Georgetown Pioneer Cemetery

Little Bit of History
In the midst of life we are in death (The book of common prayer)

Although most of the early seekers of the California Gold Country thought of California as merely an adventure, planning to return to their eastern home within a year or so, death was still a regular fact of life for them. Illness and accident claimed lives, and those dead were buried in a site chosen for that purpose.

In nearly every case a cemetery site in the 1800's (and earlier) was chosen overlooking the main town region. There are a variety of thoughts about the reasoning behind this, ranging from a place for the dead to overlook the living, to picking an original spot that would remain above water and drain well. Georgetown's cemetery overlooked the original town site. George's Town, a mining camp established at the head waters of Empire Creek, just beyond the current Lower Main Street. A disastrous fire in 1852 wiped out the entire village, prompting the town fathers to lay out a new official town site using extra wide streets to slow further depredation by flames.

As part of an official township survey, lot 3 of block 15 was set aside as a cemetery dedicated to public use (March 30, 1868). Nearly twenty years hater, a public meeting on May 9, 1887, appointed an official cemetery committee of three (Justice of the Peace E.L. Crawford, Fred Schmeder, and C.M. Fitzgerald) to "take charge" of the cemetery business, causing proper roads to be laid out, fences repaired, and to superintend burials, keeping track of all the records. The resolutions were formally adopted by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors June, 1, 1887.

Thomas Warner is believed to be the first person buried in the Georgetown Cemetery. He died July 1, 1848. There is no longer a marker on his grave. The oldest existing headstone in the cemetery belongs to Issac Green, a native of Illinois, who died August 4, 1850.

The earliest markers were often simple wooden stakes, with names and dates carved on them. Age, weather, fire, and vandals have destroyed most of them. Occasionally, simple aluminum stake markers were put in place of the wooden markers, usually by the current cemetery manager. Marble was shipped in by wagon from the Penryn quarry and Omo Ranch quarries of the Cedar Ravine rear Placerville. The "Sierra White" marble from Pernryn is used extensively as coping material in Georgetown.

In 1888, a full burial "lot" cost $10.00, a half lot sold for $5.00 and a single grave cost $1.00. All expenses were to be paid "before occupying the lot". The plots were supposed to be maintained forever.

If a member in good standing of a fraternal organization died, there were complicated rituals for his/her burial. Masons and Oddfellows were more likely to be found buried in the Georgetown Cemetery with large, clear markers as those organizations took it upon themselves to maintain given portions of the cemetery and to assist with the burial costs if necessary. The organization's symbol is usually inscribed on the headstone.

Scattered throughout the cemetery are many historical rose plants, many of them over a 100 years old. The Divide Garden Club has made a list of the type and location of many of the plants. Some of the plants have been named for the person they were planted to commemorate, the Little Fanny Shephard Rose, for instance.

In late January 1984, vandals upset the tombstones, breaking some, tearing out coping, displacing some headstones, defacing others. Some of the breakage was irreparable.

Maintenance within the cemetery itself is primarily volunteer labor. Some families endeavor to keep their family plots tidy and repairs done. Bill Butts and his sons have done the lions share of taking care of the cemetery in the past, now it is done by the Zone of Benefits Committee aided by prisoners from Growlersburg Conservation Camp when available.

At this time there is no room left in Georgetown Pioneer Cemetery, steps have been taken to acquire adjacent property. Although some plots are still vacant, they have been purchased by persons still living. Voters approved a new cemetery site in 1984. 15 acres of Bureau Management land on Georgia Slide Road has been purchased and a cemetery is in operation at that site.

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