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Rose Hill Historical Cemetery
Haunted Place - Rose Hill
(not to be confused with Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier,
Pittsburg, California 94565
Web Link (look for the "Rose Hill Cemetery"
listing under "Park Features"
(888) 327-2757, option 3, extension 4506
Rose Hill Cemetery can be found in the
5,000 acre Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, near the Mount
Diablo silica sand mine; Hazel-Atlas Mine, located between two old
mining town sites, Nortonville and Somersville, California. Which
is east of Concord and south of Antioch, California. Starting at
the south end of Somersville Road, which runs through what was once
the mining town of Somerville, one takes about a 3/4-mile hike up a
dirt road which takes the hiker(s) through flowery fields, turning
up into a hilly area past friendly cows and which finally ends at
the old Rose Hill Cemetery, which has a glorious view of what was
the city of Somerville and the surrounding hills.
An Historic Welsh Protestant cemetery for
coal mining towns, now included in Black Diamond Mines Regional
From around 1850 until the turn-of-the-century, this area was known as the Mount Diablo Coalfield, where a
low grade of coal was dug out of the mines located in the areas
where people who were buried in the cemetery lived and worked;
Nortonville-Somersville area and the Brentwood area. These coal
mines played out around the turn-of-the-century. Around 1920, the
towns of Somerville, Nortonville and Brentwood got an economic
boost when mining for silica sand used for glass making and metal
casting began in earnest in the Hazel-Atlas Mine and continued
until the 1940s, when the mines were closed for good because it
became cheaper to import the sand from foreign countries. When the
mine owners sold the land as range land for livestock, the people
who lived in Somerville took down their redwood houses, board by
board, and moved with their belongings and houses to other areas,
where they reassembled their houses and their lives.
This Protestant cemetery, located on this
prime piece of real estate with a glorious view, became the final
resting place of mostly Welsh people who died from around 1865, up
until a little after the mines closed, in 1954. The graves found
here mark the deaths of the human beings who died from mining
accidents, black lung, dumb kid mishaps, accidents of life, small
pox, typhus, scarlet fever, diphtheria outbreaks and from
childbirth, which was the cause of death for a lot of women. This
cemetery received its name after the mines closed. The man who
bought the land from the mining company gave the section of land
with the cemetery on it to his daughter, Emma Rose, who named the
cemetery, Rose Cemetery.
Unfortunately, the thickheaded living were
unkind, disrespectful and destructive to Rose Cemetery
throughout the '50s-70s, taking headstones and running over graves
with trucks, leaving the cemetery in terrible condition when it
became part of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in the mid
1970s. By then, nearly half the headstones were missing, while
nearly all the headstones remaining were knocked off their bases
How do professionals restore a cemetery?
Unfortunately, the early cemetery records kept by the mining
company were destroyed during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
However, the dedicated Black Diamond staff, led by the Supervising
Naturalist Traci Parent, through a slow but steady process, have
undertaken to restore broken headstones, find out who was buried
there through the cemetery lists put together from 1922-1954,
interview former resident and descendant accounts, and make good
use of historical newspaper articles and historic photos.
In August 2001, the staff got a big break when the Community
Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg, whose past founding members had
come from the Nortonville church, found burial records detailing
the deaths of some of those folks buried in Rose Hill Cemetery,
dating back to 1882. This was a great help!
Another exciting development is that during
the summer of 2005, the staff hoped to complete a survey using the
ground-penetrating radar to find unmarked burial sites, hoping to
gain another important piece of the puzzle to help find and mark
all the graves, with either the original stones or new markers.
The staff has an orphan headstone program
(no questions asked), where old headstones can be turned in by
police agencies, private land owners and also any headstones turned
into the Contra Costa County Historical Society as well. So far, 12
headstones have been found and replaced on the graves they were
made for, bringing them home.
Anyone who finds a missing headstone, can
Traci Parent/Supervising Naturalist
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
5175 Somersville Road
Antioch, California 94509
A recent find was the marble headstone
found in a homeowner's backyard in Walnut Creek when a trench was
being dug for a new sewer line. It belonged to a grave in Rose Hill
Cemetery marking the death of 5 year old Walter E. Clare, who died
from a horse kicking him in the head. When they find the exact
location of his grave, Walter E. Clare's headstone will be be put
back in place.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS:
Rose Hill Cemetery not only has some ghosts
who have some personal issues/regrets, but also has had quite of
few upset entities who have bones to pick with the living for
disturbing/destroying graves of the departed. To quiet the unhappy
spirits, 119 exorcisms were performed, but many spirits still
An Entity or Two with Personal
Sarah Norton, who was the widow of Noah Norton, the founder of
Nortonville, was the popular, skilled, dedicated midwife who
delivered quite a few babies in the coal mining communities, in all
kinds of weather and at any hour of the day or night. She was
described as being a gutsy, independent soul with a prickly
personality, rumored to being an unbeliever because she wasn't
known to be "a very religious person." On October 5th, 1879, while
traveling to deliver a baby, she was thrown from her buggy and
killed when her horses bolted and ran. When two different huge,
violent storms interrupted two attempts to have a funeral for her,
the people simply put her into her grave without a "Christian
burial." Uh Oh! This wasn't good!
The entity of Sarah Norton has haunted the Rose Hill Cemetery
and the surrounding hills for many years, perhaps upset because she
wasn't given a Christian burial, and/or perhaps feels she died
before she had finished her work on earth. Her apparition has been
seen and described as "a glowing lady" OR "a gliding woman," and
has been given the name of "white witch."
- A ghostly apparition of a horse-drawn hearse has been seen and
heard traveling up the road to this cemetery.
Restless Souls disturbed by the
Past Cemetery Destruction...
A glowing, white entity likes to glide right above the grave
headstones, occasionally getting some chuckles in terrifying the
living foolish enough to be there after dark. One couple who had
planned to have a romantic make-out session, hastily changed their
plans when this entity appeared in front of them, floating above a
Floating, glowing crosses and 13 apparitions of children dressed
in black have been seen in the graveyard and surrounding areas.
Menacing, angry presences have been felt by the living.
- Auditory manifestations include the sound of bells, ghostly
cries and laughter, and the sound of wind without the wind being
The hauntings are still present despite the
exorcism attempts. The dedicated work of the Black Diamond Staff
will eventually replace all of the missing headstones and will mark
all the graves, which will help the restless souls in this
graveyard perhaps find some peace.
All photographs © Tom Carr