San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Monday, September 10, 2012

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Purissima

Cath Madden Trindle

For years I've been intrigued with the thought of finding Purissima Cemetery, but never quite found myself nearby with enough time to explore.  This weekend after a wonderful town tour of Pescadero (more on that another day) we decided to take the plunge.  We knew that the overgrown cemetery was just off Verde Road near Half Moon Bay, just a little off the beaten path as we headed towards home.

We stopped along the side of the road in the only convenient place to leave a car and wandered looking for any kind of a path through the brush and berries.  Starting up the hill we soon encountered the poison oak that covers the area.  Being more than a little allergic, from that point on each step was gingerly taken.  We did find half the cemetery before deciding we better turn back.  

We weren't the first to explore, and we won't be the last.  Photographers, historians, writers, cemetery buffs, ghost-hunters, adventurers and the merely curious all are drawn to this abandoned cemetery.  Many wonder that no one has stepped up to preserve it.  Others state that it is left alone so that vandals won't do any more damage.

For those of you who don't want to venture through berry bushes, poison oaks and possible snakes, or those who would like to see where you are going before you begin to explore the many webpages and blogs devoted to the cemetery offer a virtual tour.
Start with a good understanding of where you are. GoogleMaps provides a great aerial view.  I wish I'd done this before I'd gone, the part of the cemetery you see here is the part we didn't find.  For those of you who prefer to find it using a GPS the coordinates are   To locate it on a topographical map it is section 21 Miramontes Twp. (Lat: 37° 24' 14"N, Lon: 122° 24' 54"W).  If you'd like to do a little geo-caching while you are there look for The Lost Village of Purissima.

For a little insight on the history of Purissima start with Wikipedia. Here you will find a little bit of history and links to a whole lot more.  The area was part of Rancho CaƱada de Verde y Arroyo de la Purisima.  I won't tell you the tales though, other's have done it already and probably much better. 

June Morrell in here 2008 blog .... Purissima Cemetery... John Purcell's Gift, relates some of the history of the cemetery.  She also mentions a few names that are not on any of the lists found below.  These names came from information provided by Dutra mortuary of Half Moon Bay.  I wonder if they might provide information on other burials as well?

In 2007 Joseph Smydra discovered the cemetery and blogged about it in The Half Moon Bay Review - The Forgotten Town of Purissima.  Joseph got into the spirit of cemetery. The post is worth a visit.

Dead Cemeteries - Purissima includes a video of history buff John Edmonds discussing the demise of Purissima. 

The Wandering Graveyard Rabbit has visited and includes some of the historical background on their website.

Find A Grave and both list most the stones that were read by Mrs. James A. Ramsey in 1935 for the Los Gatos Chapter of DAR.  There are also a smattering of burials that occurred after that date.  On Find A Grave you will also find photographs of some of those buried here.  John Pitcher who died in 1924 joined many other family members in the Pitcher plot.   Emma L Hoopes Martin died in 1881.  Her husband Nicholas and their two sons are buried in Union Cemetery in Redwood City.  There is quite a bit of information on her family.

Also pictured are Henry Dobbel, his wife Margaretha and son August.  Other family members are buried nearby.  The last burial in Purissima was Elizabeth Margaret Young Bower who died in 2001 some seventy years after the cemetery was abandoned.  

Some great photographers have been at work in the cemetery.  You'll find pictures of tombstones and some great scenery.  Much better than those my phone allowed. All of these are posted on Flickr.

End your tour with a few words from those buried here.  GhostGirls have posted a video on YouTube and some audio files on their own page.   Happy hunting!

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