The Removal to Greenlawn Cemetery in Colma
The removal process was anything but straight forward, organized, or professional. That’s not to say there were not good intentions, but frankly no one in City government had ever undertaken such an operation. But despite ‘best efforts’ bodies were certainly missed. And if bodies were missed, one can only assume that there were days when things became a muddle.
Incredibly, plot owners were given but one public notification which was published in the SF Call, Sept, 1912……a full 20 years prior to bodies being removed. Notes and records were handwritten, labor far from professional, and oversight intended but likely minimal. With money to be made on land and reburial services, the dignity of the dead likely became a quick afterthought for many.
This certainly would have been the situation for ‘Odd Fellows’ as it was the first cemetery to be treated in so undignified a manner. Unaffiliated to church or faith, unclaimed head stones were tossed into the Pacific at Lands’ End and used in the construction of the Marina District’s St Francis Yacht Club break wall. As a young boy in the 1950’s and growing up in the Marina, I remember scrambling amidst the break wall rubble and stopping to read names and dates. Grave markers were used in street projects, while gravesite statuary, marble, decorative walls, crypt doors, and wrought iron fencing disappeared on a regular basis. Anything of value was likely stolen or sold. This was the ‘Depression’. Times were tough, and items of value belonging to the dead and their families, were likely ‘fair game’. Anything in ‘Odd Fellows’ would have been free for the taking and come nightfall, likely it was.
Leveling of Odd Fellows "Yerba Buena" Section
In looking at the pictures of the leveling of Odd Fellows former ‘Yerba Buena’ section in 1933, note the different clothing worn by the laborers of the day. Fedoras and caps, suit coats and long sleeve shirts. The men of the day needed work and men of all types showed up for work.
Reinternment at Greenlawn in Colma
In late 1932, at Colma’s GreenLawn Cemetery, a 5-acre section of the cemetery became the site for the mass reinternment from Odd Fellows. More than 26,000 grave marking stones were ordered and placed over each ‘grave site’ marking the location of the remains.
In part three of the Odd Fellows Cemetery history, we will see where things are today and how Greenlawn Cemetery is profiting by leasing the Odd Fellows reinternment site to commercial growers. Continue reading here