Union Cemetery, Redwood City

William Serey was hit by a train in 1931 and buried in the Union Cemetery. His body was later moved to Alta Mesa. Dana Burton, a mechanic, died in a motorcycle accident while 24-years old (1932). Loviah Starr’s husband sent a sad letter to her family when she died (1868); she was buried in Mrs. Snyder’s Lot. August Ackerman shot his wife and then himself while in the midst of a bitter divorce (1914). He is buried in Redwood City and his wife in San Francisco. Jacob Kreiss, accidentally shot himself while crossing over an orchard fence (1898). Gerald Kirkpatrick, Emile Steinbach, and Axle William Westran all died in the 1906 Earthquake.

Tuberculosis, meningitis, pneumonia, diphtheria, childbirth, whooping cough, and heart disease are the persistent diseases of the 19th and early 20th century and are reflected in death records.

These are the stories from the Union Cemetery in Redwood City. And, while some people avoid graveyards because of their purpose, I seek them out because they give good insight into the history and spirit of a place. The stories (good, bad and sometimes ugly) are what define the beginnings of a city.

The other thing that fascinates me is that once buried, a person’s history remains unchanged. The stories told in 1957 are the same stories told in 2014. People and life move on while history is frozen in a graveyard. It’s only when you pause and listen that you can hear the stories.

This is a Union Cemetery. California was a Union state during the American Civil War; many Californians were opposed to the secessionist ideals of the South and reserved sections of their cemeteries for Union soldiers who fought in the war. The last burial in the Grand Army of the Republic’s (GAR) plot was Dr. James Henry Baxter in 1936. During the War he served under Pennsylvania’s 85th regiment as a drummer boy; at the Battle of Gettysburg, he earned scars during a sword fight with a Confederate soldier.

Beside the GAR plot are graves reserved for Freemasons. Buried here are some of the founding fathers of Redwood City and more people with interesting stories. There’s George Washington Tallman, the local jailer who died from injuries sustained injuries during a prison break (1888). George Green, a wealthy man who was found floating in the Bay in 1894; it couldn’t be determined if his death was accidental, murder, or suicide. And, the story of Henry Finkler who was so distraught by the death of his wife Eileen that he killed himself.

This particular graveyard is well documented and someone (or a group of someones) have done a fantastic job of pulling together newspaper clippings, death certificates, obituaries, photos, and lore to give colour to the people buried here.

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