Endangered Cemetery Report

Shingle Springs, El Dorado County, California

(see how a cemetery becomes lost forever)

Photos of Oct. 2000 Clean Up of Bentley-Parmeter Plot

Note:  Joel Parmeter, mentioned in the report below, was the owner of "The Grove", a lakeside resort at South Lake Tahoe.  The Grove later became a part of Camp Richardson, though not until after Parmeter's niece, Nellie Parmeter and her husband J.C. Copeland took it over after Joel Parmeter's death.  The book "The Saga of Lake Tahoe," calls Nellie Parmeter's daughter, but she was really the daughter of his brother Joseph Parmeter, who was buried in the Bentley-Parmeter family plot in 1862.  Click here to see photos of The Grove as found in "The Saga of Lake Tahoe."



        The County of El Dorado was notified in 1998 by the El Dorado County Pioneer Cemeteries Commission of the existence of this cemetery which is located within the Barnett Business Park.  El Dorado County has had ample time to prepare and plan for the preservation and protection of this cemetery, especially the Ellen Bentley-Joel Parmeter family plot which was the most identifiable feature in the cemetery.

        Recently, the owner of the one acre commercial lot within which the Bentley-Parmeter plot exists, has had the lot cleared and has obliterated much of the evidence of the plot's existence and location.  If something is not done to mitigate the impacts to this cemetery posed by the pending grading and construction activity, the graves of these El Dorado County pioneers will be desecrated and obliterated completely in violation of Penal Code sec. 594.35.

        This type of obliteration has in the past occurred frequently in El Dorado County.  Some forty cemeteries are known to have been impacted by land development and construction.

        Our request to the county supervisor of the district where the cemetery is located has not responded to requests for assistance in this matter.  Should Supervisor Helen Baumann wish to comment to this posting, she will be afforded reasonable opportunity.

        Sue Silver, State Coordinator (10/6/2003)

Historical Background: 

This cemetery was first identified by Betty C. Laarveld from documentary evidence. Mrs. Laarveld was unable to locate the cemetery during her 1975 cemetery survey. It was revealed to members of the EDCPCC in 1998, by local area residents and brothers, Bill (aka Art) and Frank Hicks, two men who grew up in Shingle Springs in the 1930s, less than a quarter of a mile from the old roadhouse and cemetery property.

Today the cemetery is located within at least one commercial lot within the Barnett Business Park off Durock Road in Shingle Springs. Prior to this approved land use, the property had been a part of land held by the Barnett's who had acquired large tracts of land in the area in the 1950s, holding the properties until it began to sell for development purposes.

The El Dorado House and Ranch was established by George Richardson and Dr. Augustus Trafton in June of 1850, and was located on the Sacramento to Placerville Road. The El Dorado House Cemetery was likely established in December of that same year upon the death of George Richardson on December 10th. [See copy of Historical Brief dated May 29, 1998, although, please note there are corrections to that report which have not yet been incorporated.]

After Richardson's death, Trafton and his wife purchased Richardson's interest in the property from his estate and continued to operate the roadhouse for just a short time more. In 1870, Trafton served as the Superintendent of Schools for Sacramento County before settling permanently in Woodbridge, San Joaquin County.  (Errata: Trafton later moved back to Sacramento; then to Dixon, Solano County.)  [Note:  The El Dorado County Pioneer Cemeteries Commission was recently contacted by the great-great-granddaughter of Dr. Augustus Trafton.  She has indicated that the Trafton's lost a child around the time they left El Dorado County.  It is possible the child was buried at the El Dorado House Cemetery./S. Silver.]

The Trafton's sold the property to James Higgins in 1853, but there is no later deed from Higgins transferring the property to anyone else. There is, however, some evidence that Higgins' remained involved with the property until at least mid-1854, when Mrs. Margaret C. Higgins, the wife of Monroe Higgins, filed a notice as a married woman owning separate property for "hotel keeping, gardening, teaming & trading generally at the Old El Dorado Stand."

