Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mountain View Cemetery: exploring plot 54

Last Sunday afternoon before the Oakland Wiki edit-a-thon, I stopped by Mountain View Cemetery to do some research on Royal Towns, one of the first African American firefighters in Oakland, and who helped other African Americans join the force. I recently learned that he was buried in Mountain View, and even had the plot and grave number (plot 54, grave #1915) so I went to check it out.

I wandered around plot 54 looking for Royal's grave, examining the various markers. The markers in plot 54 are flat, originally placed at ground level to simplify lawn maintenance. Unfortunately, markers of all sorts have a tendency to sink over time, so what was ground level 30 or 40 years ago is now a couple of inches down. That's also true of the small, concrete numbers that are at the foot of each grave, and given their size, they tend to sink completely out of sight.

So it wasn't too surprising that I couldn't find Royal's grave or even grave #1915. After a couple of trips into the office at Mountain View for plot maps and other records, I figured out where Royal's grave is. There is no marker visible, but a work order has been placed to see if there is one and raise it. Records indicate there are multiple people buried in grave #1915. There are family members in the adjacent graves #1914 and #1913, so I've also been researching his family connections, too.

It turns out there are connections, too. The first African American fire chief in Oakland was Sam Golden. He was in a boy scout troop led by Royal Towns. The woman who helped me at the cemetery office lived next door to Sam Golden and his wife. It's all part of following historic rabbit trails through Oakland history.

Some of the other markers in plot 54 caught my attention, like the one pictured above for Herbert B. Williams. He died young, approximately age 23, but what caught my attention was the symbol on his marker, as I hadn't seen it before. I checked my usual sources for grave symbols but couldn't find it. I suspect it was connected with the Freemasons, since (a) they had tons and tons of sub-orders and (b) the pyramid symbol in the middle of the owl is frequently associated with the Freemasons.

Another grave caught my eye because of the name, "Mary, wife of Winfield Scott, 1878-1925". Winfield Scott was a famous general in the Mexican-American War in the 1840s, and who the fort at Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge was originally named for. But his wife was Maria D. Mayo, who he married in 1817, so this was clearly someone else.

Some searching on ancestry sites suggest that Mary Scott was the wife of Winfield Scott, who ran a cigar shop. The first shop and their residence was on Hayes Street in San Francisco. But by 1925 the cigar shop was in Oakland, at 3735 East 14th Street. I don't know for sure this was them, but that's another rabbit trail that will have to wait for another time.

Other intriguing things I found include Waldo (the good news is I found him, the bad news...) and a Strange grave. But there's still the mystery of the logo on Herbert Williams grave, who Royal Towns relatives buried nearby were, the rest of the story about Mary and Winfield Scott, and...

Lots more pictures from plot 54:


Oakland Daily Photo said...

An interesting and touching post. Thanks, Gene.

Unknown said...

There are so many interesting stories out there!