ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE MARTINEZ NEWS-GAZETTE ON MAY 22, 2019
Saturday May 11th marked the restart of our Potter’s Field Restoration Project (PFRP) during the City of Martinez’s Annual Spring Cemetery Cleanup. Due to the numerous winter storms, there was quite the renaissance of those pesky annoying plants we all call “weeds” and the accumulation of numerous fallen branches. Although much was accomplished, more still needs to be done and hopefully more cemetery cleanups will be scheduled over the summer.
Outside of clearing Potter’s Field of debris, work renewed on the restoration of the Chinese Funerary Burner\Altar Complex. We were fortunate to receive a large donation of brick that morning from our brick expert and uber volunteer Dan Mosier, owner of the California Bricks website. Meanwhile, we finally completed the cleaning, sorting, and stacking of the burner’s original brick in preparation for its future rebuild. All our volunteers commented on how much fun they were having while engaged in their Zen-like meditative activities.
As has been previously written, a committee formed during the winter of 2017 was tasked with designing the rebirth of the Burner\Altar Complex utilizing all the original elements within it. Christian Rousset (our project manager) led the committee’s efforts to create a new design, since not enough evidence has been found to restore the structures to their original form. Once the new design was selected, Christian crafted the blueprints needed for gaining the City of Martinez’s authorization and to build from. During the process, a drainage system was added to prevent future water damage to the complex and allow for its use by future generations.
Once the plans were approved, we were ready to break ground last summer. However, due to unforeseen issues the project was forced to be delayed. To resume the project a new nonprofit, focused on the restoration, preservation, and maintenance of the cemetery, had to be created. Hence the formation of the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA) earlier this year. Like many other nationwide “Friends of…” cemetery organizations, the MCPA’s main goal is to support an important outdoor historical museum through volunteer coordination, donations, and increased awareness. This day then marked the debut of the MCPA’s work at the cemetery as the new coordinator of the PFRP.
MCPA members pitched the information, first aid and volunteer coordination booth to welcome all visitors. PFRP volunteers signed in prior to entering the cemetery grounds, receiving access to bottled water, and a variety of snacks. Shortly after, Dan arrived with a smile and the brick he had been storing for the burner. Most of it was from the Port Costa Brick Company founded in 1905 which matches the original burner’s brick. With the help of several volunteers, the more than 200 bricks were quickly unloaded, sorted, and stacked neatly.
Next came the removal of mortar from the remaining recovered brick before they could be integrated into the stacks. Keith Park and his daughter Aleksandra wasted no time in joining Shauna Mundt, Dan, and Christian in their preparations for the Zen art of brick cleaning. Their efforts were successful as all the brick is now cleansed. However, we are expecting another donation of Port Costa brick removed from a building on Pacheco Blvd in the next couple of months that will also need mortar to be removed. With offsite storage of yet more donated brick, we just may have enough to rebuild the burner!
The rest of our crew took on the mission of beautifying Potter’s Field by pulling weeds while picking up fallen branches and other debris. The undertaking was made easier with the use of bright orange buckets generously provided by Sean Dexter of Country Condor Consulting Inc. for their collection. We had a couple of students (completing their community project needs) join our group of regulars and other new helpers. One was a descendant of a Potter’s Field resident, who came to honor her ancestor by helping with the cleanup.
Remaining at the booth, MCPA’s Judie Palmer greeted the curious passersby. She introduced visitors to the project while handing out tri-fold brochures on the MCPA, the PFRP and a Potter’s Field self-guided tour. As before, the tour contains a synopsis of the decedents history and their photographs that will lead you to their grave sites where red and white flowers have been placed in reverence during the project’s workdays.
Judie was also able to utilize her amateur genealogy experience to help a cyclist who had stopped to ask if we could help him locate his grandfather’s gravesite. After much discussion, he left excited from the exchange. He has since been in contact and we are honored that he has chosen to become one of our newest members.
As ever, are heartfelt thanks go to our many participants, who gave so unselfishly a few hours of their time; Cathy Basen, Richard Blue, Shauna Mundt, Chris Rousset, Dan Moser, Jennifer Wiseman, Caroline Lawler, Alejandra Leon, Keith Park, Aleksandra Park, and Michael Steele. Thanks again to our Corporate Sponsors Dan Moser of the California Bricks website for the brick donation and Sean Dexter of Condor Country Consulting Inc. for the use of his buckets. Look for updates in our column as work progresses regarding the Chinese Funerary Burner\Altar Complex rebuild.
