Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mike Imlay, Another Friend of Savannah

Thanks to Michael Imlay, who has featured articles on Savannah Pioneer Cemetery in his blog -- read it here. Great photo, heartfelt approach and supportive of the efforts to preserve the cemetery for the future. Thanks again Mike for helping us keep the spotlight on Savannah!

It's nice to count you among our friends, Mike :)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Los Angeles Times Sunday - July 23, 2006

The link to the Los Angeles Times article on Savannah is no longer active. You can find it by searching the LA Times Archives. There is no fee to search but download charges will apply. The article appeared in the July 23 home edition of the Los Angeles Times and is entitled, "History Buffs Rally to Save Pioneers' Final Resting Place"

LA Times Archives Article on Savannah

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Welcome New Visitors to this Blog

If you are a new visitor to this blog and are interested in supporting the activities to preserve this historic cemetery, or if you have a relative buried in Savannah, please get in touch by emailing Thank you for your interest!

Los Angeles Times Sunday - July 23, 2006

Cecilia Rasmussen of the LA Times has written a fantastic article about the history, some of the residents, and plans for the future of Savannah Pioneer Cemetery. Local area residents can pick up an early copy of the paper on Saturday at grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, etc. In the early edition, the article appears on the front page (bottom) of the California section. In the home edition, it will appear on page 2.

I'm told that the article that appears in the home-delivery edition of the Sunday LA Times will be somewhat shorter and will carry fewer photographs. When the article is posted online tomorrow, I will add a link. But in the meantime, go pick up a copy of the edition that's out on Saturday.

Thank you LA Times and especially Cecilia for a great article.

NOTE: photographs accompanying the article include:
Photo of Donna Crippen and Paula Hinkel (photo by Alexander Gallardo of The Times)
Headstone of Ollie Cate, daughter of J.W. and E.A. Cate (photo by Paula Hinkel - the photo appears in this post)
Gate shot of Savannah Memorial Park (photo by Alexander Gallardo of The Times)
"Before" and "After" photos of William "Billie" Dodson (El Monte Historical Museum)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

San Gabriel Valley Tribune - July 19, 2006

Here is the link to today's article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune [The story contains a factual error--while there may be about 3,000 burials there, the cemetery has far fewer actual headstones. The 1847 burials are not marked and I don't know the date of the oldest headstone. That's probably a question that Jack, the caretaker, could answer.]

Saving Savannah
Historic status sought for Valley cemetery
By Fred Ortega Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The Savannah Memorial Park's new board of directors is gearing up to preserve the 150-year-old cemetery that is the final resting place for many of the San Gabriel Valley's original white settlers.

The board's first order of business is to secure historic status for the cemetery and come up with the estimated $35,000 needed to maintain the graveyard each year, said President Eric Chase.

"The cemetery is nearly full and will not be generating a lot of income from the sale of plots in the future," said Chase, who will be the sixth generation of his family to be buried at the cemetery. "We need to come up with a Friends of the Savannah Cemetery type of group. ... Historic status does not translate into funding from the state."

The board is being welcomed by families who feared the cemetery might be converted into a park, resulting in the removal of most of the 3,000 grave markers, the oldest of which dates to 1847.

"I don't think that there was one person ... that wanted to see anything different done to the cemetery," said Anna Guess Pick, great-granddaughter of early area pioneer John Guess. "This new board is full of younger blood, which is good because there is so much that still needs to be done."

The board members - appointed on July 15 - represent the El Monte Cemetery Association, which has run the 19th century pioneer graveyard at 9263 Valley Blvd. in Rosemead since 1920. Each of the board members has ancestors buried at the cemetery, Chase said.

A historic designation would not result in any government funding for the cemetery. But it would provide official recognition that would make it easier for the association to apply for grants from private preservation groups such as the Getty Foundation, Pick said. Such grants could be used in conjunction with fundraisers organized by the board, Pick added. It costs $35,000 to keep the cemetery running each year, mostly to cover staff salaries, water and electricity bills, and landscaping and maintenance fees.
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

LA Times Sunday July 23!

