History of San Lorenzo, California

San Lorenzo Pioneer Cemetery

San Lorenzo, California

The description of the cemetery here is from San Lorenzo Cemetery, Hayward Area Historical Society, 1988. (Hayward Historical Society, 22701 Main Street, Hayward, Cal. 94541, tel 510.581.0223.) The book contains separate lists of persons interred in the cemetery based on (1) burial records and (2) tombstone inscriptions, and thus contains valuable biographical information. It also includes a list of persons who died at Fairmont Hospital between July 10, 1920 and Nov. 17, 1931 and are buried in "Potters Field" in unmarked graves. Prior to 1920 indigent patients were buried in the Fairmont Hospital Paupers Graveyard.

San Lorenzo Cemetery is located at the corner of Hesperian Blvd. and College Street. It was the early burial ground for not only San Lorenzo, but also San Leandro, Hayward, Livermore Valley, and the lower reaches of Alameda County. It was nonsectarian, and the first burial of record was April 10, 1853. Probably because of the proximity to the old Union Church there were many early unrecorded burials which were placed in a helter-skelter way with little more planning than taking advantage of an existing shade tree. Consequently, many graves were unidentifiable due to lack of organization.

The cemetery is located on property that was owned by two pioneer area farmers, John Lewelling, for whom Lewelling Blvd. was named, and William Meek, the area's largest landowner at that time. As more burials were made, it was evident that an organization to supervise and maintain the property was needed and an organizational meeting was held February 27, 1864 attended by a group of civic-minded citizens. Their objectives were securing of deeds from landowners, laying out of plots, construction of fences, and proper maintenance of the grounds. This meeting was identified as the charter meeting of the San Lorenzo Cemetery Association.

Shortly after the first meeting, the group asked for public subscriptions to finance purchase and improvement of the cemetery, and John Lewelling headed a list of 87 subscribers who contributed $637.50. On March 5, 1864, the group formally elected charter officers. They were: John Marlin, President; Leonard Stone, Vice-President; Henry Smyth, Treasurer; and G. Knapp, Secretary. Their first officials action was to authorize purchase of the property from Meek and Lewelling for $500.00. This was done on March 19, 1864.

The cemetery rapidly grew in importance and appearance, due mostly to the sale of family plots which cost from $20.00 to $30.00, depending on their size and location. As time went on, and generations died, heirs were difficult to locate, and probably not enough money had been collected for long-term maintenance. As a result, the cemetery became unsightly and a haven for vandalism.

The final solution came when the cemetery was taken over by Alameda County; it is now maintained by the County and the volunteer efforts of the Hayward Area Historical Society. The gates are left locked to prevent further vandalism, but access can be obtained. (Keys are kept in the church across the street and at the "Tech Center" in the School District offices next to the cemetery.)

The cemetery was dedicated on March 24, 1964 as San Lorenzo Pioneer Memorial Park, a memorial honoring early pioneers of Rancho San Lorenzo, now known as Ashland, Castro Valley, Hayward, Mt. Eden, and San Lorenzo.

Those doing research should check both the interment records, which were kept in the office, and tombstone records, which were recorded directly off the tombstones, for the following reasons:

1. Only five interments are listed prior to 1874 in the interment records. Many more show up on the tombstone records.

2. Many times additional information is shown on tombstones than that which is required in office records.

3. Early cemeteries were organized into family plots so family groups can be identified.

Records and Images:

Index to burial records
Index to tombstone names
Index of burials, persons who died at Fairmont Hospital
(July 10, 1920 to November 17, 1931)
Photographs of Tombstones (link to U.S. GenWeb archives)
Photographs of Tombstones (link to flickr.com)