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Memorial's Without the Walls




George Sterling, San Francisco's beloved poet, envisioned a bridge across the Golden Gate, "to stand," he wrote, "unaltered in its magnificence, to bear witness to what manner of men were those who could dream with their souls and shape with their hands earth's most colossal fabrication.  "


"How little did Portola dream," he continued, "gazing down from the San Matean hills, of the long constellations of light that should girdle, nightly, the Bay below.


"How little did our owned Argonauts, come hither to drain California of its gold and then return to what they fondly called 'God’s country,' dream of the empire they were to found and of the royal city that was to be its standard-bearer!"


Sterling's untimely passing forbade him the privilege of seeing the Golden Gate and the Bay spanned by two "colossal fabrications."


But his city has not forgotten George Sterling.  His "cool grey city of love" is faithful to his memory.  On June 25, 1928, a George Sterling memorial was dedicated in the heart of old San Francisco.  It was Spring Valley, through Edward F. O'Day, editor and scholar, and friend of the poet, that gave this city the Sterling memorial.


In 1858 John Bensley who rests in Laurel Hill, gave San Francisco its first water supply.  Tapping Lobos Creek, he carried the water to two reservoirs on Russian Hill, one at Lombard and Hyde, the other at Francisco and Hyde.  Lobos Creek has long since ceased to supply this city with water, but the reservoirs are still in use.  John Beasley's water works were absorbed by Spring Valley Water Company in 1865; and Spring Valley in turn was purchased by the municipality.


The Sterling memorial was placed on a little bit of ground behind the old Lombard Street reservoir, with an entrance from a flight of steps on Chestnut Street, it consists of a bench done in decorative tile at the end of a parterre of plane trees.  Inset in the bench is a bronze tablet, placed by Spring Valley Water Company in 1927, bearing the words:






O singer, fled afar!

The erected darkness shall but isle the star

That was your voice to man,

Till morning come again

And of night that song alone remain.


This quotation from Sterling's "Ode to Shelley," is followed by a selection--words and music--from the "Song of Friendship" which was the joint composition of George Sterling and Uda the Waldrop.  This spot of delightful intimacy is to receive by official action the name of George Sterling Park.


San Francisco's two colossal fabrications, the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, are lasting testimonials to the working together of the lawmaker, the taxpayer, the engineer, and labor.  Congressman Richard J. Welch will be remembered; Joseph B. Strauss, Charles H. Purcell, and Charles Derleth, Jr., will not be forgotten in the splendor of these Titanic monuments over the graves of the bridge-builders who lost their lives in the swirling waters far below the Golden Gate and beneath the tides of San Francisco Bay.


There are other memorials in the vicinity of San Francisco outside the walls of cemeteries; some are merely centaphs, and some are veritable monuments over graves.  The body of the Reverend Thomas Starr King, California's pioneer preacher who died March 4, 1864, when scarcely forty years of age, was taken first to Lone Mountain.  The chronicles of the day record that on September 22, 1864, "the remains of the late Rev. T. Starr King were removed from the vault at Lone Mountain and entombed in the sarcophagus in front of the Unitarian Church."  When the growth of this city necessitated tearing down the original Starr King Church to make way for office buildings, the tomb of Thomas Starr King was moved with the church to its presence location on Geary Street at the corner of Franklin Street.


That California was saved to the Union was due in large measure to the overmastering patriotism, the fiery eloquence, and unceasing labor of Thomas Starr King.  He is not forgotten.  On October 27, 1892, a monument in Golden Date Park was dedicated to him.  It is the work of the sculptor Daniel Chester French.  The laurel trees have grown around its base and have partially concealed the legend:



In Him Eloquence, Strength and Virtue

Were Devoted With Fearless Courage

To Truth, Country and His Fellow Men



In 1913 the legislature of the State of California appropriated ten thousand dollars for a bronze bust of Thomas Starr King to be placed in the Capitol at Washington.  "Has he lived in vain, who, Priest of Freedom, may ye one," said the poet Whittier.


For the National Hall of Statuary, California has very fittingly chosen Thomas Starr King, and Father Junipero Serra.  This choice of the people was confirmed by the State Legislature of 1927.  It is interesting to note that New Jersey's two distinguish citizens whose statues were installed in Statuary Hall over forty years ago, are Philip Kearny and Richard Stockton; names well known to California pioneers.  Haig Patigian, a sculpture of ability and rare genius, was chosen by the Commission to execute the statue of Thomas Starr King for the National Hall of Statuary.  It is a fine piece of work.