I am thrilled to report that I just heard from Cecilia Rasmussen that her article on the Savannah Pioneer Cemetery "will be in this Sunday's paper, California section page 2, and on Saturday in the Sunday preview edition of the paper on page ONE of the California or Region section. You can pick up that edition at most supermarkets, Starbucks and gas stations." That's this Sunday, July 23.

Wow. Wow. I could never have believed that the LA Times would have picked up this story and carried it forward like this.

Now ... I don't know what families she's including and I don't know what she's going to say. I know she's talked to several family members and I sent her a grundle of information about the pioneer families and others who are buried there. From what she said, the Times will be running one of Bill Carpenter's photos of the group under the tree at the Cemetery. I don't know what other artwork will be included--I did send her a few headstone photos and some other photos taken at the cemetery and at the meeting. We'll see.

I do know that part of the article is going to be (embarassed to say) about how I got interested in the cemetery and why I got involved with the family members who were interested in conserving this piece of El Monte history.

Truly, I would be very happy to just go along unnoticed with my little camera, taking headstone photos and posting them online (which is just how I got acquainted with the cemetery). But for some reason, the reporter seems to think it's ~interesting~ that a round, middle-aged woman from Iowa would care about a threatened old pioneer cemetery, or that anyone would have posted 16,000-some gravestone photos online to help people track down their relatives' gravesites. I think I'll be wearing the crackpot label for this story for a long time; but if that's what it takes to get the spotlight on the cemetery, then I'm okay with it. Just know, when you see the story, that I would rather have been invisible.

Let's hope that we get lots of requests for more information and volunteers to help continue the good work that Eric, the officers and Board members have started.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Meet the Ancestors - John Guess

The John Guess family. Seated, Harriett and John Guess. Standing, from left, Hattie (who married Jim Steele), Richard, Sally, Henry and Emma.

Notes from July 15 Board Meeting

Judging from the packed attendance at the El Monte Historical Society museum -- roughly 100 family members and interested individuals -- the issue of the continued operation of the Savannah Pioneer Cemetery was close to the hearts of many, many people. It was gratifying to see so many people turn out for this important meeting!

The attendance was obviously not anticipated by the current Board members. Vice President Bob Bruesch had made only 25 copies of the agenda and asked everyone to share! The meeting room had been set with 80 chairs, and nearly every one was filled. The audience spilled outside the room into the hallway.

This was approached as a formal meeting of the Board of Directors at which guests were welcomed. This wasn't explained to the attendees and was confusing to many people, who didn't know if it was a meeting of the Membership, what constitued "membership," who didn't understand the parliamentary procedures in place, who could vote on motions, etc. Once that was explained, the meeting progressed though reading of the minutes of the previous meeting and an imprecise and incomplete financial report.

The discussion turned to election of officers. Bob Bruesch's membership on the Board was challenged, due to the provision of the By-Laws which state that a member was required to be a property holder in the cemetery. He admitted that he didn't have property and agreed that he wasn't serving on the Board legally.

The Reader's Digest version of this portion of the meeting is this:
The Board moved/passed to create a resolution allowing for "interested individuals" to serve on the Board.
The Board moved/passed to expand the current Board size to 10 members.
The existing Board members were asked to indicate their intent to continue to serve on the reconstituted Board of Directors:
Current Board members Lucille Cleminson, Fred Love, and Rosie Gutierrez said no and resigned
Ken Pike, who had resigned at the previous meeting, reaffirmed that resignation
Lucille Cleminson resigned for Mrs. Marilyn Martin Drake, who has been incapacitated with a stroke
Bob Bruesch agreed to serve as a Board member but not as an officer
Janice Wiggins White agreed to serve again

The next portion of the meeting just about knocked me off my chair. The floor was opened to nominations for the remaining Board postions. I have never seen 8 Board positions be filled so fast!! Nominations flew, motions were made, and literally within minutes, all 8 open positions were filled, amidst applause and cheers for everyone who stepped up to take the cemetery into its next phase. It was gratifying and truly thrilling to see the willingness of these people to volunteer.

