News of the San Gabriel Valley since 1966.

‘Time Jockey ’ Savannah History

Joe Castillo

Cemetery History  ….   Historic Savannah Memorial Cemetery in Rosemead dates back to the founding of the San Gabriel Valley. The cemetery was founded in 1851 by many of the early settlers who came to El Monte by wagon train in the late 1840’s. The El Monte area was once part of the San Francisquito land grant with rich soil and an abundant amount of water. The water table was so high that when a site was needed for a graveyard, Savannah was the only location which could provide the necessary high ground to allow for burials without water being reached. Henry Dalton owned the property at that time and while riding on his property noticed two graves on the location. He set aside the surrounding two acres and eventually over 50% of the original wagon train settlers were buried in the cemetery. The only other cemetery in the area was the one at the San Gabriel Mission and one had to be Catholic to be buried there. Savannah accepted all denominations. Over the years, Savannah fell into various stages of disrepair and dilapidation. Overrun with weeds, the Cemetery once sought help in getting cleaned up and remove the pesky weeds. Students were hired to remove them and thought the best way was to burn them. The plan worked but more in addition to the weeds being burned so too were the wooden crosses which were located throughout the cemetery. Many of the original grave stones were made of granite from Escondido quarries. The granite was of a lesser quality which degraded easily. The granite lasted only 70 years at best and eventually the markers became faded and the dates etched in each soon became unreadable….. 150 Year Ago …. On October 3, 1863, in the heat of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as a day Give Thanks. The date became known as Thanksgiving. On October, 1, 1863, Future President James A. Garfield was appointed Major General in the Union Army. On November 2, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak at the inaugural dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery…. Smith Park…. The Kizh-Gabrielino village of Sibangna was located in the vicinity of the San Gabriel Mission and nearby Smith Park. Though the Kizh-Gabrielinos were enlisted by the Spanish to work on the Mission as well as be indoctrinated into the Spanish culture, they still tried to maintain their own way of life. On the site of today’s Smith Park are replica village structures and a dry creek bed surrounded by boulders and species of trees and plants used for baskets, clothing, food and medicine. A large mural is also located onsite which depicts the village of Sibangna. The park is located on Broadway Avenue between Juniper Serra and San Marino Avenues in San Gabriel and is free to the public….

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