A BRIEF HISTORY
The Society of California Pioneers is fortunate to have in its collection over twenty handwritten ledgers recording burials at Lone Mountain, an early San Francisco cemetery that was later renamed Laurel Hill. These ledgers contain a wealth of information, including the names of the dead, the date of their death, the cause of their death, their age at the time of death, where in the cemetery they were buried, as well as when or if their body was ever moved to another location. There is no record to explain how these ledgers came to be a part of our collection, but they are a very significant holding nonetheless.
Lone Mountain was dedicated on May 30, 1854. It was between California Street and Geary Boulevard, between Parker and Presidio Avenues. It was renamed Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1867. The cemetery closed in the late 1930s. Over the course of two years (1939 and 1940), bodies were exhumed and moved to Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California, where they remain today.
Aspects of history are revealed in these rare and remarkable ledgers. An unprecedented spike in the number of burials during the days and weeks after April 18 confirms the scale of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, while graphic descriptions entered as the causes of these deaths (such as “burnt to a crisp” and “crushed by falling bricks”) vividly recall the disaster’s horrific consequences. Many Chinese immigrants perished during the great earthquake; often they are listed in these ledgers without a name, simply as “Chinaman.” A section near the end of some volumes lists Chinese deaths together, with few additional details. Often diseases, including Croup, Cholera, Carbolic Acid Poisoning, Alcoholism and even Beri Beri, are listed as causes of death; this provides evidence of serious, ongoing health concerns in nineteenth-century San Francisco.
HOW TO ACCESS AND SEARCH THESE LEDGERS
The Lone Mountain/Laurel Hill Burial Records were kept chronologically in ledgers. The ledgers are indexed. The index is arranged alphabetically by last name. The original ledgers and index are bound separately (and, therefore, have been digitized separately). You can access and search either or both:
to search by date, begin with the ledgers
to search by name, begin with the index*
*The index will direct you to a ledger (by volume and page number) where the detailed burial record is entered.
Unfortunately, you cannot scroll through the ledgers at this time; we are currently working on a system that would allow this, as well as other ways to make searching these records easier.
THE DIGITIZATION PROJECT
These ledgers were digitized thanks to a partnership with SF Genealogy that began in 2018. A San Francisco based nonprofit, SF Genealogy is a volunteer-run organization whose “primary purpose and highest priority is to provide free internet access to genealogical and historical information.” The City and County of San Francisco lost many vital public records in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, making these cemetery records all the more significant to genealogists and historians. We appreciate SF Genealogy’s assistance in making them accessible to the public online.