Officer elections followed, with the following outcome:

President: Eric Chase
Vice President: E. Randy Wiggins
Secretary: Wanda Pennington Parker
Treasurer: Janice Wiggins White
Board Members:
James Bias
Bob Bruesch
Victor Haddox
Virgil Ervin
Glenn Pennington
Robyn Steele

The Board will begin working very quickly to resolve several urgent issues - corporate questions concerning bylaws, analysis and review of financial records, ownership, title chase, etc. The most pressing item is to seek protection by applying for National or Sate Historical Landmark status. Eric has already started compiling information toward that end, and a historical committee will be formed to support the initiative.

The cemetery will continue as a viable corporate entity while the Historical Landmark status is sought. The financial report seems to indicate that there is enough cash to support about one year of operation.

Eric discussed the many communication channels open to stay in touch with all of the membership, including this mailing list, the blog, the research done in 2004 that is posted to the California Saving Graves website, etc. In response to a question, he talked about the Savannah Pioneer Cemetery golf shirt that he and his sister were wearing, the proceeds from the sale of which will be contributed to support the process of obtaining Historical Landmark designation. Here's the URL in case you missed it on the blog: Savannah items on CafePress

When Wanda or Janice has compiled the list of individuals who provided email addresses, please send them to me so that I can invite those individuals to join this email group. The new Board is committed to keeping the information flowing among all of the property holders and other interested individuals.

There is a lot of work to do. Funds will need to be raised as soon as the corporate organizations questions are resolved. But it's a fantastic start to the new life of this precious 5 acres of land.

After the meeting, nearly 60 people went to the cemetery in nearly 100-degree heat to be photographed under the huge tree shading the Wiggins plot. Can you believe that???? Special thanks to Bill Carpenter, who has Camera Equipment To Lust For , who volunteered to take the photographs.

Thank you for allowing me to share this experience. It was simply inspiring.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Meeting July 15, 9am, El Monte Historical Museum

The Cemetery Board, family members, El Monte and Rosemead city officials, and other interested parties will meet at the El Monte Historical Museum on Saturday, July 15th at 9:00 a.m. El Monte Historical Museum at 3150 N Tyler Ave, El Monte, CA 91731.

Phone (626) 444-3813 Donna Crippen, Curator

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Meet the Ancestors - Robert Tweedy, Sr.

Jerry Lesandro provided the following bio and photo of his ancestor, Robert Tweedy, Sr.

Birth: Nov. 18, 1811, Illinois
Death: Sep. 17, 1899, Florence, Los Angeles County, California

Robert Tweedy and family came to California from Conway County, Arkansas in 1852. They were part of the Captain Johnson wagon train that arrived in El Monte in November of 1852, after spending 7 months on the Santa Fe Trail. The Tweedy family was one of the earliest white settlers in Southern California. Robert and his wife Mary acquired over two thousand acres of land which was part of the old "Rancho San Antonio" and when subdivided in the 1917 became the city of South Gate. Tweedy Blvd. was named after the family.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Care for her lovingly and let her rest in peace

Help focus attention on this issue by proudly showing your support for the continued maintenance and operation of this graveyard, which marks the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. Friends of Savannah Pioneer Cemetery items are available for purchase at CafePress. Proceeds will be directed toward activities to publicize and support the effort to protect the cemetery.

Savannah (aka El Monte) Cemetery

The following email was sent to the Rosemead City Manager on June 16, 2006. No response was ever received from Mr. Lazzarretto.

Andrew C. Lazzaretto, City Manager
City of Rosemead

Dear Mr. Lazzaretto:

I received the below email from a friend who has family buried at the Savannah Cemetery, formerly known as the El Monte Cemetery. It would appear that the board of trustees of the cemetery's association intend on resigning which will, in essence, leave this cemetery abandoned of any legal authority or supervision.

