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Rose Hill Historical Cemetery
HauntedHouses.com

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Haunted Place - Rose Hill Historical Cemetery
(not to be confused with Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier, CA)

ADDRESS:

Pittsburg, California 94565
Web Link
(look for the "Rose Hill Cemetery" listing under "Park Features"
(888) 327-2757, option 3, extension 4506

LOCATION:

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.

DESCRIPTION:

An Historic Welsh Protestant cemetery for coal mining towns, now included in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

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HISTORY:

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 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.

haunted-cemetery

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 of 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 this 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 and broken.

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.

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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 hopes 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 contact:

Traci Parent/Supervising Naturalist
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
5175 Somersville Road
Antioch, California 94509
E-Mail: bdvisit@ebparks.org

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.

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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 remain restless.

MANIFESTATIONS:

An Entity or Two with Personal Issues/Regrets...

  1. 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!

    1. 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."

  2. A ghostly apparition of a horse-drawn hearse has been seen and heard traveling up the road to this cemetery.

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Restless Souls disturbed by the Past Cemetery Destruction...

  1. 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 nearby headstone.

  2. Floating, glowing crosses and 13 apparitions of children dressed in black have been seen in the graveyard and surrounding areas.

  3. Menacing, angry presences have been felt by the living.

  4. Auditory manifestations include the sound of bells, ghostly cries and laughter, and the sound of wind without the wind being present.

Still Haunted?

Yes indeed!

The hauntings are still present despite the exorcism attempts. The dedicated work of the Black Diamond Staff will eventually replace all 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

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