Yerba Buena Cemetery

From the Annals of San Francisco

For some years Yerba Buena remained an unenclosed waste. It lies in a hollow among miserable looking sand-hills, which are scantily covered with stunted trees, worthless shrubs, and tufted weeds. It extends over a large space of ground, and is still among the most dreary and melancholy spots that surround the city. In 1850, there was nothing visible, below and around, but the loose barren sand-hills, with their scattered patches of wild bushes, while above was the boundless, pitiless firmament. The din of the city could not penetrate there. The only sound sometimes heard was the mournful requiem of the distant waters of the bay, when stirred to solemn music by a gale. The dead needed no lullaby, and cared not for picturesque and pleasing scenery; but to the living visitor, who feels only his emotions, which he attributes to insensible clay, the aspect of the place was sad and desolate in the extreme. Since that period it has been enclosed by a wooden fence, and a potion of the ground is now thickly covered with simple tablets and some highly-decorated monuments to the departed. Many of the tombs are formed in the modern Parisian style, and in their trim flower-beds, neat rails, crosses and tablets, imitate the sepulchres of Pere La Chaise. It is a most interesting though melancholy task to walk over the place, and mark the inscriptions on the tombs. The years of the dead had been so few, and the places of their birth were so diverse! People from all parts of the world lie buried there; and especially natives from every state in the American Union. Their race, language, religion, their age, personal character and manners, actions, thoughts, passions, hopes and dreams, had all been different in earlier days. At last they came from the remotest quarters to work as rivals together in California, and win the dangerous gift of gold. Now they sleep cordially side by side in Yerba Buena Cemetery. What avails now their doting visions of wealth, fame and influence, the actual heaps of the precious metal? American and European, Asiatic and African are now the same filthy substance. In life, the white man prided himself that his veins held not the blood of yellow, red or black races; the man of 'progress,' that he was not like the slothful, ignorant, slavish native of warm climates: now in Yerba Buena Cemetery there is none better, none worse in all human respects.

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