COLD SPRINGS CEMETERY
Est. 1848-49
Relocated to present site in 1858 by an Act of the State Legislature

Assessor's Parcel No. 317-091-28
Marva Lane west of Cold Springs Road
Placerville, California


Supervisorial District 4 - Penny Humphreys



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HISTORY
     Located roughly half way between Placerville and Coloma, the Town of Cold Springs is known to have existed prior to the Fall of 1849, having been located near the confluence of Hangtown Creek and Cold Springs Creek.  The original site of the cemetery was on the opposite side (east side) of Cold Springs Road from the present location of today.  It was relocated to this location in 1858 through an Act of the State Legislature which allowed J.R. (Jonas R.) Munson to move the cemetery from his private land.
     That Act stated, "It is hereby made lawful for J.R. Munson to disinter and remove the remains of all deceased persons, together with all monuments, etc., from the old cemetery in the town of Cold Spring [sic], in the county of El Dorado, and inter the same in the new cemetery near the said town of Cold Spring [sic]."  (Chap. LVII, Stats. 1858, approved March 5, 1858.)
     According to Churches of El Dorado County California (Will O. Upton, 1940; p. 45), after Munson received permission to relocate the cemetery, he hired two "negroes, cousins, Ike and Joe Hardy...to perform the gruesome task of exhuming the remains of the peaceful occupants of this sacred spot and moving them to the new location."
     Nearly one hundred years after the first grave was likely made in the original cemetery at Cold Springs, in January 1948, a letter appeared in the Mountain Democrat newspaper regarding the old cemetery of that place.  In part, Mrs. Louis Veerkamp wrote:

     "After a long and deliberate planning; with delays and discouragements that are usually met with in such undertakings we feel that we have at last achieved the goal that has prompted us ever since the first inception of the celebration for the several centennial years ahead.
     "It has been suggested that in the repair of old pioneer cemeteries, those most directly concerned, when other efforts fail, should plan and take over the work to the best that can be done.
     "This has been the program for the little pioneer cemetery in Cold Springs. Very few were concerned in this effort as there have been no burials there in many years. Still some of us are proud to point to the graves of our forbears who have lain there these many years....
     "With grave stones dated from 1850 we know that from then on many pioneers were buried there especially since it became an important mining town.
     "In these later years no spot was more sadly neglected. The fence was down and gone; what had once been the gate was a crumpled bit of wire and stock was free to pasture, knocking over and wrecking valuable head stones.
     "With the assistance of a few most directly concerned....A new four wire fence with heavy posts and a new gate have been built and the grounds thoroughly put in shape. Not a trace of neglect remains..."

     By 1949, the land in which the Cold Springs Cemetery was located, was purchased by Jerry Brown who for a time operated the old rock quarry just west of the cemetery.
     In 1950 or 1951, Robert Voth, owner of the Memory Chapel Funeral Home in Placerville, brought the matter of the neglect of oversight of the old cemeteries of the county to the attention of the board of supervisors.  As a result, the Board created an unsalaried county position called the Superintendent of County Cemeteries.
    The board of supervisors appointed Voth to serve in that capacity, and he was assisted by his partner, James Hull.  For many years these two men would supervise the burials that took place in the historic cemeteries which, since they were the only funeral home in the county at that time, they likely had already been doing but not in any official capacity.
     When the County of El Dorado actually began providing clean up and maintenance at the historic cemeteries is not known.  By 1965, G. Arthur Cort, the director of the Department of Public Works, however, had hired Bob Brookins, a local resident, as a contractor in charge of maintaining the cemeteries. (Brookins later became a county employee and continued to perform these duties until the early 1980s.)
     In 1975, the Public Works department performed a Cemetery Survey to determine the condition of the cemeteries and to document their locations irrespective of whether the County was maintaining them or not.  At the time of that survey, the Cold Springs Cemetery was noted as being "Privately-Owned, County-Maintained."
     In the late-1970s, Jerry Brown subdivided his acreage to create a residential subdivision known as the Cold Springs Subdivision.
     One of the dilemmas Mr. Brown faced was what to do about the cemetery.  He approached the  County of El Dorado and was told that he owned the old cemetery, that the County had no interest in it, even though the County cemetery maintenance employee had cleaned it since the mid-1960s.
     After that Jerry Brown did something unique in relation to the cemetery that no other developer has done before or since.  He had the cemetery surveyed out as a separate lot within the subdivision, supposedly using the area of obvious graves as a guide, and then added an access road to the cemetery that extends south from Marva Lane.*  Because of this, Cold Springs Cemetery is probably the only historic cemetery in El Dorado County that has it's own deeded access.
     For several years after subdividing the property, the County had required  Brown to file a Cemetery Exemption Form  with the Tax Assessor to avoid having to pay property taxes on the cemetery parcel.  Jerry Brown died in the state of Arizona in 1980.  For approximately two or three years after his death his widow continued to file the exemption form and then stopped doing so.
     The County discontinued cleaning or maintaining the cemetery in any way shortly after Brown's subdivision was approved.  Aside from perhaps a Boy Scout clean up that may have occurred sometime thereafter, nothing had been done with regard to preventing the cemetery from falling into  decay or neglect. 
     When first visited by members of the El Dorado County Pioneer Cemeteries Commission (EDCPCC) in 1996, the Cold Springs Cemetery was in a sad, disgraceful and disgusting condition.  The father-in-law of a neighboring homeowner had written a letter to the editor of the Mountain Democrat which queried who was in charge of the cemetery and responsible for its' condition.

