Compiled by Joel GAzis-SAx

Special Notes for Genealogists on San Francisco Records

To understand Colma, one must understand San Francisco. This timeline includes events in San Francisco taphology to reflect this reality.

Year Notable Events Docu-Links
1776 Mission Dolores established. First European cemetery. Photo
1850 Hebrew Cemetery established.
Yerba Buena Cemetery opens downtown.

1853 City agrees to maintain Yerba Buena Cemetery.1855
of Cemetery
1854 Lone Mountain Cemetery established in San Francisco.Photo
1860 Hebrew Cemetery closed to further interments.
Original Home of Peace Cemetery opens.
Calvary Cemetery dedicated on land purchased from Lone Mountain cemetery.
Yerba Buena closed to further interments.
1861 The original Hills of Eternity opens.
1862 Calvary Cemetery consecrated by Archbishop Alemany.Col. Baker's
1863 Leland Stanford lays the cornerstone of Lone Mountain's Broderick Memorial.Broderick Tale
1864 Masonic Cemetery Association organized.
1865 Odd Fellows Cemetery opens in San Francisco.
Mark Twain satirizes San Francisco cemetery operators.

Twain Satire
1867 Lone Mountain Cemetery renamed Laurel Hill.
1868 City purchases land for Golden Gate Cemetery at Land's End.
1870 Yerba Buena remains exhumed and moved to Golden Gate Cemetery.
1887 Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan dedicates Holy Cross Cemetery.
First interments at Colma.

1888 Original Hills of Eternity closed to further interments.
Original Home of Peace Cemetery closed to further interments.

1889 Hills of Eternity moves to Colma.
Home of Peace Cemetery moves to Colma.

1891 Salem Cemetery established.
1892 Electric trolley service inaugurated.
Cypress Lawn Memorial Park established.

1893 First cremations in Colma.
1896 Mount Olivet Cemetery established.
1898 Soldiers at Camp Merrit (now the Richmond District) spend their idle hours digging skulls and other bones from the sand dunes around Lone Mountain, sending their finds home as "war trophies".
1899 Italian Cemetery established.
1901 Japanese Cemetery established..
Serbian Cemetery established.
San Francisco prohibits further burials within the city.

1902 Greenlawn established.
1904 Woodland Memorial Park established.
1906 San Francisco earthquake does some damage to Colma monuments.
1907 Sunset View Cemetery established.
1909 Golden Gate Cemetery becomes Lincoln Park.
1914 City of San Francisco orders removal of cemeteries.
1916 Ishi, the last Yahi Indian, is cremated and interred at Olivet Memorial Park after his brain is removed during an autopsy.
1919 8,000 remains are moved from Lincoln Park to the Italian Cemetery.
The Spanish Influenza Epidemic fills five sections of Holy Cross.

1921 The State Legislature passes the Morris Act, which allows cemetery associations to abandon a cemetery, remove the remains, and sell the land.
The Masonic Cemetery Association attempts to remove to Woodlawn Cemetery.

1923 Unknown vandals desecrate the Italian Cemetery.
Hornblower vs. Masonic Cemetery Assn. upholds the rights of individual cemetery owners to maintain graves in dedicated cemetery land even if the cemetery association chooses to remove.
The Second Morris Act authorizes municipalities to pass ordinaces requiring the removal of bodies in cases where burials have been prohibited by law for a certain number of years.
Removal of Odd Fellows and Masonic Cemeteries remains begins.

1924 Colma incorporated as City of Lawndale.
San Francisco voters repeal ordinances designed to remove Calvary and Laurel Hill Cemeteries.

1929 The Lawndale Town Council moves to allow the transfer of human remains exhumed from other cemeteries, accepting proof of twenty-five years burial in lieu of death certificates.
1931 Masons (inc. Emperor Norton) moved to Woodlawn. Leftover stones are used as fill on the approaches to the Golden Gate Bridge.Joshua Norton Tale
1935 Greek Orthodox Cemetery established.
1936 Metropolitan Athenagoras consecrates Greek Orthodox Cemetery.
1937 The Catholic Archdiocese ceases its opposition to removal and begins making plans to reinterr more than 50,000 at Holy Cross.
The Town Council outlaws bill boards.

1938 Construction of City Hall begins.
1939 Arthur "Doc" Barker is buried in an unmarked grave at Olivet's unendowed Cosmos Plot after he is shot trying to escape from Alcatraz.
The Historical Monuments Committee of the National Recreation Association, California Pioneers Society, and Native Sons of the Golden West campaign to preserve part of Laurel Hill, in situ, as a memorial park to the California pioneers.
Removal of Calvary Cemetery and Laurel Hill Cemetery remains to Holy Cross and Cypress Lawn, respectively, begins.

1940 The Laurel Hill Board of Trustees decides to relocate the remains under its care to Cypress Lawn.
1941 City name is changed to Colma at request of U.S. Post Office.
1942 Last Laurel Hill remains are interred at Cypress Lawn.
1947 Pet's Rest established.
1948 An ordinance prohibiting the desecration of cemeteries is passed by the Colma Town Council.
1949 Electric rail service to Colma discontinued.
1950 The U.S. Census turns up 264 living people in Colma.
Colma establishes a City Planning Commission which limits development in the city limits to Cemeteries and accessory uses (stonecutters, nurseries, monuments works, etc.), residential, and agricultural. The Zoning ordinance establishes Colma as "a Memorial city".

Excerpts from
Ordinance 81
1951 Sunset View Cemetery closed. (Now Cypress Hills Golf Course).
1957 Westlake earthquake destroys many Colma monuments.
Actor Hugh O'Brien offers $500 for the return of Wyatt Earp's tombstone.

1971 Harold and Maude filmed at Holy Cross, Woodlawn & Cypress Lawn.
1978 George Moscone's funeral at Holy Cross is the largest ever. Snipers and bomb squads protect the dozens of U.S. Congressmen, legislators, mayors, and other officials who have come for the interment.George Moscone Tale
1988 Hoy Sun Cemetery established.
1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damages some Colma monuments.
1991 Two thousand mourners fill Eternal Home for the funeral of Bill Graham.
1993 Archbishop Quinn dedicates monument to California's Catholic Pioneers at Holy Cross.
1994 Golden Hills Cemetery established.
1996 BART extended to Colma.
1996 Tales from Colma hits the InterNet.
1996 Colma voters approve gambling house over objections of cemetery operators.
1997 Cypress Lawn Cemetery Association files suit against Bay Area Rapid Transit and San Mateo County Transit District to prevent the extension of BART through Colma cemeteries.
1997 The brain of Ishi is located by anthropologists in the Smithsonian Institution.

Other Colma-Related Chronologies/Lists

Social Conflict in San Francisco
City of Kooks: Notable San Francisco Eccentrics

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Browse some interesting epitaphs
Return to Tales from Colma

Joel GAzis-SAx wishes to thank Cynthia Price, Ken Silligman and John Martini for their help in compiling this list.

Photograph and text copyright 1996, 1998 by Joel GAzis-SAx. Photo: Italian Cemetery, Colma, California.