Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I'm working on an essay about Calvary Cemetery of San Diego. I won't say too much about it yet, except that I'll have a lot to say about it later. For now, a brief item. I've found a lot of great data that I couldn't help sharing here.

The first burial at Calvary, a Catholic cemetery located in what is now the Mission Hills neighborhood (just a few blocks from my place), was in 1873. The last burial was in 1960. Above is the graph of burials vs. time*, which shows increasing use of Calvary until 1918, followed by a precipitous decline in new interments. Calvary's story is about decline, neglect, decay, and forgetting. The decline is right there in the graph. To know that there was neglect, you need the above data and the knowledge that Calvary had no endowment for perpetual care. Decay followed neglect; forgetting followed decay. The cemetery was converted into a public park in 1970. 

That the cemetery was converted into a park is not necessarily evidence of forgetting. Today, the park contains a few headstones from the old cemetery, and a small memorial to those interred within the park. The story of how the cemetery became a park, however, is not pretty, and has been willfully forgotten. 

Ok. That's my Calvary teaser. I'll post more about the cemetery in the coming weeks.

*Data collated from the rootsweb online database dedicated to Calvary burials, which can be found by clicking here. The total number of burials recorded in the graph is 4,001, though I don't know whether the database is comprehensive. Certainly, the trend of the graph reflects the qualitative analysis I'd found from many sources. For years before 1884, and after 1918, the graphed data reflects all Calvary burials recorded in the database. For the period 1884-1918, I'd estimate uncertainty up to 5% in the graphed burial values.

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