(aka County Cemetery and Pestilence House Cemetery)
Assessor's Parcel No. 001-070-15
Hill behind Health Services Office, Spring & Tunnel Streets
Supervisorial District 3 - Carl Borelli
ASSESSOR'S PARCEL MAP
(1855 - 1972)
This chronology provides only a perfunctory history of the county hospital and it's cemetery. Other earlier histories have already been written. However, none addressed the issue of the cemetery. This listing provides an avenue to highlight the mechanisms which may have prompted the county to begin burying at the site and some minor notations as to the parties responsible for contracting with county for interments and burials. The Interment Identification Listing to this document provides a listing of known or suspected inmates buried within the grounds of the cemetery from approximately 1862 through 1934, though some data is known to be absent. Further document review and abstracts will probably provide more names of those interred at this grave yard.
1855 County contracts with Drs. O. Harvey and Asa Clark at Upper Placerville hotel building originally known as the Broadway House. [El Dorado County Hospital; p. 2.]
1861 "Hospital Report."; submitted 12/20/1861; mentions six patients died; also mentions new hospital erected. [Mountain Democrat, 1/18/1862, 3-1.]
1862 The hospital was "...replaced in 1862 by a handsome set of buildings set on eight acres on Quartz Hill where it is presently located. These buildings comprised a main hospital, "outpatient clinic" or infirmary, pest house (isolation ward) and residences. [El Dorado County Hospital; p. 3.]
Researcher's Note: The pest house as described, was not built until much later. It is believed to have been erected in the late 1890's or early 1900's and is most associated with the outbreak of pulmonary tuberculosis which became near-epidemic in the county at that time.
"Common Council Proceedings."; meeting of 4/15/1862; "Moved and Carried. That the City Sexton be instructed not to allow any subjects of the County Hospital to be buried in the City Cemetery without permission of the Mayor." [Mountain Democrat, 4/19/1862, 3-4.}
Researcher's Note: It appears that previous to the erection of the new county hospital on Spring Street, earlier remains of deceased inmates had been buried in the Placerville City cemeteries, of which two became the only authorized places for burial in the city in 1859 by Ordinance No. 81. One was the Placerville City Cemetery on the west edge of town and the other was the cemetery on the east edge of town near the Methodist Church, being what was later called the Pioneer Cemetery in 1871. A third cemetery, located on a hill in Log Cabin Ravine was ordered abandoned to use and the City Sexton directed to remove the remains in that cemetery to the City Cemetery provided there was no expense to the city. (MD, 2/13/1859 and 7/23/1859) It is believed that due to these restrictions, the county hospital began to use the hill above its grounds for the burial of the deceased inmates of the facility.
1870 "Supervisors." (meeting of 12/5/1870); contract for undertaking at the County Hospital given to D.H. Mitchell for each burial at $10 for one year. [Mountain Democrat, 12/17/1870, 3-1.]
1871 "Board of Supervisors." (meeting of "Monday last"); approving payments; to D.H. Mitchell for coffins and burials at the County Hospital, $28.75. [Mountain Democrat, 2/11/1871, 3-2.]
1891 "Grand Jury Report." "We also request that a plat be made of the hospital burying ground and that each grave be marked or numbered in some way, so that friends or any one can ascertain who, and where they are buried, said plat to be kept by the steward, and each and every death interred therein by him."; report dated 11/27/1891. [Mountain Democrat, 12/5/1891.]
1896 "The Grand Jury." "We also recommend that a small slab of slate be put at the head of each grave, marked so people can tell who are buried there. Slate can be procured at the quarry at little cost, and will better answer the purpose than the wooden head-board now used." [Mountain Democrat, 12/12/1896.]
Researcher's Note: Pieces of black, Chili Bar slate were noted during a brief drive-by survey of the site in the fall of 1996. The hillside below the cemetery contains degraded slate formations more resembling shale than solid pieces of or rock, and is of a golden hue in color. Some larger pieces of this material were noted in a foot survey conducted on March 4, 1997, and may mark existing graves. If the county would not approve the purchase of the heavier black slate as per the jury's recommendation, it is not infeasible that the hospital superintendent may have attempted to make use of the less expensive, inferior slate on the hospital grounds.
1899 "Board of Supervisors." re: contract to furnish hospital with coffins awarded to Mike O'Keefe. [Mountain Democrat, 1/7/1899, 4-2.]
