For over half a century, Placerville Union Cemetery was the largest burial park in the Placerville community. Originally developed in 1871 by a group of fraternal orders and lodges, including the F. & A. Masons, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Independent Order of Red Men, and the California Grove of United Ancient Order of Druids, it was laid out on 2.45 acres on the south side of Bee Street. In 1895, the Knights of Pythias acquired 1.54 acres adjacent to the lower end of the original cemetery, and in 1931 the Native Sons of the Golden West acquired 0.38 acres on the south side of the Druid section. At the same time, the local Fraternal Order of Eagles acquired 0.38 acres next to the Native Sons’ section.
Initially, each organization operated their sections independently, but after most of their allotment of graves was transferred to individuals and families, the Union Cemetery Association was formed to operate the individual sections communally and the cemetery became known as Placerville Union Cemetery.
By 1951, most of the fraternal organizations were defunct or unable to assist in operating the cemetery, and operations were being handled by the Masons. In 1964, the Grand Lodge of California ordered the Masons to cease involvement in managing cemeteries. A non-profit corporation with ties to a local funeral chapel took over operation of the cemetery in 1965. The cemetery was cleaned up and fences between the various sections were removed, uniting all sections under this single management group. Between 1968 and 1979, to generate income and increase capacity for interments, crypts and niches were built at the top of the hill. In 1974, the cemetery was licensed by the state as an endowment care cemetery. In 1991, another set of crypts and niches were added on the west side of the cemetery. The local funeral chapel, which handled day-to-day operations in the cemetery, was sold in 1983 and again in 1998. The last sale was to a company which was disinterested in managing the cemetery and neglected it, resulting in deterioration and vandalism. A group of prominent local citizens raised funds to clean up and maintain the cemetery; the operating funeral home relinquished interest in the cemetery and infrastructure (crypts and niches).
By 2005, it had become difficult for this group to maintain the cemetery, and the State of California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau stepped in, requesting that either the City of Placerville or the County of El Dorado assume responsibility for the cemetery. The State planned to close the cemetery permanently if neither entity chose to care for it. Although this valuable community asset is located within the borders of the City of Placerville, it was not feasible for the City to assume management of the cemetery, so the City and County reached an agreement whereby the County accepted responsibility for maintenance of the grounds, as well as plot sales and interments; the City agreed to provide water service, public safety oversight, and to open and close the gates on a daily basis. The land was deeded to the County in October 2006.
The Placerville Union Cemetery encompasses 4.76 acres with more than 6,600 recorded interments. The cemetery is still active. For information on plot, crypt, and niche availability and costs, contact Cemetery Operations at 530-621-7594.
[Photo Courtesy of Jill Naumann]1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
650 Bee Street
Placerville, CA 95667
Placerville Union Layout