In 2003 I spoke with a prior Rosemead city manager (forgive me but my research files are in storage due to an impending move) and informed him that California law enacted in 1872 provided that the title to the cemetery had vested in the public long before 1900. The city manager assured me at that time that the City of Rosemead would not allow anything untoward happen to the cemetery.

From a review of interment records and published histories of the cemetery's use, I would conclude that the public acquired this legal title around 1880, if not before. The 1872 law was self operating so that as soon as the public's use met the prescriptive use requirement, the title DID vest in the people.

The 1872 statute is covered on the following website page and there is also an Attorney General Opinion regarding the effect of this and other historic laws regarding cemeteries and publicly owned lands.

AG Opinion:

In 1859, the state enacted a statute authorizing the incorporation of Rural Cemetery Associations. More about this statute may be found at:

My review in 2003 of the history of this cemetery did not reveal any published account of the incorporation of a rural cemetery association prior to 1900. I did locate a number of items in the LA Times that notified the public about clean ups, etc. of the cemetery, but nothing about the incorporation of the cemetery association.

I also located a 1964 LA Times article in which it stated that the City of Rosemead had sought a court ruling on whether it could appoint a 3 member board of trustees for the El Monte or Savannah Cemetery. From that article, it would seem that the City had undertaken some type of legal jurisdiction over the cemetery during that time period.

In checking with the LA County Tax Assessor's office, in 2003 they were unable to provide me with a deed instrument evidencing that the Savannah Cemetery Association held any legal interest in the cemetery at all.

The 1872 statute did not require a deed be recorded in order for the public to acquire its legal interest. At the time that the title would have vested (circa 1880), it was located in the unincorporated territory of the county and would, at that time, have been directed by the state to be under the jurisdiction of county board of supervisors. Now that it is within the city limits of the City of Rosemead, it is most likely that the city accepted jurisdiction sometime in the early to mid-1960s.

I have notified the State Cemetery and Funeral Bureau (CFB) of the present board of trustees email. The CFB has had some prior experience with dealing with abandoned cemeteries and may have some input to potential solutions to this problem.

Would you please advise me if you have any information about the email (below) and what has, once again, led to the threatened abandonment of this most historical and cultural resource of your city? This is a public cemetery and the matter of its future protection and preservation is of utmost importance.

For more on what I posted to the Saving Graves website, please go to:

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Should you have any questions, please let me know.


Sue Silver, State Coordinator
California Saving Graves

(Email referred to in the above)
To: Anna Guess Pick Savannah ; Heather Hooper Savannah ; Janice Wiggens/white Savannah ; Pat Duff Savannah ; Jerry Lesandro Savannah ; Nina Osterly Savannah ; Sue Redding Savannah ; Terre Moreno Savannah
Sent: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 13:46:25 -0700


The situation at Savannah Pioneer Cemetery has reached the critical level. After several newspaper articles, meetings and requests for help from city officials, nothing has been done to help the Cemetery Assoc. Board to either raise enough capital to keep the site operating or assist the board in ceasing operation. Since cemeteries are operated under a special department of the State Government under legal charters, the Board is in a quandary as to what should be done next. We don't have the financial resources to hire legal representation and our financial reserves are practically non-existent since we have sold no new plots for the past three years.

On TUESDAY, JUNE 20TH, THE BOARD WILL HOLD A SPECIAL MEETING AT THE CEMETERY AT 9 AM. I have been informed that most of the Board members will formally resign at this time. What happens after this is open to conjecture. Please be advised that it would be important that as many of the families who own plots at the Cemetery have a representative there as interested observers. I have invited Rosemead City Officials to attend this important meeting. Thank you.

Bob Bruesch, Cemetery Board Vice President

Letter to the Editor - San Gabriel Valley News

The following letter was sent for publication on July 8, 2006:

Re: Saving cemetery a tricky proposition; Fred Ortega, July 8, 2006


The El Monte Cemetery Association is reportedly considering ceasing to do business as a cemetery association and is looking to find an appropriate entity to take over the control of the cemetery. After reviewing the available facts of the cemetery's history and use, it is my opinion that the legal title to the cemetery vested in the public long before the year 1900.

