibbet, Sr., founded the first white school in El Monte, known as the Old Mission School District, and it was there that his children attended their first school. The school house was of the old, crude pioneer style - boards nailed up and down and in may places, no battens on the cracks. The roof was covered with hand made shakes. In many places the sun shone through, and in the winter months the rain would come straight down from the heavens and the scholars and teacher were all compelled to seek some dry spot. In the summer months the lizards ran along the rafters and plates of the building.

Mrs. Phoebe Jane Tibbet, wife of Jonathan Tibbet, Sr., died September 29, 1892. Jonathan Tibbet died April 18, 1904. With James Henry Tibbet, they are buried in the Savannah Cemetery, three miles west of El Monte.

On both trips across the plains, Mrs. Tibbet walked more than half the distance carrying a baby in her arms. A chest of solid silver was buried on the plains, which could not later be located by Mr. Tibbet.

Mrs. S. J. Snoddy, now living at 2537 South Third street, Ocean Park, is a sister of Jonathan Tibbet., Jr., and the babe who was carried in its mother's arms across the plains in 1853.

Source: The Los Angeles County Pioneer Society Historical Record and Souvenir, Times-Mirror Press, Los Angeles, 1923. pp. 220-223.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pasadena Star-News August 7, 2006

The San Gabriel Tribune and the Pasadena Star-News ran "A Timely Undertaking - Drive begins to preserve cemeteries" on August 7. It mentions Savannah, as well as a number of small cemeteries in the area.