A return to old haunts offered an indication of the melting pot makeup of 19th century California.
Evergreen Cemetery in Santa Cruz, Calif., along the Monterey Bay, dates back to just before the War Between the States. It not only includes graves from many of the area’s original Protestant pioneers, but the final resting place for an unusually diverse array of Union Army veterans.
Civil War soldiers from 15 states representing no fewer than 35 different units have official Veterans Administration markers in this graveyard, which is dotted by large redwood trees and also features the final resting place for ex-slaves, gold prospectors and Chinese immigrants.
Those at rest range from troops from numerous California regiments and men who served in territorial units from Nevada and Colorado to those who saw service in some of the conflict’s major battles as part of regiments from eastern and Midwestern states.
There is also at least one Confederate veteran buried in the cemetery.
And these are only the graves marked by VA stones. With more than 2,000 individuals resting in the cemetery, it’s almost certain that other soldiers are buried in the graveyard, as well.
The cemetery is different from that of many Southern and Eastern cemeteries of the same era, where the deceased are often from the state the graveyard is located in, the country they emigrated from, or, occasionally, a nearby state.
Evergreen, however, features Union veterans from the following states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.
In addition, there are veterans from Nevada, which didn’t become a state until 1864, Colorado, which didn’t achieve statehood until 1876, several men who served in the US Navy during the war, and a veteran who served in the 3rd US Artillery Regiment.
On the other side is a single Confederate, a soldier who served in an entity called the Texas Frontier Organization, which provided protection against Indian incursions, enforced Confederate conscription, rounded up deserters and provided protection to settlers from renegades and bandits.
Given California’s history over the past 150 years it’s not surprising such a varied array of veterans ended up in Santa Cruz, which is approximately 200 miles south-southeast of Gold Country.
Driven by the Gold Rush, which brought people to the state from the late 1840s into the 1880s, the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, which greatly facilitated immigration west, and seemingly boundless agricultural opportunities, California promised economic prospects that lured people from across the country.
The state experienced a population boom from 1850 onward of almost unparalleled proportions.
In 1860, California had approximately 380,000 residents. By 1880, that figure increased to 865,000, jumped to 1.5 million by the turn of beginning of the 20th century and was nearly 3.5 million by 1920.
Not a few of those immigrants were veterans who had tramped across the South during the 1861-65 conflict.
Having spent months and years away from home in the service of their country, many opted to seek their fortunes elsewhere, often heading west.
(Top: Map of California, mid-19th century.)