The title vested through operation of an 1872 law which provided a legal title to the public as a result of the public's use of the land for cemetery purposes. It certainly vested many years before the El Monte Cemetery Association (early on also referred to as Savannah Cemetery Association) which only incorporated sometime around 1920.

According to an advisory opinion of the California Attorney General in relation to a cemetery in Contra Costa County, once the title vested in the public through operation of this law, no later deed or other instrument was of any effect as against the public's legal interest. At the time that the title to the El Monte (aka Savannah) Cemetery did vest in the people, the cemetery was located in the unincorporated territory of Los Angeles County. Therefore, the board of supervisors was mandated to have the jurisdiction for its management and control. This occurred through another section of the statute, Section 3109, also enacted in 1872.

Section 3105 of the former Political Code (Statutes 1872) that provided the public with a legal title to the cemeteries used by it, also provided a prohibition against the use of the land for any purpose other than as a "public cemetery." That the El Monte Cemetery Association has been operating this public property as a private enterprise seems to violates the letter and spirit of the law.

When the City of Rosemead's incorporation was finally approved by the voters back in the late 1950s, it was the County's policy at the time to provide that "parks and certain other facilities that are part of an incorporation or annexation be turned over to the city involved." (Los Angeles Times, April 24, 1977, p. SG4.) Based on this county policy, when the City incorporated and the area that included the El Monte (Savannah) Cemetery was placed within the city's corporate limits, the city became the mandated successor to the county for the legal jurisdiction over this public cemetery. That it failed to act on its authority does nothing to take away from the fact that the legal title remained (and remains today) in the public.

One suggestion proffered at the recent meeting held at the cemetery was that the City of Rosemead would remove the grave stones and put the names of those buried on a wall or plaque, supposedly establishing it as a Pioneer Memorial Park. Because of the fact that the title did vest in the public, if the City of Rosemead should determine to try to establish the cemetery as a Pioneer Memorial Park, it will do so without statutory authority. The California Health and Safety Code sections 8825-8829, which authorize cities and counties to establish pioneer memorial parks from abandoned PRIVATE cemeteries, is not intended to be used on publicly owned cemeteries.

The city would, however, have the authority to close the cemetery to future burials, honoring the plot sales made by the El Monte Cemetery Association if it so chooses, and providing for its continued maintenance and care thereafter. But it does not have the authority to plan for the removal of grave stones and markers (which are considered to be the personal property of those buried and of their descendants), unless such markers are in such a dilapidated condition as to constitute a hazard or threat to the public.

The Savannah Pioneer Cemetery was used by the early settlers of El Monte and Savannah. Savannah is said to have preceded El Monte (once called "The Monte" by early residents) and the cemetery began to be used because it was on higher ground than much of the boggy surrounding terrain.

Mr. Ortega's article quotes Anna Guess Pick, great-granddaughter of John Guess, as saying that Mr. Guess "was one of the early settlers in the area." The fact is that John Guess was the FIRST to settle at Savannah. Although not yet verified by my research, it has been said that Guess donated land for the cemetery.

There is some published documentation that supports that in Guess and his wife deeded a 1 1/4 acre parcel to Los Angeles County that was stated to be "near Savannah Cemetery." (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 27, 1893, p. 3) If that acreage were immediately adjacent to the existing public cemetery, it may be it is this transaction that provides the information that Guess donated land for the cemetery as the county paid only a dollar for the land.

Graves are reported to have existed at this location in 1846 when the land was in the control of Henry Dalton. When Dalton sold off portions of his land grant to others, such as John Guess or a predecessor of Guess, the land on which the graves existed created a prime location for an emerging community to continuing using it for their community cemetery. The public has used this cemetery from as early as 1846 and it may well be the oldest non-Catholic cemetery in the San Gabriel Valley.

