Friday, January 30, 2009

California: Restoring the Marquez Family Cemetery

Santa Monica Canyon was a resting place for the area's early landowners. Among them were the Marquez family.

While I am not sure if this Marquez family is one of the early Converso families - although many, of the early settlers did have Converso backgrounds - the name is documented as a Jewish family name in Pere Bonnin's Sangre Judia, which lists thousands of Jewish family names mentioned in pre-Inquisition and later court and other documents. Among them are MARQUES (1487, Zaragoza), MARQUEZ (1634, Toledo) and MARQUESSI (1476 Castellon).

In any case, this LA Times story focuses on learning the boundaries and burial locations of the historic Marquez Family Cemetery - one of the city's oldest burial grounds - and the only portion of the original Mexican land grant in the family's hands. It is located south of the Riviera Country Club, for those who know the area, on San Lorenzo Street, north of San Vicente. The link has a map.

Francisco Marquez established a burial ground on the canyon's mesa in the late 1840s. He was the Mexican co-holder of the Rancho Boca de Santa Monica land grant. Buried there are his youngest son Pascual and some 30 other relatives. This includes 13 guests at a 1909 New Year's Eve party, who died from botulism in home-canned peaches.

In 2000, the site was named an extremely historic landmark by Los Angeles. Last week, technology arrived at the cemetery as scientists brought ground-penetrating radar imaging equipment to see exactly where the bodies are buried. Joining them were students at UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaelogy. And, on January 31, special dogs from northern California's Institute for Canine Forensics will see if they can sniff out any remains.

All of this is focused on finding the cemetery's boundaries and burial locations so preservationists (including Pascual's grandson Ernest) can develop a restoration plan and open the site to the public. Some costs are being funded, along with contributions by foundations and neighbors, by the nonprofit La SeƱora Research Institute de Rancho Boca de Santa Monica.

"I want to keep it in its natural state and not modernize it in any way," said Ernest Marquez, 84, a local historian who grew up in Santa Monica Canyon and lives in the San Fernando Valley.

"When you come here, you are transported back to rancho days. There's an aura here that you don't get anywhere else."Today the burial ground, overgrown with weeds and missing all but two of its grave markers, sits tucked away behind a rustic wooden fence on San Lorenzo Street.

Few people know it's there.

The site is surrounded - landlocked - by the many houses that were eventually built in the canyon.

Ernest's book, "Santa Monica Beach," details that, in 1839, the Mexican government gave the land grant to what would become portions of Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades to Mexican citizens, Francisco Marquez and Ysidro Reyes, who began cattle ranching on their more than 6,500 acres. They build adobe homes and raised their families. The nearest Catholic cemetery was a day away, so Marquez set aside land for a burial site.

The story includes genealogical information: Pascual, in 1879, married Micaela, daughter of Reyes, and the property and the marriage united two families. They had 10 children. Pascual was the last to be buried there, in 1916, near the adobe in which he was born in 1844.

In the mid-20s, the land was sold to the Santa Monica Land & Water Co., owned by Robert Gillis. The canyon was subdivided for homes and Gillis' daughter urged her father to protect the cemetery. An adobe wall was built to surround it.

The story addresses access problems to the landlocked (by privately owned parcels) cemetery. Family members used a 4-foot-wide easement that runs from the center of the cemetery's front wall to San Lorenzo Street. In 1952, last owner of record Pedro Marquez, died, with the site passing to heirs who recently gave the property to Ernest.

It is hoped that the scientific investigation will lead to more interest concerning the site.

According to Woodland Hills geophysicist Dean Goodman, who is helping with the mapping, 3-D data reveals at least four possible areas of unmarked remains that should be tested.

"We also see something that looks like the original adobe foundation," Goodman said one recent morning at the site. Goodman has previously surveyed ancient buried wall foundations in Vescovio, Italy; a buried garden pond at the villa of Roman emperor Trajan; Genghis Khan's palace in eastern Mongolia; imperial family tombs in Osaka, Japan; and the Presidio in San Francisco. Much remains to be done before the site can be restored. But supporters envision grave markers, pathways and lovely landscaping.
Nettleship added that "We've lost track of our history," she said. "We need to make the next generation aware of the value of knowing the history of those who came before us."

Do read the complete article at the link above. There are photographs and a map of the cemetery's location as well.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this story about the Pascaul Marquez Family Cemetery. We cannot answer whether the original Marquez family was Converso. At this point we are not yet certain of the origins of Francisco Marquez' great grandparents. We know that his parents lived in Mexico. We know more details about the Reyes Family which we have traced back to Ernest Marquez' quadruple great grandfather in Mexico. P. Nettleship, Foundation Director, La Senora Research Institute