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Margie Campbell

Saving Graves



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San Joaquin County, CA
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Saving Graves

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History of
Stockton State Hospital
Cemetery & it's Decline

There were at least two Stockton State Hospital Cemeteries.  I will give a brief History of each one on this page.  My research is from local histories, San Joaquin County & California State Records.  I will list source information at the end of this history. 

Please be aware some of the stories printed here (those from local papers, etc.) are graphic and are meant to give a sense of how poorly the individuals were treated in life as well as in death.  It is through finding these injustices that I have felt a duty to bring a bit of respect & dignity to those who may have known little or none during their lives.

Location # 1a & 1b:  STATE HOSPITAL GROUNDS, behind the Women's Facility & at end of Acacia Street. 

I found the location for this site from Stockton/San Joaquin Directories for 1873-1930.  Also, it is mentioned in ( Stockton Album Through The Years, by V. Covert Martin with R. Coke Wood, PhD, College of the Pacific & Stckton College.  Also Leon Bush, Stockton College.  Collaborators in writing the manuscript. Stockton, CA 1959).  The original State Hospital/Asylum cemetery was located behind the Women's Facility, as stated above.  The Women's facility is located at what is now 510 E. Magnolia St, Stockton, CA.  Nothing of this site remains.  There were 4,467 known burials at this location, with, according to sources stated above, only 1,619 being removed to the new site located on N. California Street before March 1875.  The cemetery behind the Women's Facility was used from about 1854 until January 1875, when the site on California Street was purchased. 

There was another cemetery that is noted on the property of the State Hospital Grounds (now University of Stanislaus at Stockton) located at the end of Acacia Street behind the maintainence building.  This location is from a city of Stockton Map viewed at the Assessors office.  As of this date (June 8, 2002) I have not found any other information on this site. 

Location # 2:  2800 N. CALIFORNIA STREET, behind the Physicians Medical Condos, north of Beverly Manor Care Home.

This location is very well documented.   The land for the California Street site was purchased in January 1875, from Albina Sedgewick, for $2,700.  This was either a 14 or 15 acres plot of land, depending on the source.  The plot was landscaped with cypress trees, and abors were built under the shady oaks according to the custom of that time (Stockton Album  Through the Years).  As of today (June 8, 2002), not much remains of the cemetery.   There is a 1.39 acre plot, which consists of weeds and a few bushes.  There are a few trees along the northern boundary.  This site is in horrid condition.  It has not had any care since the State ceased using the site as a burial ground in 1918-19.  Some of the graves were removed about 1925- 26 (Stockton Album Through the Years).   It is believed that out of about 6,000 burials (including those brought from the Women's Facility site), at least 3,572, and probably more, as we don't know if those from the Women's Facility were included in these numbers, remain in unmarked graves. 

From the legal description listed for the site of these parcels, and only looking at parcel one, there is less than 1/3 of this site left unimproved.   The other 2/3 of the site have buildings or parking lots built on them. 

From old San Joaquin County & Stockton maps located at the Stockotn Library (Cesar Chavez branch), the entire 15 acre parcel was considered by the planning departments (both county & city) to be cemetery property. 

If one looks at the map of the area (Por. Sec. 18 W.G., SJCo Assessors map # 125-360-21, and tries to come up with a five acre parcel from the listed parcels, you must come to the conclusion that Beverly Manor (site 16), and a portion of Stockton Med Center Condos (site 40), a portion of the parking lot (site 27), are all incroaching upon this cemetery.

Pursuant to law, this site is a cemetery until ALL remains have been moved to another location.   This has not taken place as far as the records researched have shown.  This is substanciated by a letter received from a member of Karl Ross Post of the American Legion (documents have been given to all city & county offices by the person who wrote the letter.  I will not name this person here, as he is still living, and was kind enough to come forward).

The State sold the property to the American Legion, Karl Ross Post 16.  The land was divided into two parcels, with parcel one being containing the only burials (Per Deeds).  We are told that in the first two weeks of March much happened with this site. 

