Ancient Place, Ancient Memories

Nestled on steep hillsides south of the town of Antioch, California, once can find the ruins of the Mount Diablo Coal Fields and the towns that worked the mines.  Those coal fields were the largest coal fields in California.

Rose Hill Cemetery sits on on such hillside, a monument to and resting place for the people who lived and worked in the area from the 1860’s through the turn of the century.  Most of the tombstones that are left are all over 100 years old, though many have been destroyed by weather or vandals.  It is estimated that over 250 persons were interred there, and from even a cursory reading of the tombstones, it is evident that many of the deceased were young children.  As my memory serves, there had been a cholera epidemic that had nearly wiped out the towns, but that could be erroneous.  The Cemetery now is contained as part of the East Bay Regional Park District and isn’t as easily accessed now as when I was a student at Antioch High School back in the day.

Back then, it was customary for many of the high school students to drive up the narrow road that led up past Nortonville, Collinsville and the like, and park with their sweethearts on the side of the road.  Even then, there was a fence around the cemetery, but the gate was open at all times.

I had a cousin out from Iowa once and we wanted to take him up to the cemetery at night (it was a somewhat creepy place), so around midnight, we got in the car and drove up there (you can’t drive there anymore – you have to hike up to it.)  Little did he know that I’d already been up there earlier that night and had hung a “dummy” by a rope from one of the trees in the northeast corner, hoping to scare him when we went up later that night.  Well, we parked outside the cemetery, got out and walked in, sitting on one of the overturned tombstones.  We were talking and I had a flashlight that I intended to shine around the graveyard, ultimately lighting up the tree where the “dummy” was hanging.  But, before the plot got that far, a highway patrolman pulled up outside the cemetery and, flashlight ablaze, came in to see what we were up to.

He wasn’t too enamored of having us in the cemetery, and after checking my ID (I was the only one who had any as I recall!), told us to leave the cemetery.  We promptly obeyed.  But there was one problem: the dummy was still hanging from the tree!  I was afraid that the officer would see it when he shone his flashlight around, but he didn’t.  So, that meant that we had to go back up there again to get the dummy out of the tree!  Why?  Because my football with my name, address and phone number was the “head”, stuffed inside of a hoody!

After giving the highway patrolman plenty of time to leave the area, we drove back up, I confessed to my cousin what was going on, and we got the dummy down.  I’ll never forget that adventure.

Today’s photo was taken inside the Rose Hill cemetery.  Perhaps it will stir memories for some of my Antioch friends who read this blog.  If so, please share some of your stories with us in the comments!

_MG_2061ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1972, baseball’s first female umpire, Mrs. Bernice Gera, called the balls and strikes in her first game.  She quit a few hours after it was over.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  An elementary rule of mushroom collecting is never to place edible and poisonous specimens together. The slightest touch may contaminate – and kill!

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2 thoughts on “Ancient Place, Ancient Memories”

  1. That was so cool and scary to. You were a real prankster and we did some of that kind of stuff Like walking down Maine street and looking up at the sky with my sister and then all of a sudden every one started to look up and then before you know it everyone on the sidewalks were all huddled around one spot looking up. We took off can you imagine what they could have thought we were looking at? Fatima in the air?????

  2. When the East Bay Regional Park District took control of the land in 1973, its well-meaning “preservation” tactics did as much harm as good. First, they used herbicides to sterilize the soil around the graves. The intention had been to ease maintenance by removing the need to mow. Unfortunately, once the native grasses died off, winter rains carved gullies into the bare dirt hillside. Volunteers collected the chunks of broken headstones and set them in concrete, level with the ground, where they could be walked on—or worse, stomped on—while collecting pools of water whenever winter came to California.

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