Webster Street Cemetery (1857–1867) was Oakland’s second official cemetery. It was located roughly between Webster and Harrison Streets and what would become Birnie/Birney (17th) Street. Its north edge was the former arm of Lake Merritt where 20th Street now runs. Durant Street (now 19th Street) later cut through the cemetery. Some bodies were moved to it from the older Oakland Cemetery when it closed. The Webster Street cemetery was closed due to expansion of the city, and the last interment was April, 25, 1867. Between c. 1872–6 many (but not all) of the deceased were removed to Mountain View Cemetery or Saint Mary’s Cemetery.
“The sight was a strange one to us. Almost in the heart of a thriving population—within a circle of fashionable and costly residences—lie the remains of some forty or fifty persons, long since placed under the earth, and whose memories have probably vanished from the minds of the friends who wept over the freshly-made graves of fifteen or twenty years since.” 1
Some of the people buried there included: 1,2
- Jane E. Bouton - died January 17, 1838, aged 20 years
- Martha McKee - died November 26, 1855, aged 31 years; first wife of Samuel Bell McKee
- Samuel McKee (her infant child) - died October 15, 1855, aged 9 months
- Livera F. Field - died May 16, 1862, aged 37 years, 9 months, and 23 days
- John Smith - died July 23, 1859, aged 51 years and 10 months
- Mary A. Davis - died October 6, 1855
- John Henry Eggers - died May 5th, 1857
- Helena Krause - died October 2, 1861
- Elise Hammers Buschmann - died November 12, 1859
- William P. Strong - died May 17, 1860
- (our little) Charley Dudley - died December 25, 1862, aged 3 years, 4 months and 8 days. Son of George W. and Lucinda Parsons.
- Eugenie Hillegass - died February 25, (no year), aged 30 years. Wife of William Hillegass.
- S.D. Lester - died July 4th, 1859, aged 26 years and 11 months
- Elizabeth Penfold - died July ??, 1860, aged 66 years and 9 months
- Georgenny M. Carter - died January 14, 1842?, aged 4 years, 11 months, and 10 days
- Jane Jones - died October 18, 1857, aged 38 years
- Margaret E. Taylor - died March 8, 1860, aged 30 years and 5 months
- William F. Denman - died 1860
- James Adams - buried August 31, 1859
- Joshua A. Hathaway - buried August 7, 1858
- Walter T. Cove - buried March 14 1858
- Judge A.M. Brocklebank - buried July 1, 1859. He was the brother-in-law of former California Governor Weller.
- Samuel Lester - July 5, 1859. Killed by a pistol ball
- Charles F. Mitchell - date unknown. Brother of Mrs. J. Ross Browne.
- Edward Norris - date unknown
- Jonathan Moulton - May 9, 1860
- Hartwell Murphy - February 3, 1860
“There are 33 inclosures in all, and they will shortly succumb to the advancing hand of improvement. Many bodies have been disinterred, and placed in the new cemetery, but most of those remaining are persons whose friends or relatives have either left the country or are in ignorance of the condition of the old cemetery.” 1
Not all the bodies were removed to different cemeteries, and unsurprisingly, this came back to haunt developers a few years later. In 1877 an excavating machine hit a metal coffin and spilled the contents: “the left hand and arm nearly to the elbow protruded from the ground, the hand drooped over gracefully from the wrist. Portions of the coat and vest were visible, as were the outlines of the face, but over these still rested a coating of fine earth.” 2 After considerable detective work, the Oakland Evening Tribune determined that the body was that of William F. Denman, a civil engineer who died in Oakland in 1860. The paper noted that Denman Island in the Straight of Georgia (near Vancouver Island, British Columbia) was named for him, but Wikipedia says it was named for Rear Admiral Joseph Denman.
Links and References
- The Oakland Daily News April 28, 1874, Oakland Public Library Oakland History Room
- Downtown Oakland used to have two cemeteries. Where’d they go? Oaklandside October 27, 2023
- The Old Cemetery Oakland Daily Evening Tribune April 5, 1875
- A Ghastly Spectacle Oakland Evening Tribune April 28, 1877
- Plan of the cemetery of Oakland G4364.O2G54 1857.K4, Earth Sciences and Map Library, UC Berkeley
- Map of Oakland, Calif. G4364.O2 1868.W4, Earth Sciences and Map Library, UC Berkeley