A monument has been erected to General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby at the spot where he fell, in the lava beds of Northern California, when he was treacherously murdered by Modoc Indian chiefs.  From his boyhood home in Crawfordsville, Indiana, young Canby went to West Point.  At Crawfordsville to his father, Dr. Israel T. Canby, was receiver of the land office for many years.  For a time in San Francisco's early days, Major Canby was stationed on the Pacific Coast and was much loved by all who knew him at Monterey, at Benicia, and at San Francisco.  After his promotion for gallant conduct during the War with Mexico, he served as Assistant Adjutant General of the Pacific Division from February 27, 1849 to February 22, 1851.  He served through the Civil War.  In 1870, when he was Brigadier General of the United States Army, he consented to take command of the Department of the Columbia, a difficult post on account of Indian disturbances.  While holding a peace conference in the vicinity of the Modoc lava beds, on April 11, 1873, he was murdered.  General Canby's graves is in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis; but the monument erected to his memory by the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West in Modoc County, California, is a cherished shrine.


Hundreds each year to see that lonely spot called Canby's Cross, where the peace commissioners went unarmed to meet the Modoc braves, and where Uncle Richard Canby sacrificed his life in his heroic endeavor to bring about peace between red men and the white.  He did not altogether fail, though he lost his life in his courageous effort to accomplish his mission without bloodshed.


The Gjoa Expedition in command of Roald Amundsen with a crew of six men sailed from Christiania, Norway, June 16, 1903, spent twenty-two months at Gjoa Harbor, King Charles Land, taking magnetic observations to determine the location of magnetic North Pole.  Proceeded westward and sailed through the North-West Passage the only time in history, in the summer of 1906.  Arrived in San Francisco in October, 1906.


Thus reads the legend of Gjoa tablet.  Captain Roald Amundsen, Arctic explorer, navigator, the first to reach the South Pole, and the first and only man to navigate the North-West Passage, has perished in the Arctic Seas.


On June 18, 1928, he left Norway hurriedly, on an errand of mercy, in an attempt to rescue General Nobile and the crew of the dirigible Italia; he was never seen again.  His grave is in the ocean, or in No Man's Land.  But his monument is in the City by the Golden Gate.  The people love a monument.  The Gjoa, the staunch little vessel in which he sailed through the North-West Passage, was presented to the Golden Gate Park Commissioners by Captain Roald Amundsen and the Norwegians on the Pacific Coast.  And now the Gjoa rides, firmly anchored to a rock, high up on this sandy beach where Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean meet.


The Lick Observatory on the summit of Mount Hamilton, at an elevation of 4,209 feet, is the monument which marks the grave of James Lick who died in San Francisco, October 1, 1876, aged eighty years.  He was first buried at Lone Mountain Cemetery; but when the Observatory was completed and turned over to the University of California, the remains of James Lick who gave almost his entire fortune to public uses, including $700,000 for the Observatory, were buried in a crypt in the base of the pedestal of the great telescope.


"There was no fairer ambition," wrote Robert Louis Stevenson, "then to excell in talk; to be affable, gay and, ready, and welcome; to have a fact, a thought, or an illustration, pat to every subject....In short, the first duty of a man is to speak; that is his chief business in this world; and talk, which is the harmonious speech of two or more, is by far the most accessible of pleasures.  It cost nothing in money; it is all profit; it completes our friendships, and can be enjoyed at any age and in almost any state of health....It is in talk alone that friends can measure straight, and enjoy that amicable counter-assertion of personality which is the gauge of relations and the sport of life."


