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In Search of Pioneer Graves from the California Gold Rush

Plumas National Forest, California, 2016
By Jamie Moore, Plumas NF Archaeologist

Twenty-four volunteers helped Forest Service archaeologists on the Plumas National Forest survey for pioneer graves in Plumas and Sierra Counties in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. They also helped with cemetery restorations at the historic Gibsonville and St. Louis Cemeteries located near the survey areas.

During the survey for pioneer graves volunteers successfully located two graves sites. The first grave located was that of Ann Eliza Cullings who died in 1853. After her death her husband returned to New York with their daughter.  The second grave found was that of a miner John P. Wilson who died in 1858 after an avalanche smashed his cabin in the middle of the night. After crawling out of the ruined cabin he died on the way to get help from the nearby Hopkins’ Creek settlement. Volunteers also help record the condition of graves in the historic cemetery of Port Wine in Sierra County. Several other pioneer graves were searched for but with no success.

Volunteers helped clean and construct fences in two Sierra County town cemeteries. In the Gibsonville Cemetery volunteers helped build and paint a fence that runs around the cemetery. This cemetery is known to have been used during the 1860’s with interments continuing into the 1970’s. The new cemetery fence replaces the historic one which collapsed in the 1970’s; the replacement fence being the same style used historically. Volunteers also helped clear duff and brush from around graves and cleaned the headstones within the cemetery. At the St. Louis Cemetery volunteers helped reconstruct two fences that had collapsed. This cemetery was in use during the 1850’s with the last interments occurring in the 1930’s. The first new fence was placed around Evan Jones who died in 1896. The second fence constructed encompassed Thomas Hayes who died in 1898 and three of his sons: Charles, Johnnie and Eddie. Volunteers also helped clear duff and clean headstones at the St. Louis Cemetery.
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