"Final Report of the Grand Jury." Recommends disposing of the County Hospital property and obtaining a better location. [Mountain Democrat, 1/14/1899, 5-4.]
Researcher's Note: The hospital buildings were in deplorable condition at the time the Grand Jury committee surveyed the property. Repairs were later made and the county held onto the site.
"Grand Jury Report Summarized." "The jury also suggest that the graves of deceased inmates be marked durably with numbers stamped on some imperishable material at the grave and recorded in a register showing the name, age, and date of death of the deceased inmate for identification." [Mountain Democrat, 12/2/1899, 1-2.]
Researcher's Note: With the production of a metal grave stake as shown to the researcher by Beverly Cola at the Historical Museum, it was believed that the hospital superintendent had complied with this recommendation. However, a subsequent search of the hospital's registers indicates that the grave stakes, purportedly made from wagon wheel iron, apparently were not used until sometime after 1913. Four of the five numbered stakes now recorded, refer to inmates who deceased between 1914 and 1919. The stakes are numbered 12, 25, 44, 45, and 78, four of which remain on the cemetery property. Two of the four mark actual graves and the remaining two appear to have been pulled from the grave site, but have been left where they were located in the event that graves are located within that vicinity.
1904 "County Hospital Report for 1904." Thirty deaths; 19 buried at the hospital; 11 at other places, but doesn't specify where. [Mountain Democrat, 1/7/1905, 4-2.]
1912 "These large and comfortable buildings served the county well until they were burned in 1912, rebuilt...." [El Dorado County Hospital, p. 3.]
Researcher's Note: Apparently the earlier researcher had not reviewed the Grand Jury report of 1904 detailing the appalling conditions at the hospital.
"Notice by Owner of the Completion of Building." re: new hospital completed. [Mountain Democrat, 10/12/1912, 8-3.]
1924 The hospital was "partially burned again in 1924" [El Dorado County Hospital, p. 3.]
1946 "The present hospital, built in 1946 and appraised at $345,000, was modernized...." [El Dorado County Hospital, p. 4.]
1960s According to Mrs. Beverly Cola, when Tunnel Street was cut through in the late 1960's, human remains were unearthed. This report is unsubstantiated by any documentation, but another discussion with the gentleman who resides just next door to this cemetery indicates that a single grave exists near one of the oak trees along Tunnel Street above the present sidewalk. This might tend to corroborate Mrs. Cola's memories.
Other unverified reports indicate that remains may have been unearthed for the construction of the facility's parking lot above Tunnel Street. The neighbor with whom we spoke with at the site on March 4, 1997, stated that the equipment operator continued to unearth bodies and that they "kept popping up everywhere."
This may be an incident I discussed with P.J. Reinhardt and Bobbie North of the General Services Department Special Districts division, that resulted in a reported "mass grave" for the reburial of the remains, and included the clothing of the construction workers at the site.
It was believed the cemetery was an earlier alleged "Pest House" cemetery, however, nothing in the research reviewed for this chronology, dating through 1913, has found any reference to the "Pest House Cemetery." Although it is known that those inmates suffering from communicable diseases who died at the hospital were buried there, at least until approximately 1934, the cemetery served the entire deceased indigent inmates.
Researcher's Note: A good deal more documentary research is most certainly warranted to provide a more complete and accurate history of the grounds.
1965 "...and a completely new building added in at a cost of about a half million dollars." [El Dorado County Hospital, p.4.]
1972 "The facility was leased by the Universal Medical Systems Corporation in July 1972 and the name was changed to the Mother Lode Medical Center Hospital. The terms of the lease are quite favorable to the County and insure that large sums will be paid for upkeep and new equipment." [El Dorado County Hospital, p. 4.]
Researcher's Note: An brief review of the "Hospitals" file at the Historical Museum on March 4, 1997, indicates that Universal Medical Systems lost their accreditation in 1978 and the facility was forced to close.
History of El Dorado County Hospital, 1855 - 1974 (cited as El Dorado County Hospital above); El Dorado County Museum, Placerville, CA; Mother Lode Medical Center Hospital Auxiliary; 1974; compiled by both organizations.
Mountain Democrat Newspaper; 1855 - 1913; Editions as noted.
Researched and compiled by Sue Silver, 1997.