It is said that San Francisco was the first city to recognize his charm and to erect a monument by which to remember Robert Louis Stevenson, and on the face of his memorial stone is inscribed the striking words from his "Christmas Sermon":


To Be Honest    To Be Kind    To Earn

A Little    To Spend A Little Less


Robert Louis Stevenson's monument is in Portsmouth Square.  It is beautiful and interesting.  Designed by Bruce Porter and the late Willis Polk, it was placed in the plaza where Stevenson loved to sit and dream, and study humanity in the heart of old San Francisco.  Stevenson died at his Samoan Island home, Vailima, December 3, 1894, in his forty-fifth year.  He was buried on the summit of Mount Vaea, overlooking the ocean.  On June 22, 1915, the ashes of his wife were brought to his Samoan Island resting place and laid with his concrete tomb.  It was after the death of her husband that Mrs. Stevenson built the house designed by Willis Polk at Hyde hide and Lombard streets in San Francisco.  But she did not live there along.  She bought a ranch near Gilroy where she spent the summers with her family.


Near this place Frank Norris built the cabin remote from the haunts of men.  He planned to live there with his wife and little daughter and there to write this sequel to "The Octopus"--to be the third number in his trilogy of the wheat.  But he died untimely, and his friends have marked the spot he chose for work, with a massive memorial seat of unhewn stones, surmounted by and iron cross.  Lloyd Osborne owns the ranch through which one drives to reach the Norris monument.  It is high up on a hilltop far from the travelled way.  A bronze tablet said in the rough rock pile bears the following inscription:



Simpleness and Gentleness

and Honor and Clean Mirth



Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me lie,

Glad did I live, and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:

Here he lies where he longed to be:

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.



Some of the silent denizens of the Lone Mountain Cemeteries were born more than in one hundred and fifty years ago.  Although the City of San Francisco dates only from the middle of the last century there are headstones at Laurel Hill marking the graves of men born while the shadow of the Revolutionary War was still upon the land.


Frederick Abell   Born in London   June 4, 1798-July 21, 1859

Frederick R. Bunker   July 4, 1800-December 24, 1891

Antoinette Beckh    1797-1856

Capt. R. B. Cunningham  U. S. N.    October 10, 1794-March 13, 1861

James Deering    1794-1882

John Dunn    1800-1881

Joseph C. Gummer    Born in 1799

Mrs. Clarissa Gridley    1782-1857

Judge Fletcher M. Haight    Born in 1799

William Harrison Martin    Died April 28, 1868   Aged 71 years

Eliza Ross Martin    Died in 1874    Aged 76 years

Captain Isaac Pixley was born in 1787

Pioneer I. C. C. Russ of the Russ Gardens    1785-1857

Lewis Saunders    1796-1856     A native of Kentucky

Mammy Sarah    1779-1869

Reverend John D. Spencer    Derby, England    1793-1867

John Watkins Wilde    1798-1862    Born in Maryland




Woodworth, Selim E., 45.

Woodworth, William M., 45.

Wright, Harold L., 80.

Wright, S. S. 33.

YALE, Gregory, 2.

Yanke, Richard L., 44.

Yerba Buena, v, 18.


Younger, Maud, 53.

Younger, Dr. Wm. J., 53.






It is difficult for many of us who love San Francisco to realize that some in our midst do not love Laurel Hill enough to insist on its preservation as a Memorial Park.


In the preceding pages of this book is a wealth of facts about Lone Mountain and Laurel Hill, facts known, for most part, to those who specializes in the lore of their beloved city.  But this specific bit of San Franciscana has been presented here for the first time in such form that its cumulative effect is powerful, and its significance is at last inescapable.


The moral of the story is that Laurel Hill must remain.  It is as though Laurel Hill took voice to say, NOLI ME TANGERE, Do not touch me.


Frank Morton Todd went to the heart of the matter when he wrote: "Lone Mountain Cemetery, as Laurel Hill is still called by the older San Franciscans, is peculiarly the necropolis of San Francisco, and the repository of many historical data.  On stone and mausoleum are chiseled memorials of all stages of the city's life."  And he added: "one tomb is worthy to be a shrine of childhood," meaning the tomb of Woodward of Woodward's Gardens.


The most sensitive souls of our yesteryears loved to linger on that thought of a perpetual memorial.  "Lone Mountain," said Charles Warren Stoddard, "a green hill that looms above the graves where sleeps so many who are dear to us."


Strangers from afar were impressed with the sacred beauty of this CAMPO SANTO.  Is it remembered that the famous Sir Charles Dilke, on a visit to San Francisco, exclaimed: "Lone Mountain is the loveliest of all American cemeteries." 


