Cemetery Project Report

(aka Old County Cemetery and Chanate Cemetery)


    For information about a new project being undertaken to resolve problems with the condition of this cemetery, please contact:



Make a donation to help move this project along!

Make a tax-deductible contribution
 to the

Sonoma County Historical Society 
SCHS Cemetery Fund
P.O. Box 1373
Santa Rosa, CA 95402

See the Newsletter below for recent updates!

United Way "Day of Caring" at Old Sonoma County Cemetery a Success

Fifteen volunteers from the United Way's "Day Of Caring" gave their time on Wednesday, September 17, 2003 to start the restoration of the Old Sonoma County Cemetery on Chanate Road. The old cemetery is located on county property behind the Sutter family care center. It was used for indigent burials, as well as those Chinese who were refused burial at private cemeteries. The cemetery was used between 1876 and 1944 but was then abandoned and now is completely overgrown. The Day of Caring volunteers, working under the supervision of professionals from the Regional Parks Department, cleared brush from the cemetery and uncovered some old grave markers.

Of course, the volunteers were not able to clean up the entire 1.5 acre site in one day. They were able to clear an area on the east side where a monument will be erected when funds are available from private donors. This monument will explain the history of the cemetery and will honor the 1500 people who are buried there. It is also hoped that funds can be raised for a Memorial Wall containing all of the names of the dead, since there are almost no tombstones in the cemetery. The volunteers also cleared an area near the proposed monument site. In the process, they showed that it will be possible to make the site accessible for walking without causing a runoff problem that would pollute the adjacent creek.

Most of the graves in the Old Sonoma County Cemetery are unmarked. Those that are marked have only a "soup can" full of cement with a number in the top. One grave was found with a "real" tombstone. We were expecting this tombstone to be Chinese and were quite surprised to learn that it was Japanese. This stone marks the final resting place of "Tadrichi Terao," according to his death certificate, a Japanese man who died on February 20, 1923. The tombstone was engraved with the ideographs used in many Oriental languages. The translation, which is still incomplete, gives the man's name as "Tarao Kaeichi" and his home as Hiroshima province.

Much additional work will be necessary to complete the cleanup of the cemetery grounds. This can be done on future Days of Caring or by other volunteer groups. The cemetery should be fenced and paths and benches could be installed to make visiting a pleasant experience. A monument to the 1500 dead plus a Memorial Wall with all names engraved is planned for when funds are available. The cemetery is adjacent to Paulin Creek, where Sonoma County and the City of Santa Rosa jointly have planned a walking trail. Finally, I am writing a book on the history of the cemetery, as well as the Sonoma County Farm and Hospital. This book will contain a listing of all of the burials at the Old Sonoma County Cemetery.

Jeremy Nichols