Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: An Unexpected Cousin In My Own Backyard!

I love cemeteries. I mean, what genealogist DOESN'T love a good cemetery. A lot of my friends (and some of my family) think it's a bit weird and macabre that I like to visit old burial grounds when I'm traveling. But, I think they are wonderful places full of history, stories and, odd as it may sound, life!

Some of my favorite cemeteries (other than where my own people are buried, of course) are the eerie, yet somehow romantic, above-ground crypts in New Orleans, the old, urban graveyards that now house many of our country's founders and patriots in Boston and the small, hidden-away burial grounds along narrow paths in the English and Welsh countryside.

My favorite local cemetery, however, is the 226-acre Mountain View Cemetery nestled in lower hills of Oakland, California. It's just up the hill from me, and I can walk to it from my apartment. It is truly one of the most splendid cemeteries I've ever visited, and it has its own unique history that is just as fascinating as the histories of some of its illustrious inhabitants.

Mountain View Cemetery was established in 1863 and designed by famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Manhattan's Central Park, both UC Berkeley and Stanford Universities and the Midway Plaisance at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, among many other notable parks and projects around the United States.

From the top of Mountain View Cemetery on a rainy day,
looking out toward the San Francisco skyline
The cemetery is a feast for the eyes when it comes to grandiose crypts and headstones that pay tribute to some of California's important historical figures, including Domingo Ghirardelli (of the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate Company), J.A. Folger (founder of Folgers Coffee), noted California architect Julia Morgan and several former California governors, senators and other notable politicians. 

However, Mountain View is also the burial place of nearly 200,000 regular souls who now rest among the beautiful scenery and dozens of winding pathways that attract walkers, bicyclists and picnickers along with those who come to pay tribute to their loved ones. I love meandering along the paths that curve along the gentle hills of this park-like cemetery. According to the cemetery website, "Mountain View is distinguished from other cemeteries by its architect's vision of man and nature and their relationship to each other." And, it's true. It's one of those rare places where you know that you're in the middle of an urban geography, however you're free to shrug off the stress and confines of the city and bask in the nature -- and, on a sunny day, the incredible views -- that Mountain View offers.

The GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Civil War burial plot at Mountain View Cemetery
So, the title of this post mentions something about a cousin, right? Well, one day last summer, I went out for a hike at Mountain View. Since there are so many paths one can choose, I like to mix it up in order to see new views and explore different burial plots, such as the Jewish section and the Civil War plot. Really, I see something new every time I'm there. So, this one day, I was tooling around a plot where I hadn't spent much time before. I don't know what made me turn to look at this one particular tombstone, but there it was:

My cousin, John Milton Eddy, and family
 I first noticed the surname: Eddy. Hey, I have Eddys in my tree! I looked a little closer, and this guy, John Milton Eddy (1800-1862), was born in Middleboro, Massachusetts. Hey, that's where my original Pilgrim, Samuel Eddy, settled in the 1630s! I guessed that this had to be a long-lost relative, so I snapped the above photo and went home to do a little sleuthing. Turns out, John Milton Eddy is my 3rd cousin, 7 times removed (thanks to Ancestry.com for doing that bit of calculation for me). John and I are both descended from my 10th great grandparents, Samuel Eddy and Elizabeth Savory, who arrived at Plymouth Harbor on the Handmaid on October 29, 1630.

Death notice in the Sacramento Daily Union
for Jane Caroline "Carrie" Eddy
Perhaps, you may have noticed that John Milton and his daughter, Jane Caroline Eddy, died in Eureka, California. So, why are they buried 275 miles south of there, in Oakland? I was curious about that, so I went to the cemetery office and asked to see the burial records. (On a side note, the volunteer at the office was a little incredulous when she asked what was my relationship to the deceased and I answered, "He's my 3rd cousin, 7 times removed!") After a bit of persuading, she finally brought out some papers, including several pieces of correspondence regarding the plot, and made copies for me. It turns out, John and his wife, Olive Sanders Eddy, journeyed from Massachusetts to California sometime between 1841 (when youngest daughter, Jane Caroline, was born in Boston) and 1850, likely during the Gold Rush period. Jane, nicknamed "Carrie", died from influenza at the very young age of 16 in 1857. John Milton died just five years later, also in Eureka. Olive later went to live in San Francisco with her granddaughter, Lizzie Eddy Atkinson (whose mother, Eliza, was another of John and Olive's daughters) and Lizzie's husband, David Watt Horsburgh. When Olive died after a long illness, in 1885, David and Lizzie purchased the plot at Mountain View and made arrangements for John and Jane's remains to be moved from Eureka to finally rest with Olive in Oakland. The other two people listed on the gravestone are Martin White (1826-1901), who appears to be a family member or close friend (and shows up on the 1850 US census with them), and Antoinette Magruder Stone (1830-1916), who was a "very old friend of family." From David Horsburgh's correspondence with the cemetery officials, it seems that several others are buried in the plot, including several members of a Wood family, who seem to be connected with John and Olive's daughter, Eliza.

I'm still learning more about John Milton Eddy and his family who were early pioneers in California. I want to know what drew him to California? How did he die? What kind of man was this distant cousin of mine? Are there any portraits of them??? As I discover more tidbits about John and his family, I'll be sure to report them here. Meanwhile, I now have a reason, other than the brisk exercise and stunning views, to walk around Mountain View Cemetery: I have family to visit!


  1. Loved reading about John Milton Eddy.

    1. Thanks, Mom! I look forward to taking a cemetery walk with you soon. =)

  2. Wendy,
    I totally understand your love of cemeteries. My first husband, my father, and my big brother all died within a few a four year time frame so I began spending time there at a very young age. My children were young when there father died so they played around his grave. I never wanted it to be a sad place for them.

    I also found a relative in the graveyard I was photographing. It was my 3 Great grandfather. I had know clue that he had lived in the area.

    Betty Taylor