It is my opinion that aside from the many important pioneer citizens who are buried in the cemetery, it is the last vestige of the area's history as the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. I doubt there are any other historic resources remaining in either El Monte or Rosemead which could claim a greater historical or cultural value than Savannah Cemetery. The names on the tombstones read as a Who's Who of early Southern California settlers. It undoubtedly will be eligible for listing on either the National or State Register of Historic Places.

The City of Rosemead should treat this cemetery as the treasure that it is. It is a "living" history book of the area's exploration and settlement. The Savannah Cemetery should be protected and preserved in its present state and maintained by the City of Rosemead. It would be nice if the City of El Monte and the County of Los Angeles chipped in a little funding to ensure it is well maintained. Ultimately, though, it is Rosemead's responsibility according to the law.

It has been my experience that cities and counties love to have new development come into an area. They love to grow and prosper with the influx of new citizenry. But they give no thought whatsoever of what to do with that citizenry when people expire.

They give even less thought as to what to do with the old cemeteries that have performed exemplary public duty over the decades. They are not renewable resources. You cannot recycle old grave yards. You can only stand idle and allow them to deteriorate and decay or you can step up to the plate and take care of it as it has taken care of your predecessor citizens.

It's time for Rosemead to step up to the plate for the Savannah Cemetery. It's full and it's tired. Care for her lovingly and let her rest in peace.

Sue Silver, State Coordinator
California Saving Graves

Savannah Pioneer Cemetery

We should work together to agree on the name for our dear cemetery. Is there an official name that we must use?

I prefer Savannah Pioneer Cemetery, as it carries the cachet of the word Pioneer. My goal right now is to obtain protection of the place, such as by getting it listed as a California Historical Landmark, and getting it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Can we use that name?


Sunday, July 09, 2006

What Can You Do?

One suggestion offered at the recent meeting held at the cemetery was that the City of Rosemead would remove the grave stones and put the names of those buried on a wall or plaque, supposedly establishing it as a Pioneer Memorial Park. This is simply unacceptable.

What can you do to prevent this travesty and ensure the future of Savannah Pioneer Cemetery? If you have relatives who are buried there:

1. Notify your relatives of this crucial issue and ask that they become involved. Tell them to send their contact information - name, address, phone, email address - to stay in contact and be notified of developments as they occur. Send a note to to receive updates.

2. Send photographs of your relatives to be posted on this blog. Let's make this a personal tribute to those who are interred there. After all, this is personal - as personal as it gets. Send photos to

3. Send genealogical information - names, dates/places of birth, marriage information, children, etc. - to be included in a database of individuals buried at Savannah Pioneer Cemetery. Email GEDCOM or family history notes to

All interested parties can:

4. Write letters to government officials, expressing your concern about the proposed closing of the cemetery.

Gloria Molina, Supervisor, First District
856 Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration
500 W. Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Assemblymember Judy Chu
49th Assembly District
Capitol Office
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0049
Telephone: 916-319-2049
FAX: 916-319-2149

Assemblymember Judy Chu
49th Assembly District
El Monte District Office
10505 Valley Blvd #306
El Monte, CA 91731
Phone: (626) 450-6116
FAX: (626) 450-6119

Rosemead City Council
Rosemead City Hall
8838 East Valley Boulevard
Rosemead, CA 91770
Telephone: 626-569-2100
FAX: 626-307-9218

Andrew C. Lazzaretto, City Manager
Telephone: 626-569-2101

Jay T. Imperial, Council Member
Gary Taylor, Mayor
Margaret F. Clark, Council Member
John Tran, Council Member

El Monte City Council
El Monte City Hall
11333 Valley Boulevard
El Monte, CA. 91731-3293
Telephone: 626 580-2001
Fax: 626-580-2291

Mayor Ernest Gutierrez
Vice Mayor Emily Ishigaki
Councilman Art Barrios
Councilman Juventino Gomez
Councilwoman Patricia Wallach

5. Write a letter to the editor of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune to voice your rejection of this idea. Follow instructions on the newspaper's website:

San Gabriel Valley Tribune
1210 N. Azusa Canyon Road
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 962-8811

6. Attend the meeting on Saturday morning, July 15, at 9:00 a.m. at the El Monte Historical Museum.

El Monte Historical Society Museum
3150 North Tyler Avenue
El Monte, CA 91731-3354
Here is a map for your reference.


