California  SAVING GRAVES
Endangered Cemetery Report Correspondence

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CHANATE (OLD COUNTY) CEMETERY
Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California

Original Report filed October 7, 2000
Chronological Correspondences dated:  July 29, 2000 through May 15, 2003


Date:  29 Jul 2000
From: Susan Faught
Source:  Rootsweb.com; Sonoma County Query page

I need help from the historic Society, or any one with a list of burials that took place in the Old County Cemetery located off of Chanate Rd behind the hospital. I have been to the administration office at the hospital, the county recorders office, and also the Park and Rec Dept; all with dead ends. The only thing I accomplished is reminding the Parks dept that they are supposed to be maintaining the area which I had trouble egressing because of the poison oak and brush.

Someone, somewhere MUST have a list of these burials!! Please let me know if you can help or have any ideas.....


Date: October 7, 2000
From: Jayne Austin
Source: Endangered Cemetery Report


Date:  October 11, 2000 and OCTOBER 12, 2000 (response to questions)

Jayne,
 
Good morning.  Saw your endangered cemetery report on Saving Graves.  I am the president of the El Dorado County Pioneer Cemeteries Commission (a non-profit corporation).  We are a member organization of the California Historic Cemetery Alliance, and I am copying Dr. Bob LaPerriere of CHCA on this message.
 
It sounds from your report that Chanate Cemetery is in actuality the old County Hospital Cemetery.  California Health and Safety Code Sec. 8000 et. seq. provides the way in which the county can remove and relocate the remains within the cemetery.  (They probably know this but are going to try to ignore it unless someone brings it up.)
 
Just for your information, "abandoned," when used in reference to a cemetery in California, means that all the remains have been exhumed and relocated.  It is only then that ANY (former) cemetery land may be used for any other purpose.  As long as the remains are within the cemetery it is considered to be "active" and "in use" or "held" for cemetery purposes.  Don't forget this fine detail point.
 
Before I can offer you much advice, there are a few things I will need to know.  If you want to stop the county from destroying this cemetery, I will try to help you to accomplish that.
 
1.    Does the county acknowledge ownership of the cemetery?  YES THEY DO    Does it acknowledge it is the old County Hospital Cemetery?  YES, THE SIGN IN FRONT OF THE CEMETERY SAYS "OLD COUNTY CEMETERY" AND THERE IS A LIST THAT WE FOUND AT THE HISTORICAL LIBRARY THAT HAS A HANDWRITTEN NOTATION THAT SAYS 'PATIENTS OF COUNTY HOSPITAL'  -- OTHER THAN THAT NOTHING 'OFFICIAL'.
2.    Does the Historical Society have any other information on the cemetery other than a tombstone inventory (which is probably the only record of interments that actually exists unless the county kept the hospital records)?  Are there any photos there?  NO PHOTOS -- OTHER INFORMATION -- MAINLY NEWSPAPER ARTICLES FROM 1987 WHEN THE CEMETERY WAS ACCIDENTLY 'FOUND'  -- COUNTY ARCHITECT'S OFFICE FOUND IT WHILE PLANNING TO EXPAND AN EXISTING PARKING LOT
 
3.    Have you spoken with anyone from the county to confirm the "rumor" you speak of in your report?  NO
 
4.    Are there tombstones or grave markers of any kind in the cemetery?  (There are none in our county hospital cemetery and it has been semi-obliterated time and again since the 1940's.)  NO --  THE HOSPITAL WE READ FROM A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE WAS ONCE A TUBERULOCIS HOSPITAL -- PATIENTS WERE GETTING UPSET LOOKING OUT THEIR WINDOWS AND SEEIN A CEMETERY (HEADSTONES) -- SO THE COUNTY HAD THE HEADSTONES ALL REMOVED.  IN THEIR STEAD THEY PLACED SOUP LIKE CANS FILLED WITH CEMENT AND A NUMBER STAMPED IN IT.  (WE CANNOT FIND A LISTING PUTTING NUMBERS WITH NAMES).  WE SAW ONE OF THE CANS, HOWEVER WE COULDN'T GET INTO THE CEMETERY BECAUSE OF THE POISON OAK AND OVERGROWTH TO SEE IF THEIR ARE OTHERS.  THERE IS A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE (1987) THAT SAYS WHEN THE CEMETERY WAS DISCOVERED THEY FOUND HUNDREDS OF THESE "MARKERS".
 
5.    Has there been any print media coverage of this issue?  NOT TO MY KNOWLEDGE ON THE PRESENT CONDITION JUST IN 1987 AS PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED.
 
