This Article was published in the Martinez News-Gazette on 8/30/2017
The day began at 9 AM with volunteers signing in at our Volunteer Booth, eager to begin! The mood was of excitement, wondering what might be discovered. Especially for one young man who has an interest in archaeology and made this his school project. Most volunteers were from Martinez, but some came as far away as San Ramon. It was a productive work day leaving no one disappointed. During the still cool and quiet morning, volunteers prepared the Chinese Funerary Burner location by clearing excess brush and weeds. Meanwhile, the Wallace's began the process of finishing Aaron Rice's headstone by reinforcing its small base with new cement.
Throughout the peaceful morning and early afternoon, all you could hear was the sound of small manual tools chipping away old mortar from brick, while cyclists rode by and a few deer looked on. With steady hands and competent direction from Christian Rousset, work progressed smoothly. Local Chinese Historian, Sonia Ng, gave us the rich Chinese heritage background of honoring ancestors using an altar and funerary burner, which recharged our efforts.
By the end of the day, Aaron’s new base was completed and two courses of brick removed. We discovered a major part of the burner’s foundation utilized brick joists\channels. As we stood there in awe, our imaginations took us to the late 1800s, early 1900s when Chinese laborers built this burner brick by brick. Our initial theory was they were created to save brick. However, upon further examination we realized they were a clever way to give flexibility to the foundation while also serving as water drainage.
Special thanks to all of the volunteers who joined us Saturday: Lisa Adkisson, John Burgh, Dawn Curren, Carolyn Mac Kenzie, Sonia Ng, Christian Rousset, Karen and Ray Wallace, Bili and Matthew White, and Jennifer Wiseman. “Many hands make light work”, was never more true that day. For more pictures check out our Gallery.
For more information on the Martinez Historical Society’s - Potter’s Field Restoration Project, please visit our website MartinezCemetery.org. Do you have a Potter’s Field resident story to tell? We welcome any pictures or information on anyone or anything regarding Potter’s Field. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (925) 335-9396.
To find out more about Martinez and Contra Costa County history:
Martinez Museum – 1005 Escobar Street, corner of Court Street. Open Tues and Thurs 11:30 a.m. to 3p.m. First 4 Sundays 1-4 p.m. 925-228-8160; www.martinezhistory.org.
Contra Costa County History Center – 610 Main Street, Martinez. Open Tues through Thurs, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 3rd Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 925-229-1042; www.cocohistory.com
Judie & Joseph Palmer are two of the founding members of the Potter’s Field Restoration Project and its Martinez Cemetery Committee for the Martinez Historical Society. Joseph is also a MHS Board Director, chairman of the committee and webmaster of its website. Both have a passion for discovery, history, genealogy, anthropology and archaeology.