This photo was taken by Peggy Hooper who adminsters the California Tombstone Transcription Project for California.


San Gabriel Valley Tribune - July 7, 2006

San Gabriel Valley Tribune Article

Saving cemetery a tricky proposition
By Fred Ortega Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - If it wants to save the Savannah Memorial Park, the El Monte Cemetery Association may have to let it go.

The association, which owns the 4-acre pioneer cemetery at 9263 Valley Blvd., will hold a meeting on July 15 to determine the future of the historic graveyard. The association has been losing money on the cemetery for years, spending $34,000 but bringing in only $9,000 in 2005.

The fact that only one grave has been sold at the cemetery in the last four years leaves the association with few choices, said Bob Bruesch, vice president of the cemetery's board.

"In my opinion, we need to start the legal steps to end the body's control of the cemetery as a business," Bruesch said.

A discussion during the board's June 20 meeting about turning the cemetery into a park, removing the headstones and placing all the names on a single monument met with resistance from people whose relatives are buried there.

"I have 13 ancestors buried there, and I would like to see it protected so that it remains a cemetery and all the grave sites are maintained," said Anna Guess Pick, whose great-grandfather, John Guess, was one of the early settlers in the area. She said John Guess' son, Henry Guess, was the first white child born in Los Angeles County and he is buried at the Savannah cemetery.

The cemetery, which has graves dating back to 1847 and is the final resting place of a veteran of the War of 1812, was even used by local Native Americans as a burial site before the arrival of white settlers, Pick said.

The best option for preserving the cemetery would be to follow the lead of the city of Martinez, Bruesch said. Martinez has created a commission that oversees the cemetery, including an interpretive center and displays identifying the most significant grave sites.

"We could get together with a high school or college history class and have them design the displays and brochures for the cemetery," Bruesch said. "That doesn't mean they can't inter people there, but they would just not be able to sell more grave sites. We would have to legally allow people who have purchased graves to be interred there."

But that could not happen until a public entity, such as the city of Rosemead or the county, takes over the 3,000-grave cemetery.

Rosemead Councilman John Tran said he would like to see a combined approach toward preserving the graveyard.

In the meantime, activists from groups such as California Saving Graves, which focuses on preserving pioneer graveyards, are working to secure a state historical designation for the Savannah site, Breusch said.

The July 15 meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the El Monte Historical Museum, 3150 Tyler Ave.

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306

Meeting July 15, 9am, El Monte Historical Museum

The Cemetery Board, family members, El Monte and Rosemead city officials, and other interested parties will meet at the El Monte Historical Museum on Saturday, July 15th at 9:00 a.m. El Monte Historical Museum at 3150 N Tyler Ave, El Monte, CA 91731.

Phone (626) 444-3813 Donna Crippen, Curator

San Gabriel Valley Tribune - June 21, 2006

In grave danger
Financially-strapped Rosemead cemetery may close
By Christina L. Esparza Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Edwin Wiggins' family plot at the Savannah Memorial Park cemetery has been there since 1851, he said.

But Wiggins doesn't know if he'll be able to be buried along with family members at the Rosemead-based pioneer cemetery, since costs of upkeep have quickly outpaced revenue.

Emotions ran high Tuesday at the meeting of the cemetery's directors as the board and family members of the pioneers buried there faced an uncertain future.

A plot hasn't been bought at the Valley Boulevard cemetery in about four years, officials said, making it difficult for the cemetery to survive financially.

"This is the oldest continually used cemetery in Southern California," said Bob Bruesch, the vice president of the board. "This is the crucible of the entire San Gabriel Valley. To let this site go to seed will destroy out connection to our history."

