History of the Oroville Cemetery District
In January of 1928, members of the community petitioned for the formation of a Public Cemetery District. On January 9, 1928, the Butte County Board of Supervisors approved the hearing of said petition for Tuesday, February 7, 1928 and the District was formally approved on February 10, 1928.
The District currently operates and maintains four cemeteries: Jewish, Memorial Park, Oroville & Wyandotte. We are a public agency referred to as a Special District and since 1979 have been governed by a five-member board appointed by the Board of Supervisors to serve a four year term. Previous to 1979 the number of trustees was three. Current Trustees: Jim Edwards, Chairman, Stephen Herr, Vice Chairman, Allen (JR) Simpson, Mark Wisterman and Jim Bruggeman
District boundaries encompass approximately 143 square miles surrounding the City of Oroville. The District operates with six full-time employees, one part-time employee and one gate person.
In 1979 the District adopted a resolution establishing an endowment care fund for the purpose of ensuring the preservation and maintenance for each of its cemeteries. Governed by California's Health & Safety Code, the principal of the Endowment Care Fund remains in a trust. The cemetery provides services for both full-body and cremated remain burials, as well as pre-need services. Last fiscal year, the district conducted 221 interments.
Oroville Cemetery, located at 2600 Feather River Boulevard, was the first organized cemetery in the District. As stated in the By-laws & Rules: The Honorable Board of Supervisors of Butte County at their regular meeting held May 1882, adopted the foregoing rules and regulations for the government of the Oroville Cemetery and appointed John J. Smith, C.H. Wilcox and Wm. Schneider as a Board of Trustees of said Cemetery and in pursuance of the foregoing appointment, the Trustees met at the office of John J. Smith on the 23rd day of May 1883 for the purpose of organization and elected a president and secretary. The Oroville Cemetery is designated as a historical cemetery.
The cemetery was originally established in 1857, as a direct result of the discovery of gold in the cemetery which served the gold mining camp of Ophir City. Remains from the existing graveyard were removed from the area now known as Hewitt Claim Park and placed at the Oroville Cemetery. The bodies were moved to the Oroville Cemetery. The results of the hydraulic mining operations are still visible at Hewitt Park today.
In the Oroville Cemetery Register kept by undertaker Jay Hamells, the first burial in the Oroville Cemetery occurred on March 28, 1857. The unfortunate soul was John Cannon from Fairfield County Ohio, died at the age of 30 of unknown causes. His resting place was logged as No 3 Lot 1, Grave 1. Later mapping refers to the plot location as Section G South, Row 13, grave 50.
As time went on, private cemetery ground within the Oroville Cemetery was deeded to the organization:
- On September 14, 1876, the Catholic Cemetery, once independent and lying next to the Oroville Cemetery was deeded to the Oroville Cemetery for a sum of "One Dollar, Gold Coin". The transaction was recorded on April 25, 1882.
- The Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge #59, deeded their organization's section to the Oroville Cemetery on April 9, 1896 for $40.00.
- The Masonic Lodge #103 deeded their cemetery on April 2, 1898 for $60.00.
- The Odd Fellows and Masonic Lodge sections are where many of the Civil War Veterans were laid to rest
- Grand Army of the Republic and the Women's Relief Corps erected the Civil War Veterans memorial in 1915. Complete with a anchor, cannon, cannon balls and the Gettysburg address
- Complete with a anchor, cannon, cannon balls and the Gettsburg address
- The cemetery is 11.4 acres and is fully developed. Approximately 7,400 are interred.
- The Register of 1857 through 1902 documents: date, name, nativity, sex, age, cause of death and where interred. It appears, Mr. Hamells was the undertaker serving Butte County and many of the burials occurred in other areas of the county, state and country, not just the Oroville Cemetery.
- Recorded burials occurred in: Thompson Flat, Central House, residencies, Old Burying Grounds, French Corrals, Marysville, Neal's Ranch, Gray's Ranch, Hamilton, Bidwell Bar, Wyandotte, Jewish Burial Ground, Cherokee, Dry Creek, San Francisco, Mooretown, Clear Creek, Bangor, Gridley Station, Forbestown, Berry Creek, Dog Town, Banner Mine, Paradise, Biggs Station, Honcut, Oregon City, Chico, Brownsville and China.
