Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles
Breed family monument and Japanese tombstones
204 N. Evergreen Avenue
Los Angeles, California
|Size||67 acres (27 ha)|
|No. of graves||>300,000|
|Find a Grave||Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory|
|The Political Graveyard||Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory|
Evergreen has several prominent individuals of historical Southern California on its grounds. Many pioneers are interred here, names such as Bixby, Coulter, Hollenbeck, Lankershim, Van Nuys, and Workman. There are politicians, notably former Mayors of Los Angeles. The Garden of the Pines section of the cemetery is a memorial to Japanese Issei pioneers.
Established on August 23, 1877, Evergreen is the oldest, and one of the largest, extant cemeteries in the city with over 300,000 interments. The section near 1st and Lorena streets was at one time a potter's field.
Evergreen is notable for never having banned African-Americans from being buried at the cemetery and has sections for Armenians, Japanese, early white settlers, and a large section of Mexican graves.
Although Evergreen had established burial sights for different ethnicities, they were still segregated from each other. First generation Japanese, called Issei, had established a burial site on the grounds. In 1949, a memorial for the 442 Regimental Combat Unit was incorporated and remembered for the Japanese-American soldiers who had fallen during World War II. Every year during the Obon festival, families gather to upkeep their relatives tombstones and to visit the spirits. Biddy Mason, nurse and philanthropist, is buried among the well-known figures at the cemetery in 1891. There is a section called the “Showmen’s Rest” in which 400 carnival workers and circus performers are buried by a memorial that is decorated with a lion. It was established by the Pacific Coast Showmen’s Association in 1922. One presumed serial killer, Bertha Bielstein, lies in Evergreen Cemetery; however, she was buried under another name, Olga Miller. Bertha came from a upper middle class family in Pittsburg, PA. She was suspected of killing her parents in their home and moving to Los Angeles after breaking away from a mental institute. Later, her identity was confirmed and her body was relocated back east.
In return for a zoning variance to allow the cemetery, the founders of Evergreen gave the City of Los Angeles a 9-acre (36,000 m2) parcel of the proposed cemetery in 1877 for use as an indigent graveyard, often referred as a "Potter's field." Ownership of the indigent cemetery passed from the City to the County of Los Angeles in 1917. At the time, it was clear the potter's field would have burial space for only a few more years. By 1924, burial space in the potter's field was exhausted and the county built a crematorium at the site, on the corner of Lorena and 1st streets, and began to cremate its indigent deceased.
Evergreen Cemetery purchased most of the 9-acre (36,000 m2) potter's field from the county in 1964. It then prepared the newly recovered parcel for burials by covering it with 8 feet (2.4 m) of compacted soil. Only the crematorium was retained by the county. In 2007, the cremated remains of over 1700 unclaimed bodies were buried in the cemetery.
Chinese in the Potters Field
Until the Civil Rights era, racism barred the Chinese from burying their dead in most cemeteries including Evergreen. Before 1922 and the founding of the Chinese Cemetery, the only place that allowed burial of Chinese persons was the city's potter's field. Unlike white indigents, who were buried at no charge, the Chinese had to pay US$10 (HK$78) to be interred.
The Chinese community was allowed to utilize a corner of the potter's field and soon after erected a shrine in September 1888. Evergreen left the shrine in place when it purchased the potter's field from the county in 1964 and let it fall into disrepair over the years. The shrine and the land under it were eventually purchased by the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California in 1992 and restored soon after. It is now a registered historic monument. 
By the time the county took ownership of the potter's field in 1917, it was clear it was running out of space. The Chinese community responded by purchasing land and opening the Chinese Cemetery. The county used the founding of the Chinese Cemetery as an opportunity to extend the useful life of the potter's field. Norman Martin, Superintendent for the County Department of Charities, wrote a letter to Chan Kai Sing, Secretary of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. In the letter, dated June 19, 1923, Martin wrote:
"Recently your people established a new Chinese cemetery on East 1st Street, and it would be highly desirable if the bodies buried in the county cemetery could be transferred to your new location," he said.
The letter said there were 902 Chinese buried at the site. Despite acknowledging that each grave cost the Chinese US$10, Martin said he wanted the chamber to move the remains to the Chinese Cemetery and offered $2 per body as compensation. "The idea being that you would move all of the bodies as fast as practicable,"
During the summer of 2005, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro construction workers widening First Street for the LACMTA Gold Line light rail extension uncovered the skeletal remains of 174 people buried near the south side of the Los Angeles County Crematorium, adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery. Archaeologists working for the agency determined that the excavation site was likely the Chinese section of the potter's field. The majority of the remains were Asian males found along with rice bowls, jade bracelets, Chinese burial bricks, Asian coins and opium pipes. The remains will be buried inside Evergreen Cemetery, potentially near the Chinese Shrine. A memorial to those forgotten souls was dedicated on March 7, 2010.
Since 1897, Evergreen would hold festivities on Memorial Day every year. Before, large masses of veterans and activists groups plus men, women, and families would crowd within the cemetery grounds. Military organizations stationed at different places as the Veterans Drum Corps lead the way from the streets. Fallen soldiers are remembered from different wars. Medal of Honors wreaths are distributed to the gravesites. Sometimes guest speakers are asked to say enlighten words.
With only a few open areas in Boyle Heights, around the cemetery encircles a track for people to walk, run, jog. It was finished in 2003 with a length of 1.4 miles. The track has exercise stations, shade, and benches. The Evergreen Jogging Path Coalition (EJPC) worked with the city officials to bring together a fitness area so people from around could The Metro has taken part in the Eastside Access Project which helps Los Angeles build more easier paths to the metro stations and accessible tracks for fitness. The evergreen cemetery is a few blocks from the Indiana Metro Station. It is still getting new additions and innovated repairs. This was an idea to remind the citizens of the area to think about their fitness and improve public health. The wide improvements the track has made will decide if Calvary Cemetery in Boyle Heights would get a jogging track too.
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