More than 3,000 graves make up the cemetery at 9263Valley Blvd., Rosemead, officials said, some of which date back to 1847. In 2004, officials said there were 200 more plots they could sell for $1,000e ach, but it would not bring in enough money to keep Savannah running.

It costs about $35,000 to keep up the grounds, and in 2005, revenues were about $9,000, officials said.

One option is to turn the cemetery into a park and erect a monument with the names of those buried there engraved on it.

However, that didn't sit well with Wiggins.

"After coming here with oxen and wagons, they'll dig up my headstones of my forefathers?" he said.

Los Angeles resident James R. Bias has 14 family members buried at the cemetery. He doesn't want to see it closed since three plots are left.

"I'd like for them to keep it up," he said.

Fiscally, though, that is impossible. One solution, Bruesch said, is to get the cemetery declared a historical landmark.

However, that can't happen unless the cemetery officially goes out of business, Bruesch said.

"As long as this is a business, nobody's going to help," he said.

Rosemead Councilman John Tran, who attended the meeting, said he does not want to see something so historic disappear.

"It's refreshing to see concerned descendents who want to preserve the cemetery," Tran said. "There is a rich history beneath these grounds and they have the makings of becoming a historical landmark. It will be a shame to see all the preservation efforts thrown out the window."

Sue Silver of California Saving Graves, an Internet group that offers advice to people having problems with historic cemeteries, said saving the cemetery is important. She has been monitoring the problems at Savannah.

"I think it's an absolute must for the history of the area," she said. "Either the city or county need to step up to the plate to provide a mechanism for funding."

They could create a public cemetery district, which would receive appropriations from the city or county, or they could turn it into a pioneer memorial park, which would no longer be available for burials, but be maintained by a park and recreation department.

Also on Tuesday, Ken Pike, the 88-year-old chairman of the cemetery board, resigned, citing health reasons.

The board will meet again 9a.m. July 15 at the El Monte Historical Museum, 3150 Tyler Ave.

Staff Writer Phil Drake contributed to this story.

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2472

Friends of Savannah Pioneer Cemetery

Welcome to the blog for Friends of Savannah Pioneer Cemetery. This blog is designed to be used to help exchange information among the many individuals who are committed to preserve the sanctity and existence of Savannah Pioneer Cemetery. The cemetery, alternately known as El Monte Cemetery and Savannah Memorial Cemetery, is located within the city limits of the town of Rosemead, Los Angeles County, California.

This small, quaint cemetery is the last remaining evidence of El Monte's rich pioneer legacy as the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. It also holds the last remaining evidence of those who lived to reach Southern California. It is likely the first non-Catholic cemetery in the Los Angeles region.

Within its iron fence rest the remains of many of the founders of the San Gabriel Valley. But it's not a peaceful rest these days.

If time has been kind, weathered and damaged gravestones stand or lie, fallen, to memorialize hard-fought pioneer lives. In many other cases, only the cemetery records remain to whisper names of many of the San Gabriel Valley's founding and most important families: Blackley, Cleminson, Cuddeback, Dodson, Dobyns, Durfee, Elliott, Ellis, Franklin, Freer, Guess, Jackson, Johnson, Samuel King, Lewis, Maxson, Mings, Shobe, Shugg, Slack, Nicholas Smith, Snoddy, Steele, Stout, Thurman, Tweedy, and Waldron.

Here are links to websites created in 2004's threat to the cemetery. These websites are rich with history about the cemetery.

Cemetery Report on SCGS Website The Southern California Genealogical Society holds a copy of the cemetery directory compiled by Cemetery Listing Services in Winona Minnesota. The directory was prepared within the past 10 years

California Saving Graves This website has a wealth of historical information about the cemetery, including obituaries, biographies and photographs of many of the individuals interred there. It includes newspaper articles and letters to the editor that were published in 2004, as well as Sue Silver's assessment of the legal ownership of the cemetery.

Savannah Cemetery on FindAGrave Headstone photographs and some obituaries.

Savannah Cemetery at Genweb's Cemetery Transcription Project Headstone photographs.