A friend of mine and I ventured to Mendocino last Friday since it was a nice, sunny day, and we wandered around Evergreen Cemetery, the smaller of Mendocino’s two cemeteries. Actually, Mendocino has a pretty large cemetery population, considering that the village isn’t actually that large; two cemeteries does seem a bit excessive. Lest you think that I’m some sort of cemetery fiend, we also ambled around the rest of Mendocino. And ate cookies.
At any rate, it was interesting to contrast Evergreen with Rose Memorial, since the two cemeteries have a very different look and feel. Evergreen feels more homey, in a way, with a sweeping view across the vilage, part of Big River, and the ocean, and a scattering of graves which almost feel like they were sprinkled, rather than methodically laid out. Rose Memorial is a mixture of old, more casual graves, and more stiff modern graves in neat little rows of brass plaques for easy mowing. I’m not sure I like one better than the other, they’re just different.
Evergreen has graves which are a bit older, and a lot of broken headstones, unfortunately. My companion told me that there was a rash of vandalism at Evergreen a few years ago, which probably accounts for the damaged headstones. Some of them are propped up against their bases, while others are just lying on the ground, which is kind of sad. As at Rose Memorial, there are a lot of names I recognize; the Lansings, for example, have a large plot at Evergreen.
There are also some interesting differences in the styles of the headstones at the two cemeteries. Evergreen has more quotes on its headstones, and the ever-present hands pointing upwards have their backs facing out at Evergreen, rather than the palms, as is the case at Rose Memorial. Evergreen also has a couple of clasped hands, which I rather like, thematically. There are also a lot of cool headstone decorations, like a welcoming open gate on the headstone for a deceased clergyman.
There are many more handmade headstones and grave markers at Evergreen. I think that this may be because Rose Memorial is a bit more strict about headstones and decorations, which is kind of a bummer. I loved some of the decorations on the graves at Evergreen, since they really captured the spirit of the people buried there. One grave was really excellent, with what amounted to a small garden planted on top; you could never get away with that kind of thing at Rose Memorial.
This cemetery also feels slightly more segregated. Not in a bad way, just that people are grouped together more, rather than scattered across the cemetery as they are at Rose Memorial. The Masons, for example, are all by themselves in fenced area, and there’s a little Irish section , and a cluster of Germans. Although the Swedish graves are scattered apparently at random; it would appear that Swedes don’t mind mingling.
One thing that’s interesting about Evergreen is that there are a lot of foreign graves, from people who obviously moved to California with the hopes of making their fortunes and then died young. The huge number of graves of men in their 20s really illustrates how brutal the logging industry was in the 1800s. This cemetery is also a reminder of the big Finnish and Swedish community we have up here.
Evergreen also has a separate Jewish cemetery within the cemetery, and it is totally beautiful and awesome. It embodies the Jewish attitude of simplicity when it comes to burial, and almost all of the graves have beautiful handmade markers. Some of my favorite headstones were in the Jewish section, like a pair of boulders incised with the names of a couple, and a grave with a granite bench at its foot for visitors to sit on. The Jewish section also has plantings of flowers and other foliage, and lots of little offerings on the graves, like works of art and jewelry.
The weather is pretty murky these days, so this may be my last entry in the cemetery tour for awhile. That and my lack of a car make trips further afield a bit challenging, but never fear, the cemeteries of Mendocino County will continue!
(RSS readers, there is a slideshow in this post of images from Evergreen if you want to see some of the features I’ve written about in this post.)