By 1856, S.P. Montgomery sold the property to Lyman A. Hoyt and Ellen Bentley, describing it to be the "El Dorado Hotel formerly owned by Dr. Trafton." Apparently there was some problem that occurred and Hoyt transferred his interest to Cyrus H. Ingham, who would later transfer it to George H. Ingham.

During that same time, Ellen Bentley was consistently assessed property taxes for the El Dorado House or hotel. As a result of a claim of ownership by George H. Ingham, there was a lawsuit and a counter-lawsuit filed out of which Ellen Bentley prevailed.

Ellen Bentley died at age 52 on February 10, 1868 in Sacramento. The property was never transferred from her ownership, and it may be presumed that it became part of the federal Railroad Land grants as it is within an odd numbered section. [An enormous number of properties in this county and elsewhere have had their titles disrupted by the railroad grants and the trail is not picked up until the Central Pacific Railroad's subsequent sale of those lands is located.]

In this instance, Ellen Bentley's El Dorado House and Ranch was purchased from the Central Pacific Railroad Company by Charles and Enos McNeill, two brothers from Ireland. They had also purchased other lands adjacent and around this parcel from private parties, but as a result of the railroad grant lands, had to again purchase those same properties from the railroad!

The McNeill brothers both died in the year 1875. Enos died in October and Charles died in December, and both were buried in the Shingle Springs Cemetery located on the south side of present-day Mother Lode Drive. Their estates were distributed to their surviving brothers and sisters through their attorney in fact, Andrew Gilmer. Subsequent to the estate distribution, in 1877, the McNeill brothers heirs sold the property to William M. Palmer, who owned the Spring Garden Ranch south of the McNeill ranch on present-day South Shingle Road.

William Palmer died in 1895, and is buried in the Shingle Springs Cemetery not too far from the McNeill brothers. His widow, Serena B. Palmer, later transferred the property, but no record of transfer from William to Serena has ever been located. Nonetheless, the following year, Serena transferred the property to James H. Bullard, the son of Eliza Bullard Palmer, William's first wife. Serena later married James Bullard, her step-son!

Upon Serena's death in 1904, James buried her "a short distance from the residence on the home where she had lived so many years." While we do not have concrete evidence, it is our belief that Serena was the daughter of Ellen Bentley, and that the initial "B." in her name was for Bentley. Though she was Serena B. Johnson at the time of her marriage to William Palmer, it is suspected she had been married to someone else previously.

Later, upon the death of James' step-son from his second marriage, Donald Bowskill, in 1923, James had Serena's body exhumed and relocated to East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento. There the family has a beautiful granite vault with marble niches that hold the remains of James and Serena Bullard and Donald Bowskill. On the wall opposite the locked, gated entrance, is a stained glass window depicting the Spring Garden Ranch.

It may be noted that Ellen Bentley's daughter, Martha (Mattie) Bentley Parmeter, was the wife of Joel E. Parmeter, who established The Grove at Lake Tahoe in the mid-1880s. During that time summer resorts became extremely popular at the lake. The Grove is now a part of Camp Richardson. Mattie Parmeter died in 1900, and was "interred at the El Dorado ranch beside her three children, her mother, sister and a cousin." Her husband, Joel, died five years later, and was interred "beside his wife at the Bentley family burial plat, two miles below Shingle Springs..."

The El Dorado House Cemetery Interment Identification listing contains the names of eight confirmed burials and three probable other burials. Because the cemetery is associated with the operation of a public roadhouse that appears to have functioned from 1850 through 1868, there is a potential that many other graves may exist there as well. Newspaper death notices for those who died "near Shingle Springs" during that period could as easily have resulted in burial in this cemetery as in any of the other numerous cemeteries in the Shingle Springs vicinity.

There is no evidence of any of the prior owners having withheld the cemetery as a deed exception. Since the cemetery was used from 1850 until 1905, we believe the law provides that it is a public cemetery.

Source:  El Dorado County Pioneer Cemeteries Commission