A Brief History of Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery
Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery was established as the result of an accident. In November of 1854 a young father, who had arrived from Missouri only a matter of weeks before, drowned in a pond near the center of town. He was buried on land that was part of a Mexican grant given to one of the earliest settlers of Santa Rosa, Doña Maria Ignacia Lopez de Carrillo. Soon other families needed burial places, and the area became an unofficial cemetery. In 1867 the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery Association was formed and burial plots in the 17-acre site were formally offered for sale.
Sales of plots continued through 1930, through records of these transactions have been lost. During this period of 70-plus years, parts of the land were sold off, and three separate but adjacent cemeteries were established: the Stanley, Moke, and Fulkerson Cemeteries. Today the four cemeteries combined are owned by the City of Santa Rosa and known collectively as Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. The only burials permitted today are those of descendants of families who held deeds to cemetery plots. The total number of burials is over 5200.
Neglect and vandalism took their toll on the cemetery through years of unclear ownership and sporadic maintenance. A Restoration Committee organized by dedicated volunteers in 1994 and operating under the aegis of the City of Recreation and Parks Department has made great strides in repairing damage, clearing overgrowth, and planning for permanent maintenance. In 1997, the City of Santa Rosa awarded Historical Landmark status to the Rural Cemetery.
Docent-led tours during the summer months acquaint visitors with the history of the town and the many town pioneers who are buried here. Lamplight Tours, conducted in September as fund-raising events, present dramatic vignettes from the lives of the famous and not-so-famous people buried in the Rural Cemetery.