*  Brown named two of the streets in the subdivision after his children - Marva Lane for his daughter, and Richard Avenue, for his son.)

PUBLIC TITLE - Who's Minding the Store?
     When Jerry Brown first approached the County of El Dorado to inquire about what to do with the cemetery, the County failed to address or identify that the title to this historic cemetery had vested in the public through operation of law under a former California statute, now referred to as "former Political Code Sec. 3105."  Although it has been modified somewhat, this law remains in effect as Health and Safety Code section 8126.
     As the community continued to use Cold Springs Cemetery to bury their friends and loved ones, the State provided that the title to these places would vest in the public since their use was by the public at large.  The State also provided that a civil entity would become the authority for the jurisdiction and control of these cemeteries.  In the unincorporated territory of a county in which a cemetery is located, that authority is the board of supervisors.
     Despite the mandate of this 1872 law, in El Dorado County it appears no one was minding the store.  The County did not act to secure these public lands in any way.  Nor did it act to administer, supervise or otherwise attend to the further requirements established in Chapter V. of the Political Code (Stats. 1872).**
     As a consequence, there is no burial plat map and no interment register noting the actual names of all those who were interred in the cemetery.  Even more frightening is the failure to survey the grounds to establish the true boundaries of the cemeteries for the protection of all of the graves that existed.
     Subsequently, we have no way of knowing if all of the graves that once existed are within the boundaries surveyed for Jerry Brown's Cold Springs Subdivision.  We cannot say graves were obliterated when house pads were cut on the adjacent residential lots, but neither can we say they were not.

**  For more about the matter of public title to California's historic cemeteries, the California Attorney General issued Attorney General Opinion No. 98-503, answering a number of questions related to Gold Rush pioneer cemeteries.

CEMETERY FOR SALE. . . .
    In 1998, EDCPCC president, Sue Silver, received a telephone call from Mrs. Marva Edwards, the daughter of Jerry Brown.  She had been contacted by the El Dorado County Tax Collector, C.L. Raffety who was seeking payment of delinquent property taxes, interest and penalties which had accrued against the Cold Springs Cemetery since the widow of Jerry Brown had ceased filing the Cemetery Exemption Form sometime around 1983 or 1984.  The amount sought by the Tax Collector was over nine hundred dollars.
    Ultimately,  EDCPCC arranged to accept a quitclaim deed to the Cold Springs Cemetery from Mrs. Edwards in order to attempt to stave off the pending sale of this property for the delinquent taxes.   This extraordinary measure was taken to prevent the County Tax Collector from selling the cemetery for approximately 14 years worth of delinquent tax payments!
     Attempts by  EDCPCC to assert to the County  the vested (prescriptive) public title, failed to convince the County of its ownership of this cemetery through operation of the former Political Code section 3105.
     Although we provided adequate and sufficient evidence to deputy county counsel, Thomas D. Cumpston,  that this cemetery had been in use in it's present location since 1858, and that the last documented burial to have occurred there was in 1915, attorney Cumpston concluded that by 1872, Cold Springs was no longer a "village."  In a final memorandum on the subject from the county counsel's office to then-General Services Director, George Cuttrell, the County refuted any legal interest in this historic public cemetery.
     As a result, EDCPCC accepted the quitclaim deed and made its' acceptance of it  incumbent upon a list of terms and conditions.  The first enumerated term was that we acknowledged the cemetery to be a public county cemetery, and that EDCPCC may only hold the "title" to the Cold Springs Cemetery in trust for the people of El Dorado County.  EDCPCC's "title" or interest in this cemetery may only be transferred to the Board of Supervisors of the county.
     We continue to maintain that this historic cemetery is a county public cemetery through operation of law, and legally should be under the management and control of the county board of supervisors.  It is disgraceful that the county refutes its ownership of such a valuable historic property.
     It is a travesty that the County can continue to ignore the mandate of the State of California, and that nothing short of a civil lawsuit can prevent the County from continuing to ignore its legal responsibility.

INTERMENT IDENTIFICATION
At its present location the Cold Springs Cemetery was used by the people of the town of Cold Springs and its' vicinity from 1858 to 1915.  This is the year we are  able to document the last interment as having occurred.  Over the years, various tombstone inventories performed by earlier researchers  have noted approximately 20 graves to have once been marked in some way. 
     The earliest of these inventoried tombstones was dated October 25, 1850, although that stone (John B. Palmer)  is no longer found in the graveyard and has become yet another of El Dorado County's Traveling Tombstones.  The oldest tombstone extant today is that of G.T. Chappell, who died October 28, 1850.  These stones evidence that Munson did, indeed, have the original cemetery relocated to its present site.  
     Other burials occurred here which are now the graves of persons known and unknown.  Twenty-two (22) interments representing some of the unmarked or unknown graves have been recorded by documentary evidence either through newspaper accounts, funeral notices, church records, family genealogies, and county burial permits.  Twenty-nine (29) other names of persons who died at or near Cold Springs have also been identified through newspaper death notice abstractions.
     Research into identification of other possible burials that may have occurred in the Cold Springs Cemetery is a continuing project.  As names are identified that are not represented by tombstone or burial at any of the numerous other cemeteries in the vicinity, they will be added to the Interment Identification Listing for Cold Springs Cemetery as possible burials.

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Copyright 2002
El Dorado County
Pioneer Cemeteries Commission