consisting of

St. Mary's Cemetery (3.69 acres acquired 1862; blessed 1884)

City Cemetery (3.4 acres acquired 1870; named 1889)


●    2 blocks long; one block wide; 7.09 acres
●    Boundaries: Lower, Main Street; Upper, Poli Street; Aliso and Hemlock lanes
●    Westernmost 110 feet never developed for interment purposes.
●    Number of interred: 2,298 [City of Ventura]
      Number of interred: 2,126 Protestants
                                        806 Roman Catholics
                                          48 Jews 2,980 [Monsignor Weber]
      No figures provided for 4 th section which included bodies of Chinese,
      Chumash and "people of other races."


1854 California enacts the first of a series of legislative Acts concerning cemeteries. Section 4 states: "Any place where six dead bodies have been buried is declared a "public graveyard, …in the ownership of the people."

October 3, 1862 Parcel of land 400 feet by 400 feet (3.69 acres) acquired from George S. Wright, Henry Webb, Edmund L. Gould and Daniel Waterman. Officially deeded to the Right Reverend Thaddeus Amat, Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles, on October 03 "for the use and purpose of a Catholic Burying Ground" at San Buenaventura.

October 21, 1862 First burial: Ynez Sanches

1866 City of San Buenaventura incorporated; burial plots about 2000 feet outside boundaries.

1870 San Buenaventura Commercial, Manufacturing and Mining Company, which owned most of the acreage of the original Rancho Ex-Mission grant, deeds a section (3.4 acres) "adjacent to and east of the Roman Catholic Burying Ground" [deed] to the First Presbyterian Church for a "public" cemetery.

October 28, 1876 Board of Trustees of First Presbyterian grants the area (100 ft x 400 ft) of the graveyard east of the barranca running through the cemetery to the Hebrew Society. [Deed] Barranca later filled in.

September 28, 1884 Fr. Joachim Adam, Vicar General, Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles, blesses the cemetery, placing it under the patronage of Saint Mary. Assisted by Juan Pujol and Cyprian Rubio.

1889 City assumes control of the non-Catholic portion of the cemetery. Named City Cemetery. Authority granted through Section 8126, CA Health & Safety Code. Health and Safety Code Sec. 8126 did NOT exist in 1889. Section 3105 of the Political Code (Stats. 1872) would have provided that the title to the cemetery became vested in the public if the public's use of the cemetery was according to the use prescribed in the law. This law also PROHIBITS the use of a PUBLIC CEMETERY as anything other than a PUBLIC CEMETERY. This also means it MAY NOT BE USED AS A PARK. EVER. If the City of Ventura is claiming ownership of this portion of the cemetery that it converted to the "Memorial Park" through "operation of law" (i.e., either Sec. 3105 for the former Political Code or Sec. 8126 of the present Health and Safety Code), then it's conversion of the cemetery to the Memorial Park is NOT AUTHORIZED BY LAW.

City adopted ordinance #41. Established ruled for the purpose of regulating and protecting public cemetery.

1896 City adopted ordinance #86. Provided for receipt and holding of funds pertaining to the cemetery. Both ordinances repealed in 1951.

1895 Jewish Cemetery (about 100 feet by 400 feet east of barranca running through cemetery) subdeeded to L. Cerf, A. Bernheim, L. Hayfield, T. Wineman, all Trustees of the Jewish Church. Barranca was later filled in.

October 1917 George E. Hume and group of 17 benefactors open Ivy Lawn Cemetery which diminished use and importance of St. Mary's Cemetery.

1934 Cobblestone retaining wall built as WPA project.

1938 Sidewalks installed along Main Street.

Ventura City Planning Commission suggests the cemetery be made into a public park. The city attorney rules that the city cannot legally remove or obliterate the markers.

Jan.& March1943 Final interments in St. Mary's Cemetery.

[By law, a cemetery becomes legally abandoned five years after the last interment.] This is NOT correct. By law, a cemetery becomes LEGALLY ABANDONED when all the remains have been removed from the ground.

May 1944 Last burial; 2,298 graves recorded by city, more than half with no monument.

Ordinance #600 prohibits burials within city limits.

August 1949 Planning Commission recommends the tombstones be razed and multiple housing be erected. Plan rejected. Ten-foot high hedge planted to hide "decaying" cemetery from sensitive Venturans' eyes.

1955 City purchases westerly 100 feet (1.12 acres) of Catholic cemetery for Civic Recreation Center.

1959 State of California passes a law requiring graveyard owners to set up an endowment so that in the event of abandonment money will be available to maintain grounds.

1963 Ventura City Manager Charles Reiman gets go-ahead from City Council for memorial park plan which includes removal of curbs, slabs, vaults, headstones and bases. The city owned Protestant and Jewish sections of the park. Reiman then received permission from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the Catholic section of the cemetery to be included. The 1965 deed from the Archdiocese stipulates that the "park cannot be used for anything other than a public cemetery." Section 8126 of the Health and Safety Code agrees. Reverend Aubrey O'Reilly, Pastor of SBV Mission, suggests that small brass markers be set flush with the ground, with numbers keyed to a large monument whereon all interments would be listed.

Dilapidated state of the park was given as the reason for demolition (vandalism; theft; inadequate maintenance).

