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We are all equal in the presence of death-- Publilius Syrus

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

explored by: Shady & Lobo, May 2006 (photos by Shady)

During my recent stay in Riverside, Lobo took me to see this amazing old cemetery called Evergreen Memorial Park, which he knew I'd want to explore (he sure knows me eh? *smile*) The sunlight was mellowing toward sunset, giving a golden glow to the pale knee-length grasses that whispered around the old stones. And there are a lot of old stones in Evergreen, going back to the 1800's and beyond...

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

There were so many fascinating old gravestones... lots and lots of Masonic symbology too. There was even a marker that looked like, well, a rock. Many of the gravestones were so old that their details were difficult to make out and some have fallen, sunken, or just plain eroded away. One marker seemed especially heartbreaking for some reason, it read simply- 'Amanda'. Another sad marker was inscribed 'Mother'...

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, Riverside, California

One monument in particular was just stunning- a tall, narrow obelisk covered in incredibly intricate engravings- blossoms, vines, fleur de lis, and corded drapings leading up to an urn filled with flame. We saw a lot of interesting symbology on nearly every stone, from linked chains to stars both upside-down and upright (sometimes together on the same stone, as in the case of this 'stop sign'-shaped marker ). Some research revealed that the upside down stars may have indicated the resting places of spouses of Freemasons, which makes sense as nearly all those we found were located alongside markers with Masonic symbols.

I was really moved by the intricacy of the work on some of these gravestones... it is a very touching memorial to loved ones lost. On one, a pair of mourning birds sat entwined above an engraving which reads: 'Our precious one from us has gone, A voice we loved is stilled; A place is vacant in our home, Which never can be filled'. Absolutely heartbreaking. At another site, it seemed that something had burrowed a tunnel all the way under a pair of markers, leaving an entrance and exit hole on either side.

Majestic palm trees of many varieties ring Evergreen Memorial, encircling the quiet resting places within; it's a rather large cemetery spanning several blocks criss-crossed by streets and avenues. One of the most interesting sights was a large marker surrounded by a double row of tiny tombstones forming a circle around it. The marker is inscribed: 'G.A.R To The UNKNOWN DEAD Who Gave Their Lives For The Union From 1861---1865 W.R.C.' Nearby, a large, strange trench cut into the earth in a perfectly circular pattern (even cutting right across a grave in one spot); we were not sure exactly what would have made such a gouge, or why it would be there, but it is something to ponder.

The mausoleum is an elegant old structure, reminiscent of a modest castle or some kind of Egyptian tomb. A tiny bird found a perch atop a gravestone nearby as we examined an odd, unmarked stone amid the graves alongside the building. I also took the opportunity to snap a candid shot of Lobo as he read an engraved plaque, heh heh...

Evergreen stretched on and on in every direction, with so many stones and markers that it would have taken us days to try and chronicle it all. Alas, we didn't have days, and I was just glad that we had the time to at least wander through it as much of it as we did, there were many fascinating sights to see. As we headed back to where we parked Lobo pointed out an interesting Alamo-esque structure that sat nestled into a hillside in the cemetery; it was all but invisible from any angle but the front. Perhaps it held remains of the departed at one time, perhaps not... it was empty when we saw it and I am not certain exactly what it's function was. After a few jokes about locking me in behind it's iron gates, we made our way out of Evergreen and back into the land of the living.

Evergreen Memorial Park is a lovely old cemetery and very much worth a visit to those who find fascination in the fields of the dead...

 

Our friend Synchronicity was kind enough to send us the following information about this great old cemetery....

"Some background info about Evergreen Cemetery.

Evergreen is the oldest cemetery in Riverside proper, and thus contains the remains of city pioneers and founders. Having been there, you surely noticed the stark difference between the newer part of the cemetery and the three oldest sections. This is because the cemetery did not begin as an "endowment care" facility. In simple terms, when you buy a plot in an endowment cemetery, your money goes into a sort of mutual fund that pays for all the on-going costs of maintenance, theoretically to perpetuity. The newer portions of Evergreen are endowed, and it shows. The older sections were not set up as such, and there has been no money even to water the weeds for many, many years. Evergreen is in a Catch-22 situation - because the pioneer section is part of an operating, private cemetery, public funds cannot be used to maintain it. However, the operators of Evergreen Cemetery also cannot maintain it, as endowment funds may only be used to maintain plots purchased as endowed.

It's a mess :( However, several local groups have taken up the cause, raising funds for restoration and hoping to establish a $1.5 million trust to "endow" those sections into perpetuity. I am involved in that effort.

Now, some items of interest ...

The Woodmen of the World was a fraternal organization founded in the late 1800's. Early on, when a member dies, the hat was passed to provide burial funds. Eventually, the organization started offering life insurance to its members, and provided grave markers. These very distinctive gravemarkers, which often look like trees or stacks of firewood, are fairly uncommon in California, however you can find quite a large number at Evergreen. This is because the Woodmen of the World established a home for their aging members here in the early 1900\'s. You have a photo of a W.o.W. monument here.


Your Alamo-esque structure is, in fact, a tunnel that connects with the 'catacombs' under the Mission Inn, a few miles away. (The passage is blocked now, so no need to kick yourself for missing the chance)

Entering the newer section at the gate directly south of the non-endowed sections, there is an open, square structure. In a crescent moon shape hugging back corner of that structure, is an 'angel garden' full of infants who perished during the 1918 flu epidemic.

Evergreen also has a section for vets of the War of 1812 and a Masonic section.

The "gouge" in the ground that you took note of is probably a trench for the irrigation we hope to install.

The most important item of interest is that we're trying to bring this cemetery back to life, so to speak, and that anyone can help by donating to the Friends of Evergreen Cemetery:

www.evergreen-cemetery.info

Next time you're in Riverside, it should look MUCH better! Also, you might like a visit to Olivewood, the second oldest cemetery in Riverside proper. Olivewood has a huge number of Chinese burials."

WOW- fascinating stuff... thanks Syncronicity! I hope that all of you cemetery lovers out there will visit their site and help their cause- Re-Green Evergreen!!

 

Also, our visitor Hanna sent us this info: "Just a note that the interesting Alamo looking structure in Evergreen Cemetery/Memorial park in Riverside, CA is called the 'Cold Storage'. Built before there was refrigeration."

And Rev. Joel+ tells us this: "This is the medal and ribbon awarded to Veterans of the Union Forces from the War between the States. The G.A.R. is for "Grand Army of the Republic".

I enjoy your site. It is very creative.

Pax Christi
Rev. Joel+"

Do you have any background information or stories to tell about this intriguing site?

 

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