I would like you to look up Findlaw on the internet and search on Health and Safety Codes for cemetery law.  Or you can go to the California Dept. of Consumer Affairs, Cemetery and Funeral Bureau internet site and look up the codes there.  You are specifically interested in PUBLIC CEMETERIES and the statutes that govern them.  Primarily, section 8126 states that once a cemetery has been used as a PUBLIC cemetery it can never be used for any other purpose whatsoever.  Section 8000 sets up that the county can only relocate the remains from a county institution's cemetery to use that land for another PUBLIC purpose.  (A subdivision is NOT a PUBLIC endeavor....)
 
If you are serious about stopping this from happening and you are interested in seeking legal advice, I can refer you to an attorney who might be able to help you.  I don't know what his charges would be, they seem to vary at this point.  I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THE NAME AND NUMBER.  AT THIS POINT I DON'T KNOW IF WE 'NEED' HIM YET OR IF WE CAN EVEN AFFORD HIM.  BUT I STILL WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THAT RESOURCE ON FILE!
 
Also, are you near Bolinas at all?  (Sorry, I'm not real familiar with the coastal areas.)  There is a group of people up there who have been fighting to protect the Bolinas Cemetery.  If I can find their information, you might wish to contact them and see if they can offer any advice or assistance, or refer you to their attorney.
 
Jayne, cemeteries throughout California are just as endangered as Chanate Cemetery.  This is happening throughout the state.  You aren't alone.
 
Please let me know what you'd like to do and what other questions you might have.  I'll help in any way I can.
 
Sue Silver
El Dorado County Pioneer Cemeteries Commission
ssilver1951@jps.net

Date:  22 Dec 2001
From: Sonyia Noonan
Source: Rootsweb.com; Sonoma County Query page; Reply to Susan Faught

Hi Susan, Do you know if the cemetary was in operation in 1933? I have been around and around with Sonoma County too and they don't even seem to know that there was a County Cemetary in the Santa Rosa area. I believe my grandfather Charles Myers (Evelyn Faught's father) was buried there, but have had no luck in finding anyone with info.


Date:  31 Dec 2001
From: Jeremy Nichols
Source:  Rootsweb.com; Sonoma County Query page; Reply to Sonyia Noonan

     Your difficulty in getting anyone at Sonoma County to admit the existence of the old county cemetery may have been due to any one of a number of reasons. Because the cemetery has been abandoned for so many years, many of the younger employees don't know about it. Because the cemetery was associated with indigents, criminals, and those who died at the county hospital, including paupers, plague victims, and the insane, many people don't want to know about it.
     At any rate, the cemetery is there, although, as Susan Faught told you, all of the markers are gone. This is truly unfortunate because many people were buried there because of racial prejudice (example: Chinese) and their graves are now completely lost.
     I have searched this cemetery as part of the research for my forthcoming book on the cemeteries of Sonoma County and there is no indication it was ever a cemetery. There is a loose-leaf notebook in the local library with some listings, probably the same as Susan has. The county death certificates would point there and the coroner's records also. The former are public but we haven't yet worked out a deal to make the coroner's records available.


Date:  14 May 2003
From: Jayne Austin
Source:  Rootsweb.com; Sonoma County Query page; Reply to Jeremy Nichols

Dear Mr. Nichols,
     Thanks to the help of Susan Faught , we were fortunate enough to find my grandfathers name on the listing for the Chanate Cemetery. A couple years ago I visited the cemetary and was very disappointed at the condition of it. Since it has been a couple of years since the writing of this e-mail that I am responded to, have you finished your book? If so, how may I get a copy of it? Were you able to get any more information on the cemetary?
     While we were there, we found out that there was quite a scandel in the 1980's about the condition of the cemetary. I guess Sonoma County promised to care for the cemetary. Obviously that has not been done!
     Any insite would be greatly appreciated! We are hoping that some day we might be able to actually "locate" my grandfather's grave (Charles Prefume). Thank you!


Date: 15 May 2003
From:  Jeremy Nichols
Source: Rootsweb.com; Sonoma County Query page; Reply to Jayne Austin

     You are to be congratulated for your persistence; Chanate is a hard cemetery to research. Yes, there were quite a few articles in our newspaper in 1985-86 when a parking lot expansion "discovered" the cemetery. Chanate Cemetery is included in my book; I learned a few things about it during my research.
     My book, "Cemeteries of Sonoma County, California, A History and Guide," was published this February by Heritage Books of Bowie, Maryland. You can buy a copy for $22.50 by calling Heritage at 800-398-7709. My book is Heritage number N2269.
     There has been no effort made to do anything about Chanate's condition. Even the ownership of the property is unsure; a lot of this has to do with responsibility. For example, if the City of Santa Rosa turns out to be the owner, then they have to take care of it.
     The City and the County would rather keep the status of the cemetery as gray as possible (they are as financially pinched as everyone else in California now). I am trying to make friends, looking at the long term, and don't want to attack the officials and their staff. Chanate has been grown over for many years; there's no point in beating on the existing government.