December 3, 1964 Cemetery demolished as part of a $12,000 transformation into a memorial park and viewpoint. Five above-ground crypts removed after remains had been transferred to a coffin and reburied directly under original site.

"About 200 letters were sent out and nearly 100 were returned – all of them favoring the plan," said Bob Mayers, city administrative assistant.

Monuments are stacked by the fence at west side of yard until a woman complains about "the melancholy sight." Stones are then moved to the City Parks Department yard, Hall Canyon Road.

Dr. James Deetz, UCSB colonial archaeologist, photographs the monuments in Hall Canyon for his book on epitaphs.

Some slabs are retrieved by family members; others, by various city residents who:

1. planned gardens around them

2. used them for construction (Tony Real – blank marble slabs)

3. used them for abstract art sculptures (Ellis Jump, V. College)

1965 Remainder of St. Mary's Cemetery deeded to city (2.57 acres).

August 3, 1966 Headstone and crypt removal completed.

1967 Flag pole installed by Parks Department.

1969 Cemetery Park project completed.

Burial remains removed by Joseph P. Reardon Funeral Chapel because of repairs to eastern side of the Civic Recreation Center directly adjacent to St. Mary's Cemetery property.

May, June 1972 Civic Recreation Center demolished due to structural problems.

Parks Superintendent receives approval from State controller to dispose of headstones. Slabs are taken to the Olivas Golf Course levee (estimated 500) and buried in the rubble. Some say the slabs were ground for fill; Steve Schleder believes the intact slabs are buried there.

October 13, 1978 Eight headstones found in Oxnard, picked up and photographed.

October 14 Headstones buried at Olivas levee

1985 City of Ventura [very quietly] offers to place bronze markers over burial sites without charge and only at the request of relatives.

1989 Retrieval of Michael Hugh Clark tombstone (by descendant Pat Clark) prompts article by Elena Jarvis.

1990 American Legion Post 339 places markers over graves of Brevet Major General William Vandever, and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Private James Sumner. Twenty-one gun salutes and Union Army uniforms alarmed the locals.

January 15, 1993 Tombstone "exposed by the winter rains and pounding surf, … emerged from the concrete rubble off Surfer's Point.


May 3, 1867 – June 2, 1901


Jan. 26- July 4, 1891

January 16, 1993 Tombstone retrieved by descendants.

Ida May Shively Ryan, Santa Paula, age 91

Kathy Zwers, Santa Paula, granddaughter of Douglas Shively, artist, rancher & banker, died in 1991, age 96

Gordon Clark, SP, Shively's great grandson


November 13, 2003 Steve Schleder, architectural restoration expert, hopes to "award due recognition to every individual lying in an unmarked grave, irrespective of religious affiliation. 'You've got to respect the people whose shoulders you're standing on. Otherwise, how can you have respect for yourself? You might as well march off into Soylent Green machines.'"

Monsignor O'Brien, pastor San Buenaventura Mission, "had no official opinion regarding efforts to restore the old cemetery, he respectfully acknowledged the sentiment behind it. "Even though they've turned to dust," he said of the dead, "we like to know where that dust is." [Ventura County Reporter]

May 31, 2004 Memorial Day Procession is organized by Steve Schleder. Participants include presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, The United Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the Golden West, Sons & Daughters of the American Revolution, Union and Confederate soldiers, etc., concluding with a 21-gun salute.

June 27, 2004 "Historical streetlights formerly along Main Street and Thompson Boulevard in Ventura, are saved from the scrap heap, thanks to Steve Schleder." City was planning to get rid of them. "The Ventura County Chinese American Historical Society, which is also working to restore the cemetery, was happy to help with the lights, too."

Mel Sheeler, owner of Sheeler Moving and Storage, will move and store until they can be placed around the old St. Mary's Cemetery, which has been replaced by the park and a parking lot.

Schleder wants to find and return headstones to their original places in the cemetery. He is working with city parks officials to prepare a proposal to take to City Council.

"Parks Supervisor Jerry Revard said there have been no decisions made yet and Schleder's proposal is one of many for the park. Others include moving historical homes and buildings to the park, restoring just the parking lot, or placing a memorial plaque in the park. Revard said the Parks Department will seek public input before any decisions are made."

July 18, 2004 "Hurrah for Steve Schleder and Mel Sheeler!"

[Pat CD, Ventura Star]

July 29, 2004 "Families Seek to Bring Cemetery Back to Life"

[Arianne Aryanpur, LA Times]

July 29, 2004 CNBC newscaster Gordon Takamatsu interviews Steve Schleder at Cemetery Memorial Park and Pat CD (with headstone) at Rancho del Cielo. Used as teaser throughout 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. broadcasts. Shows close to 7:00.

Response includes offer from Leopold "Pol" Mairesse of Subsurface Surveys (San Diego) to locate bodies in cemetery free- of-charge.

August 3, 2004 Letters to Editor, Ventura Star

Pat Clark Doerner ● "Cemetery Plight"

Brenda Tzipori ● "Restore Sacred Site"

"My family and I were horror-struck to learn about the atrocious action taken by the city of Ventura …."

August 11, 2004 Offer from Karla Archuleta, President, Antelope Valley Genealogical Society, to research, document each individual buried in cemetery. Offer includes further genealogical research. No cost.

See the rest of Restore St. Mary's web site for further details.

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