Last Saturday, I met with some local artists to tour and sketch Santa Rosaâ€™s Rural Cemetery. The name Rural Cemetery is a kind of a misnomer because if it were located any closer to town, it would be downtown. The cemetery is situated on a small hill covered with live oak and eucalyptus trees that, in the evening, cast long, dark shadows across the grave sites.
Our knowledgeable and funny tour guide, Ray Owen, has written two booklets on the history of the cemetery and easily answered our questions. Since the cemeteryâ€™s founding in 1854, many locally well-known people have been buried there, including Winfield S. M. Wright who died in 1892. Wrightâ€™s Beach, Wright Road and Wright School were all named after him. Sarah Wright, his wife, was the granddaughter of the famous American explorer and folk hero Daniel Boone. James Armstrongâ€™s grave is on the south side of the cemetery. Heâ€™s best known for donating 490 acres of old growth redwood that later became the beautiful Armstrong Woods State Preserve.
For about an hour, Ray led us around the cemetery telling stories, some funny, some sad. But once we reached the top of the hill, he showed us the most visually interesting grave in the cemetery, the Taylor plot. Over the years, an oak tree rested on the grave stone for support for so long that it grew into the stone monument. This is where I chose to park myself for about an hour to sketch and watercolor.
On September 16 and 17 (2011) there will be Lamplight Tours from 7:30pm through 9:50pm, when visitors can walk through the cemetery at night and hear dramatic portrayals of some of Santa Rosaâ€™s early settlers. No doubt ghost stories will be on the agenda!
For more information on the cemetery and Lamplight Tours, click here: http://bit.ly/l9MizH
Taylor’s Plot tree fell this wast weekend 04/06/13. It’ll probably have to be removed from the cemetery.
The Press Democrat Newspaper has the story.