1.  Rezoning of the parcels was turned down in the end of Feburary 1955 (Stockton Record, Tuesday March 1, 1955, page 17).  The article states that "Commercial rezoning of a former Stockton State Hospital burial grounds on North California St that won approval of the County Planning Commission in January was denied yesterday by the Coutny Board of Supervisors.  The petition of Karl Ross Psot fo the American Legion for the rezoning was referred back to the planning group for reconsideration.  Unanimous supervisor disapproval of the proposed zoning came after a lengthy report by County Counsel Frederick Felton, who said such a reclassification would be illegal."

The article goes on to state: "The 15-acre Legion property is on the east side of California Street, south of the Alpine Lumber company and west of Stockton Rural Cemetery.  A trailer court now occupies much of the ground.  Felton said that the five acres which graves are located should be reclassified as a cemetery and the 10 remaining acres should be changed to commercial zoning.  The entire area is now residencial-surburban-farming zoning."

Bodies Remain:  (It seems this article was used in the writing of the above mentioned book, so this section will omit the numbers of those buried here).  The site was used for burials for 45 years.  During this time 4,467 burials took place.  During 1925 & 1926 some of the bodies were removed, with 3,572 remaining to be moved later (This is where the confusion comes in for some... does the above number of burials include those moved from the old site behind the  Women's Facility, or are they "new" burials?).

The article goes on to state the condition of the site in March of 1955:  The graveyard is in a state of neglect with the wooen markers burned off by grass fires, and no evidence of care of any kind.  Names of the persons still buried in the plot are in the records of the Stockton State Hospital.

The article then states:  PLAN MADE.  In 1948  the state sold the property to Karl Ross Post of the American Legion for $15,323.  At that time the post planned to build a clubhouseon the property and develop the graveyard section into a park.  However, the plans never materialized.

A clause in the statutes of 1939, as well as the property deed, states that the conveyance of the property to the Legion should not be construed as permission to use the land dedicated to cemetery purposes for other than such purposes until the human remains have been removed pursuant to law.  

Although the area was given blanket suburban farming zoning, this was  in error.  According to Felton, since the plot never has been abandoned as a cemetery, it must be used only for burial purposes.


After the refussal of the requested zone change, Attorney Chas. Epperson set up a private hearing with Superior Court Judge George Buck.  The witness (our informant) was sworn in, and asked  by Judge Buck about records of those buried on the site.  The informant said that he had seen a large book with plot numbers and a list of about 900 names of those buried at the site (this book was, later found to be a list of those aprox. 895 bodies removed from the site in 1925-26).  Questions were then asked of the ability of Karl Ross post to move all the remains from parcel "one".  The judge suggested they remove to his chambers, and there observed that the only course seemed to be a common burial area. 

Not many HOURS intervened after the session with Judge Buck, when the removal was complete.  I (informant) recall the suggestion was made to use the area net to the fence for Rural Cemetery, north of the driveway to Happell's Pharmacy int he Medical Arts Property.

There is another article, sited by the informant (It Happened in Stockton 1900-25, Glenn A Kennedy):

"Asylum Cemetery (Stockton State Hospital) on NOrth California directly wes of Rural Cemetery.  The land was purchased in 1875 and was used until 1919, when a crematory was built at the State Hospital Farm... Some of the 4,000 plus bodies were disenterred and cremated in 1925-26 (MC:  Where are these bodies now?  Some say they are buried under what is now Delta College)."

CONDITION OF THE SITE TODAY:  The site remains in sad condition.  There are vagrants living along the northern edge, under what few trees remain.  The city plows the area on occassion to keep weeds down.  Any trash, old furniture & other garbage is shoved to the edges of the site.  It is so sad to know that this is how we treat some of the earliest pioneers of our city & state.  How can we expect our children to respect themselves and others, when we can't even respect our forefathers?  These people were treated without dignity in life, and it continues in death. 

Stories of those buried at these sites

Photos & maps of these sites

Records and Research Documents

Stories from old newspapers

Some background graphics were provided by:

Moon and Back Graphics