Judie & Joseph Palmer are two of the founding members of the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA) and the Potter’s Field Restoration Project. Both have a passion for discovery, history, genealogy, anthropology and archaeology. The MCPA is always looking for any information or photographic evidence regarding the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, Potter’s Field, or its residents as well as monetary or material donations to finish this and other future projects. If you have anything to share, would like to donate, become a member, or volunteer, please visit their website martinezcemetery.org, email them at email@example.com or call them at (925) 316-6069
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE MARTINEZ NEWS-GAZETTE ON May 5, 2019
There is something very serene and introspective about working in the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, both as the oldest known cemetery in Contra Costa County and as a wonderful outdoor museum. For one thing, the residents are very quiet. The other reasons include the beautiful views of the Carquinez Straights, the chance sighting of wildlife (including deer), and enjoyment of the unique monuments scattered throughout the grounds. The ability of meeting old friends and making new ones, while engaged in the Zen meditative art of cleaning and clearing the cemetery is of course its own reward.
Whatever gravesite you wish to adopt for a day, you will be removing the weeds and light brush from the boarders. For those of you into genealogy and history, you might wonder if the decedent could talk with you, what would they say? Where were they from? How did they make a living? What did they potentially witness or influence regarding local, state, or US history?
Another opportunity for volunteers to experience and explore all of the above is coming again on Saturday, May 11 from 10am – 2pm during the City of Martinez’s Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery Spring Cleanup Day. As usual, the City will provide bottled water, while E Clampus Vitus will furnish all volunteers lunch. Potter’s Field Restoration Project (PFRP) recruits continuing the brick cleanup of the Chinese Funerary Burner, will receive snacks and other goodies from the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA).
Speaking of the MCPA, we would like to take a moment to introduce our new nonprofit. As a result of founding the PFRP more than five years ago, we discovered the huge financial, material, and volunteer needs of the cemetery as a whole. We additionally have also been involved in helping others with finding and learning about their ancestors. It became obvious that founding an organization devoted strictly to supporting the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of the Alhambra Cemetery would be helpful as municipal resources are limited.
According to ABC News in 2014, genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the US after gardening, with a number of television programs devoted to the subject. Who Do You Think You Are?, Ancestors In The Attic, Finding Your Roots, Long Lost Family and Genealogy Road Show are just some examples. The result of which has been to inspire huge interest in the restoration of old historic cemeteries. This in turn resulted in the creation of numerous nationwide “Friends of…” charities to facilitate their care and upkeep.
Following their lead, we officially founded the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance on February 11, 2019. However, the MCPA’s origins arose out of the PFRP which launched on May 9, 2015 during the Cemetery’s Spring Cleanup. Volunteers cleared broken bottles, trash, fallen branches, weeds, while also deconstructing the funerary burner. The PFRP is now under the auspices of the MCPA.
The MCPA’s mission: “To support the preservation, restoration and significance of an outdoor historical museum, while giving voice to its untold stories and serving as a genealogical resource for their descendants.” Their additional goals are: 1) to raise funds in aid of the preservation and maintenance of the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery and its resources. 2) To support the creation of an Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery Preservation Master Plan with the City of Martinez and the East Bay Regional Park District. 3) To create a partnership alliance with all entities and individuals with an interest in the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery. 4) To advocate for the implementation of the Cemetery Preservation Master Plan on behalf of said alliance in coordination with the City of Martinez and the East Bay Regional Park District. 5) To be ambassadors for community engagement by being an important genealogical resource, while celebrating and raising awareness of Alhambra Cemetery’s residents. To find out more please visit our website MartinezCemetery.org.
Back to the Cemetery Spring Cleanup, all volunteers will need to register and sign a liability waiver before entering the Main or Potter’s Field gates. You will become a dirt magnet. All volunteers should wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, gloves, and sturdy shoes. Gardening tools are permitted. Gas or battery operated equipment is NOT allowed.
