This Article was published in the Martinez News-Gazette on 10/08/2017
You may have recently noticed some significant improvements and restorations on the few remaining headstones of Potter’s Field. We would like to catch you up on the past year’s metamorphosis. Many thanks go out to the compassionate volunteers, families, and organizations that donated their time, labor, and funds to preserve these historical monuments.
If you wish to join us, pay your respects and volunteer for the upcoming Fall Cemetery Cleanup on Sat Oct 14th from 9 am – 2 pm, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (925) 335-9396. E Clampus Vitus will be providing lunch. While there is plenty of work to do to maintain, preserve and restore this very important vital outdoor museum as the old saying goes, "many hands make for light work".
Nikolao Glaros 1894-1915
In our April 19 article for Nikolao Glaros, we wrote, “It had braved the elements, decades of water runoff and moisture abuse. A thick rusty nail stood in place of an object that once graced the top along with a large surface fissure distorting its Ancient Greek inscription...”
Restoration began when Dorothy Glaros president of the Pan-Icarian Brotherhood of America, sent his monument to a Napa headstone maker. First, they extracted the nail, cleaned the white marble stone (originally from the Vermont Marble Company (VMC), the largest monument company in the country from the late 1800’s to the mid 1900’s) and filled the remaining space and fissures with marble paste. Next leaving the original engraving untouched, they attached a second white marble stone from Georgia to its back for reinforcement and to etch the complete Ancient Greek inscription. Meanwhile, project volunteers reinforced his base with new poured cement donated by SOLS. Nikolao’s headstone reinstallation was Monday, September 18 using two new stainless steel rods for securing it to the base.
We continue to search for the origin of Nikolao’s monument. We contacted Jim Lucas, president of the Greek Historical Society who checked the funeral documents of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of San Francisco, from 1904 to 1917. Unfortunately, he found no record.
August Mueller 1846-1908
On April 5, we wrote an article on one of our most spirited and tenacious personalities, Carl Ferdinand August Mueller, whose blue marble headstone (also from the VMC) was found separated and lying face down next to his base. After extensive research we found and contacted his twin great granddaughters Kristen Hawley and Kathleen Bauer, who we then had the pleasure of meeting on October 8, 2016. During our meeting we discovered that his monument was missing a large chunk from its back. As miracles happened, we found it at the bottom of the hill next to Nikolao’s stone, which immediately prompted its transit for repair.
The same stone mason that worked on Nikolao also repaired August. First he reattached the wayward chunk to its parent, then filled in the cracks with matching marble paste. Next he engraved the back of the stone with the information from the front. While waiting for his stone’s reinstallation, the twins took it upon themselves to reinforce his base. On September 18, August Mueller’s monument and base were finally reunited utilizing also new stainless steel rods. Like his personality, he now glimmers in the sun with his original epitaph on the front and new itching on the back.
Side note: Steve Simich (the stonemason from Napa Marble & Granite Works, Inc.) explained that unscrupulous headstone installers (in order to cut corners) would not use the iron rods. Instead they would complete their installation using only mortar. As the mortar aged and dried out, it shrank and cracked causing the stone to eventually fall from its base. There are many, many examples of this happening to monuments throughout the Alhambra Cemetery.
George Homan Johnson 1870-1902
While Steve was installing August & Nikolao’s stones, we asked on behalf of George’s Grandnephew Mike Hardisty to examine George’s headstone. Like Nikolao he too had an unknown small figure attached to the top of his monument. Unfortunately vandals remove the statues, exposing the nails used to attach them to their main stones. Steve explained to me that the nails then rust causing them to expand, cracking the marble. From there water penetrates the stone causing further deterioration and erosion. Fortunately George’s headstone had incurred only a small crack and no further harm unlike the extensive damage that Nikolao’s had suffered.
After assessing George’s blue marble monument (also from the VMC) Steve graciously went about making repairs. First he removed the nail by drilling it out and filling in the space with matching color mortar. After letting the mortar set, he sanded the top of George’s headstone smooth insuring its beauty for years to come. When payment was offered, he declined saying it was his contribution to our project.
To his Australian and English descendants, as well as ourselves, George’s headstone installation is still a mystery. However, during the time of his death it was quite common for British sailors to purchase headstones for their deceased shipmates.
Aaron Rice 1819-1905
Vandals most likely kicked the back of the former slave’s large blue marble monument (also from the VMC) some time ago until it broke, as evidenced by a bottom portion of his stone still attached to the base. During the 2016 Fall Cemetery Cleanup, E. Clampus Vitus volunteers reattached and repaired his stone using special glue. Recently project volunteers reinforced his base with a new cement pour supplied again by SOLS. Additionally they removed the excess glue exposing the original crack. This will be filled later using epoxy inserted with matching stone dust to hide the scar.
Although we don’t know for sure who purchased and installed Aaron’s stone, we have strong circumstantial evidence pointing us in the right direction. Continue reading his bio in our upcoming columns to find out the answer.
Ralph Vestor Walker 1923-1945
It has been a year since Ralph’s gravestone and border were uncovered under many inches of silt. Steve mentioned that Ralph’s grave had sunk as a result of settlement over time, which also caused his cement border to crack. As a result his final resting place is in constant need of tomb sweeping to remain unburied.
Steve also revealed that his blue marble memorial headstone (source unknown) was inserted in a popular concrete form made available in the 70’s, which means that he didn’t receive his tombstone until a good twenty five or thirty years after he died. Most likely it was his mother who lived in the Bay Area at the time who made the arrangements.
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. 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 its Potter’s Field. Please email us at email@example.com or call us at (925) 316-6069.
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.