San Francisco History
 

Yerba Beuna Island Cemetery
(aka Goat Island)


Dates of Existence: 1852 to 1939?
Location: Yerba Buena Island
Number interred: 98
Moved to: unknown (note: it has been mentioned that they were moved to the Presidio National Cemetery just before the 1939 World Fair-ed.)
"A Garden of Death at the Fair's Gateway.  Pioneers' Bones In Highway to Treasure Isle. On the western slope of Yerba Buena island, looking gateward to the sea, stand 98 pitiful little wooden crosses, hardly bigger than crossed lathing sticks, and beneath them lie the earthly remnants of those who lived in that lonely place and died there.

Doubtless, in his last moments, none surmised that he someday might be in the way on this once isolated hill, or suspected that his bones ever would be disturbed.

Nor could those who laid the dead awain in this forlorn cemetery plot, enclosed by an iron pipe fence, foresee that they were planting a garden of death at the very gates of what was destined to rise out of neighboring bay waters as the Golden Gate International Exposition.

DEATH PLOT LAID BARE

Already workmen, preparing the roadway over which the world will travel to the exposition, have cut away two rows of the eucalyptus trees that shade the burial ground and drop their leaves among the granite slabs.  Now the small cemetery stands exposed in all its shabby nakedness, and will stand so exposed to the eyes of the 20,000,000 who will pass that way.

When Assistant Secretary of the Navy Charles Edison recently visited Yerba Buena there was some discussion between him and other naval officials as to whether, because of its proximity to the fair grounds entrance, the cemetery should be removed, either to some more secluded spot on the island or off it altogether.

MOVE EXPECTED

What resulted from this discussion, if anything, is not yet known outside naval administrative circles.  But there is said to be strong probability that some definite move will be made to spare exposition visitors the depressing effect of a graveyard at the portals of the fair.

Possibly an ornamented wall, inscribed with a brief history of the island, might solve the problem.

Gold rush visitors to Yerba Buena found what was left of an indian village, found the pits where aborigines cremated their dead, unearthed on other parts of the island skeletons in a sitting position, knees under chin.

MAMMOTH BONES FOUND

During the construction of Treasure Island a prehistoric mammoth tusk more than 250,000 years old was dredged up from Yerba Buena shoals.  Authenticity of the discovery was verified by Dr. V L. VanderHoof of the University of California museum of paleontology.

Dredges also brought up human bones remains of early Indian tribes.

As for the little cemetery, its oldest occupant is Edward Lindsey, an English sea captain, who was buried there in 1852. Three years later his 17-year-old son, Edward was interred there with him under one tall granite tombstone carrying both names.  This and all the rest of the old markers have been long since removed and replaced by the Government with uniform small flat granite slabs.

LURED HERE BY GOLD

In her booklet, "The Legend of Yerba Buena Island," Marcia Edwards Boyes recounts that in his youth Captain Lindsey was engaged by the English government to transport prisoners, the first lot of female prisoners being sent to Tasmania. Later he settled in Australia, but was lured here by the California gold discovery and landed in 1850 with his wife and six children. He and his family made sundry pleasure excursions to Yerba Buena island. In accordance with his wishes he was buried there. The funeral procession from San Francisco was a long boat bearing the body and rowed by four intimate friends, and a long line of ships' boats loaded with sorrowing friends and relatives.

There is many another interesting character buried there, too.

More recently grave stones have been cut with the names of sailors and marines.  Each year on Memorial days there are military ceremonies and school children strew the graves with white marguerites, with which the island abounds."

Source: Hitt, Neil. San Francisco Chronicle, 26 September 1937.


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