To get more volunteer information regarding the overall cemetery cleanup, please contact the Martinez Recreation Office at (925) 372-3510. To volunteer specifically for Potter’s Field contact us either by phone (925) 316-6069, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or again visit our website at martinezcemetery.org. For those that love genealogy and history, MCPA will have tri-fold brochures available about some of the decedents in Potter’s Field, and about their organization during the cleanup.
Hope to see you there!
We are Judie and Joseph Palmer, founding members of the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA) and the Potter’s Field Restoration Project (PFRP). Both of us have a passion for discovery, history, genealogy, anthropology and archaeology. For more info, please visit our website MartinezCemetery.org. Do you have a Potter’s Field story to tell? We welcome any pictures or information regarding the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery or Potter’s Field. Please email us at email@example.com or call us at (925) 316-6069.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE MARTINEZ NEWS-GAZETTE ON MAy 1, 2019, written by Donna Beth Weilenman and republished here with permission of both parties above.
MARTINEZ, Calif. – A new nonprofit organization has been formed to provide support to the preservation of Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, which is considered the oldest formal burial site in Contra Costa County, Joseph Palmer has announced.
Palmer is president of the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA) which he said would be seeking donations of both money and materials to help with the historic cemetery’s presentation, as well as recruit volunteers and guidance experts. The alliance also expects to provide coordination with anyone interested in the cemetery’s care, including public officials, Palmer said. The organization will give a presentation to Martinez City Council at 7 p.m. today in Martinez City Hall, 525 Henrietta St.
While MCPA may be new, those involved have a longtime connection to the cemetery, Palmer said in his announcement. “The MCPA’s origins arose from the Potter’s Field Restoration Project (PFRP) efforts to restore the historic Chinese Funerary Burner and overall beautification of Potter’s Field,” he said. That project began May 9, 2015, curing the city’s annual cemetery spring cleanup. Volunteers had cleared broken bottles, trash, fallen branches and weed, and began deconstruction of the burner, he said.
In the ensuing four years, proponents of the project have learned that restoration of the burner and maintenance of the cemetery as a whole needs plenty of funding and involves significant logistical needs, Palmer said. That prompted the formation of the alliance, which has inherited the tasks related to the Potter’s Field restoration as well as the mission of coordinating with the city of Martinez’s staff and the Martinez Cemetery Commission, Palmer said.
By Feb. 11, the alliance was formed. By April, it had filed its legal paperwork and became recognized officially by the Internal Revenue Service as “a legitimate 501(c)(3),” or nonprofit organization, Palmer said. The alliance also is included on California’s Registry of Charities, he said.
Its duties will be to raise money to underwrite preservation and maintenance of the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery through memberships and donations of money and materials. The organization also intends to support the coordinated effort by Martinez and the East Bay Regional Park District in creating an Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery Preservation Master Plan; to create a partnership with individuals and organizations who have an interest in the pioneer cemetery; and to advocate for the cemetery preservation master plan. The alliance also expects to be “ambassadors for community engagement,” not only in preserving the cemetery but also in the areas of genealogical resource and raising awareness of those who are buried in the Alhambra cemetery.
Palmer said the alliance’s first volunteer outing will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at the city’s annual Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery Spring Cleanup Day. Participants will clean away debris and remove weeds from the graves. Lunch will be provided by the E. Clampus Vitus organization. Volunteers will need to register and sign a liability waiver before entering the main or Potter’s Field gates. “You will become a dirt magnet,” Palmer said, and urged participants to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, gloves, protective eye wear and sturdy shoes. While fuel or battery-powered equipment won’t be allowed, other garden tool use will be permitted. Those who want to help with the rebuilding of the Chinese Funerary Burner will be able to remove sandbags and clear, clean and sort bricks.
The MCPA will provide morning refreshments, water, first aid, insect repellent and suntan lotion. Volunteers may call 925-316-6069, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the volunteer page, https://www.martinezcemetery.org/volunteer.html.
Those interested in supporting the alliance may visit its website, https://www.martinezcemetery.org/, and the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/martinezcemetery.
Judie & Joseph Palmer are two of the founding members of the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA) and the Potter’s Field Project. Both have a passion for discovery, history, genealogy, anthropology and archaeology.