     Eventually, something must be done. I would like to create an organization to promote cemetery care in Sonoma County but don't know how to go about it. Someday.....
     The Faught Cemetery ("Susan's cemetery") was recently cleaned up by two Ursuline High School students as their senior service project. Other Sonoma County cemeteries receive care from volunteers but two-thirds of our graveyards have no care at all.
     It certainly wouldn't hurt to write to
          Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
          575 Administration Drive, Room 100A
          Santa Rosa, CA 95403

and tell them about Chanate's condition and that you have an ancestor buried there. One letter may not do much, but zero letters definitely will do nothing.
     Good luck and please keep me informed of anything you do.


Date:  15 May 2003
From: Sue Silver, State Coordinator, California Saving Graves
Source:  Rootsweb.com; Sonoma County Query page; Reply to Jayne Austin

Hello,
     An Endangered Cemetery Report was filed with Saving Graves on the Chanate
Cemetery in the year 2000.  To view the report, got to this link: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ca/state/Chanate.htm.
     If you would like to file a second complaint, the Endangered Cemetery Report
form is located at:  http://www.savinggraves.com/reports/report_new.htm.  Or
to update a report, you may do so at: http://www.savinggraves.com/reports/report_update.htm.
     Back in 2000, I did a follow up with the original report filer and she was
able to provide me with some information.  At that time I was not officially
involved with Saving Graves and did not take any further action.
     If you would update the current report or filed a new report, I will use
that current activity to contact the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to
advise them the report has been filed.
     For more information about cemetery preservation in California, please visit
our California Saving Graves website at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ca/state/.  If you would like further information, please contact me directly at ssilver1951@jps.net.


Date: 15 May 2003
From:  Jayne Austin
Source:  Email to Sue Silver

Thank you for your e-mail.  I am the "original filer" -- and I just sent in
an "updated report" as you suggested.  I would very much be interested in
the response that you may get from the County of Board of Supervisors.  Let
me know what, if anything, I can do to assist you!


Date:   30 May 2003 - Memorial Day
From:  Sue Silver
Source:  Contact with Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
Copied to:  CASONOMA-L@rootsweb.com
Response from County:  PENDING

Honorable Paul L. Kelley, Chairman
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
575 Administration Drive, Room 100A
Santa Rosa, CA  95403-2887
 
    Re:  Chanate (aka Old County) Cemetery, Santa Rosa
 
Dear Chairman Kelley:
 
California Saving Graves (CSG) is an unincorporated non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of California's historic cemeteries.  CSG is a state chapter of Saving Graves, a worldwide internet resource that provides information to people seeking to preserve historic cemeteries in their localities.
 
In October of 2000, before the state chapter's were formed, Saving Graves received an Endangered Cemetery Report about the Chanate Cemetery.  We have recently monitored some additional information and inquiries about this cemetery and have added these correspondences to our website.
 
It would seem that a fair number of people are very concerned about the fate and future of the Chanate Cemetery.  Particularly disturbing is that those who have attempted to find out how to address some of the problems experienced at the cemetery are apparently unable to determine who owns the cemetery and who is legally responsible for managing and controlling it.
 
Some of the correspondence tends to point to the establishment of the cemetery as being in connection with the old County Hospital.  This would seem to be a circumstance that occurred in most counties in California where the county hospital's were located and it became necessary to have a burying ground for deceased hospital inmates.  The present condition of the cemetery is also in keeping with what we are finding at other county hospital cemeteries throughout the state.
 
CSG would like to ask that Sonoma County review the issues raised by those who have been "discussing" this matter over the internet.  If this cemetery was established as the cemetery of the county hospital, it would be our opinion that the county remains the owner of the cemetery.
 
California law regarding county-owned cemeteries clearly outlines that a county cemetery remains in the ownership of a county.  State law also continues the dedication of the land for cemetery purposes, whether dedicated formally or through implied dedication, as long as human remains remain within the grounds.
 
We will be posting this correspondence to our website and will post any reply we may receive from Sonoma County regarding this matter.
 
Should you have any questions or desire further information or assistance from CSG, please feel free to contact me.
 
Respectfully,
 
Sue Silver, State Coordinator
California Saving Graves
Email:  ssilver1951@jps.net

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