When Lone Mountain Cemetery was projected in 1853 the intention was to lay out twenty miles of avenues and to name these after well-known Eastern burial places: Laurel Hill, Mountain Auburn, Greenwood, and so on.  It was not, therefore, the presence of laurels that fixed to name we know.  As a matter-of-fact the mountain abounded in evergreen shrub oaks and that creeping mint of our peninsula called YERBA BUENA.


At its solemn dedication on May 30, 1854, the eloquence of Colonel. B. D. Baker flashed like a sword.  Poems written for the occasion were read by S. B. Austin and Frank Soule, the latter one of the authors of the "Annals of San Francisco."  The religious services were conducted by the Right Reverend W. Ingraham Kip, first Episcopal bishop of California.


Why reiterate these things?  Because it is difficult for a devoted San Franciscan to turn away from the subject of Laurel Hill while aught remains to be said.  The mountain and the cemetery have dominated us as they did the imagination of General Lucius Hardwood Foote:


Loominga up, Lone Mountain lifts

Its cone against the sky,

And softly through the broken rifts

The sunlight for a moment sifts

And gilds the Cross on high.


In the midst of a previous (and happily unsuccessful) Laurel Hill removal campaign a friend brought that distinguish San Francisco printer, John Henry Nash, to the cemetery, promising him a special thrill.  The master craftsman was indeed thrilled when he read, on the A. A. Sargent monument: "Printer, Lawyer, Senator, Minister-Plenipotentiary."  "And 'Printer' comes first, as it should," said Nash quietly.


Then Nash was told about others of Laurel Hill: Edward Gilbert, printer, first editor of the Alta California, first congressman from California; and Samuel Woodworth, printer-poet whose remains rest there for fifty years.  But first after Sargent it was Gilbert that interested Nash, for Gilbert lies on a sunny hillside in the burial plot of the Typographical Union.


"Surely," said Nash, "our Union will always resist the removal of these parties."  And he called it "the Union Chapel of the Dead."


"From the summit of this beautifully shaped hill," wrote Frank Soule, "may be obtained one of the finest and most extensive use of land and water."


Frank Morton Todd expressed the same thought: "The prospect from the top both Lone Mountain is an almost uninterrupted cyclorama of San Francisco."


A cyclorama indeed!  From the top of Lone Mountain, where rises the beautiful San Francisco College for Women, survey the Pacific Ocean, the Bay with its two bridges, the opposite shores and the kindly half-circle of the San Francisco hills.


Behind those cypress trees to the south are the spires, campanile and dome of St. Ignatius, with the buildings of the University of San Francisco.  Beyond spread Ashbury Heights and a horizon line beautiful by Sutro Forest, Twin Peaks and Mount Olympus.  To the right of these the chain of eminences curves downward to rise suddenly again at Strawberry Hill.  And you see the tree-tops of Golden Gate Park with the tower of the deYoung Memorial Museum well defined.


There in the foreground Richmond stretches to the ocean, its roofs cross-hatched in the sunlight with the gayety of greens and reds and pinks.


More church towers--Lincoln Park with the Palace of Legion of Honor, and peeping up from the water, Mile Rock.  The great mass of the Marine Hospital.  Much nearer, the Roosevelt school of red brick, the home of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Temple Emanu-El, the Children's Hospital.  And now Laurel Hill is before us.  May it remain with us forever!


Lift your eyes.  There are boats on the Bay.  There are looms the magnificence of the Golden Gate span.  We turn reluctantly from the trees and hills and open spaces of the Presidio toward the first of the great skyscrapers and apartment houses.  And to small parks touched deeply with green.


Russian Hill, the hotels of Nob Hill, the Shell Building, and the Russ.  The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.


Now we have swept around to find in our foreground Ewing Field and St. Elizabeth's Home, a convent-school and Calvary.  Further away the City Hall and the Telephone Building--how distant objects merge!


And then the Mission District to the San Bruno Mountains.  And the high climb of the skyline to Buena Vista Park, with Lowell High.


We have turned full circle in a matchless cyclorama, finding the landscape and waterscape of San Francisco yielding joy after joy in its laughing happiness of beauty.


Seeing those from Lone Mountain, San Francisco is known for what it verily is--a city of the soul.


Surely not a city that will disturb the earthly tenements of the pioneers who made it so.





© 2003 Nancy Pratt Melton

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