If you thought finding a paved over pauper’s cemetery at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose was surprising, THE CITY (what my late father called San Francisco during the mid-twentieth century construction boom) topped that with tombstones washing up on the sands at the Ocean Beach seawall, including one that dates back to 1890. Even the dead couldn’t stand in the way of California’s hot real estate market in the 1930’s when the graveyards were moved out of San Francisco and unclaimed tombstones were used for landfill.
The tombstones became visible this week, including bits and pieces of marble and granite that once marked the final resting places of citizens long dead.
One of them is the nearly intact marble tombstone of Delia Presby Oliver, who died at the age of 26 on Apr. 9, 1890.
Her remains were removed and reburied when San Francisco authorities closed nearly all the city cemeteries and moved the bodies to Colma in the early 20th century – part of a move to make space for the growing city. Oliver’s original tombstone and thousands like it were used as landfill or in other ways throughout San Francisco.
The park service has no plans to remove the tombstones, letting the shifting sands cover them up again to be rediscovered by beachcombers every few years.