Saving Graves

Old Union Cemetery

Redwood City, San Mateo County, California



Cemetery Name: (Old) Union Cemetery
Street: N.B. Hwy 101, turning west to Hwy. 84, R. side pocket of land as you exit the freeway Hwy 101 No. to 84 west.
City: Redwood City
County: San Mateo
State: California
Land Type: Private
Status: Inactive
Number of graves: est. eighty or more
Oldest grave: 1850's or 1860's and beyond to perhaps the 1920's.
Records: Don't Know
Inventory: Don't Know


I know of no records but believe they exist. A large, set-aside, union soldier burial area exists. Another acre has local residents and pioneers of the nineteenth century. Many broken into and flooded tombs. Most stones missing despite evidence of dozens of burials. Some local residents have taken an interest but they need help. A family run plant and garden store next door is probably your best first-step lead (Third Gen., if they are still there).


Mid-nineteenth century repose of California's Union war dead, plus many pioneer locals. Much neglect and damage over the years, though the union soldier section has remained remarkably intact. Some of the locals tombs have not been so lucky.


It lies in a triangle of land created by a freeway off-ramp and the old county highway. I have no idea if any of this place was paved over in the process. It is surrounded to the fence line with housing and commercial development, not to mention the freeway.

Previous Contacts

I had spoken briefly, years ago, to the granddaughter of the founder of the adjacent garden store. She played there as a child. She may hold significant family-borne history of this place and be the best place to start a history search. Also the County Historical society or local churches.

Current Status

I have not revisited in years due to personal circumstance. I hope these leads are still valid. This place needs to be not just preserved, but resurrected as a place of reverence and history.

Submitted by / Contact for additional Information:

name: Scott Williams

Update 5/21/2000

The cemetery is currently owned by the City of Redwood City, CA and is managed under their Parks & Recreation Dept. That helps with day to day maintenance but wouldn't come close to the restoration that the cemetery needs.

The Historic Union Cemetery Association was formed several years ago by citizens concerned by the neglect and vandalism at the cemetery. We're a very active group. Besides sponsoring tours of the cemetery and an annual Memorial Day celebration, the Association has undertaken many other projects. The cemetery is now on both the State of California and National Registers of Historic Places.

Most of the headstones and markers that we've been able to rescue have been repaired. Many, especially wooden markers were long gone. There were over 2,000 people buried there from the mid-1850s to the early 1960s. The burial register only goes to 1917 but we're also actively involved with identifying those who were buried later.

The Union Soldier in the G.A.R. plot had been pulled down and broken in pieces by vandals back in the late 60s. Last year after a several-year fundraising effort, he was recast in bronze using pieces of the original pot metal soldier and photographs as guides (a $30,000 project).

We've found an incredible resource in Boy Scouts working toward their Eagle rankings. They have taken on many many projects--restoring landscaping & pathways, rebuilding plot fences, restoring wooden markers, and many more. I would encourage other cemetery restoration organizations to tap this resource. We couldn't do it without them!

We've just negotiated with the City Council to provide matching funds of $2,500 per year for the next five years with the funds to be specifically used for Scout projects in the cemetery. You would be amazed what those Scouts can accomplish with $5,000 per year and lots of enthusiasm. And, we're developing another generation with an interest in preserving this pioneer cemetery--very important for the future.

Donna J []