I wandered around the old cemetery, across the street from the San Luis Rey Mission. A cemetery that for years was forgotten.
The mission was founded in 1798. It is known for the “King of the Missions,” and is a National Historic Landmark. The largest of all the 21 California missions. What I didn’t know was that there was a graveyard across the street.
There are two graveyards, one sits in the shadow of this lovely cathedral.
Just to the east or right hand side in this shot is the entrance to the mission's cemetery. The entrance is that arch. It is a really well kept up cemetery all pristine and very old, but that is not the cemetery I walked through..
At the time this was the only cemetery and was reserved for Catholics.
The first person to be buried here was a one year old named Catherine Foss, who died in 1869.
In 1875 Isaac Kolb donated the land to "reserve for public burying ground".
The following year the cemetery was deeded to the San Luis Rey School District "to hold in trust for a public burying ground".
While commuters busily drive Mission Avenue or Highway 76 they scarcely look up at the resting place of the valley’s pioneers. They may never notice when vandals littered the area, pushed over headstones or even worse, dug into the graves and even stole the headstones, the very record of those buried there.
The San Luis Rey School District, although the legal owners of the cemetery, seem to have kept no official record or count. School Trustee Shirley Woodruff filed the tax exemptions yearly and was responsible for pointing out available burial sites to families looking to bury their dead. He was for years the cemetery’s only "caretaker".
In the late 1940’s the Oceanside Unified School District took over the San Luis Rey School District, and unknowingly acquired the cemetery. Shirley Woodruff, then retired, still continued to file the annual tax forms for the cemetery until his death in 1989. Shirley was buried in this cemetery in the plot that was reserved for him several decades ago, alongside family members.
As the population grew and construction increased in and around the valley, the cemetery on the hill seemed to fall into the cracks. Progress went unimpeded and no one seemed to notice or care about its fate as vandals frequented the cemetery, leaving beer cans and litter strewn about in the cemetery. Sometimes the wooden crosses were taken out of the ground and tossed and gravestones were pushed off their bases.
The Oceanside Historical Society formed a cleanup in 1991, calling on descendants of these pioneers, as well as their own members. Marines from Camp Pendleton also volunteered and after much effort, toil and sweat, bags of trash were removed and entire dumpster of brush and weeds were cleared and some headstones placed back on their bases.
This is how it looks today. It is mowed twice a year.
Odd that a whole cemetery can be forgotten.
History in black and white...