Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2019

E Street Public Graveyard & Mount Tamalpais Cemetery

By Carol Acquaviva · October 12, 2018

Mount Tamalpais Cemetery, 1909, George M. Dodge, Surveyor <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

Mount Tamalpais Cemetery, 1909, George M. Dodge, Surveyor

Mt. Tamalpais, Marin Journal, June 12, 1879 <span>&copy;  </span> San Rafael High School, E Street, San Rafael, circa 1900 <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

Before Mount Tamalpais Cemetery

Prior to the establishment of Mount Tamalpais Cemetery in 1879, San Rafael employed a public cemetery located on the west side of E Street, between Third and Fourth Streets. In 1850, a Mr. Poindexter purchased the lot for $16, and gave it to the town for use as a graveyard; he was the first person to be buried there.

By June 1873, the city graveyard had become unkempt. The Marin Journal remarked that people did not think twice about letting their cows into the cemetery to graze. In 1874, citizens continued to press for a modern cemetery. An ordinance passed by the Board of Town Trustees went into effect in early 1875, stating that no cemetery should be within the town limits, referring to "sanitary reasons brought to bear against crowding the living and the dead so closely together." But with no public cemetery except the one on E Street, the rule forbidding interring within the town limits was rescinded.

As talk grew of a more serene, remote location, Town Trustees were called to action. After several locations were considered, the area behind Red Hill, in Forbes Valley, was chosen. Dr. Henry DuBois, the well-respected physician, donated the approximately 112 acres of land in return for one-half the proceeds of cemetery plots sold. Dr. Alfred Taliaferro, also a physician, laid out the cemetery, and a landscape gardener was hired. Dr. DuBois was laid to rest at Mount Tamalpais Cemetery in 1897, and Dr. Taliaferro in 1885.

Mount Tamalpais Cemetery was described by the Marin Journal upon its opening in 1879 as "secluded in location, just far enough away, commanding charming views of the town, mountain and bay," presumably for those visiting and not already residing at the cemetery. Miles of finished streets were constructed, in and leading to the cemetery. People were thankful for a well-established cemetery far enough away from "downtown." Both the location and the grounds themselves were deemed a tasteful improvement, with sweeping hills, ponds, tens of thousands of trees, large lots and a receiving vault with room for 25 caskets. The cost for the new cemetery totaled about $50,000 and the site was replete with gas, water and sewer pipes. The dedication occurred on August 10, 1879, with Rev. Bishop Kip of San Francisco leading the service.

Abandonment of the "Old" Cemetery

The old public cemetery remained, vulnerable to trespassers, some of whom boldly stole headstones. A broken fence surround the lot, and dead trees and long grass became a fire hazard. The cemetery was an eyesore, and its dilapidation made even more stark when contrasted with the new, suburban, park-like cemetery up the road. Removal of the bodies from the E Street Cemetery was ordered in 1898. Bodies were exhumed under the supervision of the health officer, and under contract with Undertaker Stephen Eden, at a cost of $1000. The bodies which were not claimed by relatives were likely reinterred at the County Poor Farm’s cemetery in Lucas Valley.

As the town owned the lot, it was decided to continue to devote the space for the public good, and on this space was built a high school, which opened in 1899 and was probably not haunted.

Login to Report Article

Recent Comments



Carol Acquaviva wrote 9 months ago

Interestingly, in 1898 the then-new high school building was expected to "give the city adequate facilities for years to come." By 1915 it was "rapidly outgrowing its size" and cramped conditions led to the school board voting 10 to 1 for a new school at a new location. June 1925 saw the last graduating class from the old new high school on E Street, and that Fall, the new New high school at its present location on 3rd street opened its doors to 321 pupils and 21 teachers.

The building remained as the E Street Grammar School until January 4, 1954, when 7th and 8th Graders moved into the new James B. Davidson School. In 1963, the school was closed and two parcels of the property was sold to Bianco Motors, Inc. of San Rafael. The school district kept the land closer to Shaver Street. The San Rafael City Schools used the site for their Administration operations for many years. Today the area houses private offices.


Carol Acquaviva wrote 9 months ago

*offices which are also probably not haunted.

Login to Comment