- Nativities at the time were very diverse due to "gold fever." Butte County attracted immigrants from: the eastern and southern states, England, France, South Wales, China, Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Peru, Prussia, Belgium, Scotland, Bavaria, Poland, Norway, Japan and Sweden
- Causes of death during the mid to late 1800's were also as diverse. Some of the more colorful descriptions were: old age, eating watermelon, murdered, drowned in shaft, killed by horse, killed while drunk – fell from wagon, whiskey, pistol shot, blow from pick axe, poisoned–by mistake, murdered–by mistake and just plain old dried-up.
In 1895 and 1896 thirty people were buried in the Mount Olive Cemetery which was also called the Hebrew Cemetery and is now referred to as the Jewish Cemetery. On November 11, 1903, the County Board of Supervisors approved the removal of 30 bodies buried in the Mount Olive Cemetery to be buried in the Citizens Cemetery (Oroville Cemetery). The suspicion is these disinterments were due to their not being Jewish.
Memorial Park Cemetery
Memorial Park Cemetery, located at 5646 Lincoln Boulevard, the original land was deeded to the District on February 25, 1929 by J.N. Watt for $10.00. The deed states "no outhouse or slaughter-house shall be erected." It consists of approximately 66 acres, 40 of which are developed and approximately 14,800 are interred. Mrs. Ernestine Withers was the first burial at Memorial park on January 2, 1931. Mrs. Withers was laid to rest in Sunrise A, plot number 1771. Memorial Park also serves as the District's Office.
Burials from Bidwell Bar Cemetery
With the construction of the Oroville Dam, many cemeteries were effected. The State had to contact the next of kin for person's buried in the Bidwell Bar Cemetery, Enterprise Cemetery, Hamilton Bend Cemetery and several smaller cemeteries that would be under water once the lake was full. Many of the people were disinterred and placed at the Pioneer Cemetery which is next to the Thompson Flat Cemetery. At the State's expense, 42 were relocated to the Memorial Park Cemetery in the summer of 1964 along with their original headstones. Their graves are in Resthaven D.
Pioneer families of Bidwell Bar: Dabbs, West, Perry, Moseley, Smith, Totman, McCallan, Walton, Lucas, Rogers, Fitzgerald, Jacoby, Steward.
Jewish Cemetery located at 1874 Feather River Boulevard was established in 1859. It was deeded to the Trustees of the Oroville Jewish Cemetery by Andrew Gardella on April 11, 1871 "for use and benefit of the Hebrews or Jewish of said Town". The first recorded burial was on February 16, 1862. It is approximately 2.6 acres, of which 1 acre is developed. There are 130 interred. The Jewish Cemetery is designated as historical cemetery.
In 1982, Senator Ray Johnson sponsored Senate Bill 1906, which passed and allowed the Jewish Cemetery to inter up to 100 non-residents. The policy of the Oroville Cemetery District for burial in the Jewish cemetery requires a Rabbi's letter of consent. According to religious custom, Jewish persons are buried in their own cemetery.
Wyandotte Cemetery is located at 4600 Foothill Boulevard. Records indicate the first burial occurred in 1852. In 1871, the citizens of Wyandotte elected a Board of Directors. The cemetery was formed as its own Special District on January 5, 1967. It merged with the Oroville Cemetery District in 1984. The cemetery is 6 acres and there are approximately 468 interred.
History of Wyandotte according to William Dunstone, 1884 (also Justice of the Peace for Butte County)Pertaining to the Cemetery: "The first burial was probably in 1852. During that and the next succeeding year four burials occurred. Two were men and two children. Of the latter one was the son of AP Southworth, and the other a son of R. McCoy Bills. These four graves, almost obliterated, are in the NE corner of the cemetery. The fifth burial was Mrs. Anne Foote, a native of NY. The first durable monument was erected at her grave. This lady resided with her husband in Wyandotte about two years. She taught the public school a short time. She was the victim of consumption."
In 1870 W. Y. Bliss obtained a US Patent for the quarter section of land where the burials ground is situated, and in the same year granted a portion containing the burial ground to W. Holdridge, who generously offered to grant the six acres for a cemetery as soon as a lawful corporation could be formed to receive the grant.
On the 28th, day of January 1871, the citizens elected as a board of trustees, Peter Olsen, William James Daniels, David Whipple, Samuel White Ross, FS Snyder, Frank Cress, James P Stevenson, James M Rutherford and WL Bliss. Many of their descendents are still in the Wyandotte area.