Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Ghastly Murder Remembered - Part 2

In my last story, "A Ghastly Murder Remembered," I explained the murder of Mary Arrivey.  As far as the story goes, Gus Arrivey, crazed and in a drunken state,  murdered his mother in the most brutal way on December 4th, 1911. My last blog post went into the details of the murder as well as the background of both Mary and her son, Gus. This blog however, will be about Gus' mental state and the things he told the physicians who observed him after the murder, including newly found information in regards to his past mental state. His case was so odd that it made its way into the California State Journal of Medicine in 1912.

By his own admission, Gus told the physicians that at the age of  five he had been given his first taste of liquor, and had been fully drunk by the age of twelve. He claimed that his father died when he was just a child, and that he did not know much about his relatives. By September 30th, 1910, Gus was committed to Dr. Asa Clark's Sanitarium for his debauchery and "delirium tremens" attacks. He was released nearly six weeks later, on October 8th.

By the springtime, Gus was at it again with his drunken behavior and hallucinations. This time he was arrested for climbing to the top of a tree, claiming that he was rescuing his mother. He was arrested nearly eight times for drunkenness between the spring of 1911 and the date of the murder in December, 1911.

The night before he killed his mother, he claimed to have looked into a "doctor-book" for a sleeping remedy, to which his mother told him he should see a doctor for his insomnia. He alleges that he went to get medicine which was a mixture of choral and bromide, and he went to sleep. He claimed he woke up again at 4 p.m., saw that dinner was cold and that his mother had went to asleep, so he took another dose and went back to bed again. The events that occurred after these moments will remain the most gruesome, brutal and bizarre story I have ever investigated.
Inmate # 25446

What The Officer On The Scene Saw

According to the California State Journal of Medicine, it stated that the officer on the scene found a woman's body lying in a room of the house.

 "The body was covered up with rags, the woman's throat had been cut from ear to ear, her skull fractured and the abdomen opened, loops of intestines protruding from the wound."--

Gus was found about a block from the home, in the tules, knee high in water. He was carrying around a portrait of his mother, one of her shirts and her hat. He was barefoot and was not wearing a coat or hat, and had beaten a serpentine path in the overgrown grass, claiming that a group of black men were chasing him for killing his mother.

So What Was Gus' Side Of The Story?

The story that Gus gives the physicians is one that is not only bizarre, but perplexing. It is obvious this guy had some serious mental issues and the alcohol only exacerbated the situation. Still, the idea of this "space ship" and other odd things he states left me feeling very uneasy, mainly because he speaks of the events with such ease and no sense of emotion.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Q: What's the matter Arrivey, what  trouble have you been into?

Arrivey: "I haven't been into any."

Q: Where is your mother now?

Arrivey: "She is up in this business going around in the jail- in that new flying machine. She went up in the spirit."

Q: Where is her body?

Arrivey: "Her body lies over in the morgue, I guess."

Q: How did she get killed?

Arrivey: "I killed her. There was a gentleman, somekind of religious man. I think I met him on Sutter and Market Streets. I forget how long ago. He showed me how to talk a signed language- sort of whisper just by moving the lips. It took him no time to teach me that lingo. I talked through the ceiling a while ago. I talked to him at a distance when he directed me."

Q: To do what?

Arrivey: "Kill my mother. I don't exactly remember when- sometime late at night. He was in Mars when he told me."

Q: How did you kill your mother?

Arrivey: "First I think I took something on the table there,  and hit her on the head with it. I don't remember where I had been or when I came to the room where she was. I don't remember what I had been doing that day. I hit her over the head with the glass, and he (the aviator) directed me to split open the womb with a knife. He wanted me to kill the baby. I beat her on the head with a hatchet, and she screamed and hollered 'don't Gussie', and all that."

Gus goes into further detail that the man from the space ship kept telling him that his mother had a baby in there that he wanted to take out. The alleged "man from Mars" didn't want Mary's spirit to go out but the baby's spirit. Obviously, the woman was well past child bearing age, and there was no mention in any records I found of her having been pregnant. This was obviously another one of his delusions. What is so disturbing is how easily he speaks of basically gutting his mother like a fish, on the bed.  I felt sick to my stomach when he finally says that he took her to the porch and slit her throat, eventually admitting he almost cut her head off!  He then washed up and changed his clothes, barricaded the front door with a washstand, piled rags on top of his mother and moved furniture to surround her body and then he ran out the back door into the tules. He stayed there all night.

When interviewed he spoke of the evening outside as if he wasn't cold, although it was recorded to have been very cold that night before. It appeared as if the cold weather and rain did little to affect his mental state. In fact, he had no recollection of it, despite being barefoot and coatless.

He kept saying that a group of black men, and two "white fellows" were chasing him and that they were going to kill him for killing his mother. He also said he brought the matches from his home out to the tules so he could be burned alive as a sacrifice. When asked about the "sacrifice". Gus said,  "He (the man from Mars) claimed it was a kind of offering."

Gus stated that he and his mother got along fine, and never had any "words " although she didn't like it when he "went on a jag." When asked again why he killed her, later he claimed that he didn't know. His story continues to go back and forth, since later he states that he wanted to kill her, he knew what he was doing and he didn't "pay attention" because he didn't think he was committing a crime.

When asked if he knew what he did was wrong, Gus answered:

"Sure, I do, and I expect to be punished...

Q: What do you think they will do with you?

Arrivey: "Well, they will either give me life or death. I prefer death."

Q: You are ready to take your death sentence now?

Arrivey: I guess so. I don't like to stay in jail.

Soon after these questions he adds that after his mother's death and he was running around the field, he claimed that his mother was in the ship above him.

"She was in the machine. She was crying and talking and calling her husband down."-

As the doctors noted, during the entire interview, Gus showed no emotion and relayed the entire story as if he was telling it from another person's perspective. Over the course of a few days, the doctors watched him carefully and questioned him more. As time went on, his story changed a bit and he seemed to have forgotten a lot of things he had said previously. According to the doctors he was still speaking of the man from mars, and describing some more odd experiences.

"I saw something like a star in the heavens and as if there was a searchlight extending from Mars to the Earth- and I thought I saw a flying machine with a man in it, going up towards the star and coming down again. The only other person I remember seeing in the house besides my mother was a man of dark complexion, standing in the back room, but he didn't say anything. He was a middle-sized man, wore a chauffeur cap and leggings. I saw no moving pictures, animals or men of extraordinary size. After I had done this to my mother, I think I remember feeling numb and stupid-like. I had no fear at all."

He continues with his odd explanations of the men chasing him in the tules, as well as a morbid dream he had on the way to jail. Doctors claimed that by the 5th day of his incarceration he was actually acting somewhat normal and having no more hallucinations or speaking of oddities. By January 15th, 1911, the courts deemed him sane, (why I will never understand that), and he was sent to San Quentin for a life sentence. They did add that they knew he committed the murder in a "dream like state" caused by delirium tremens and that he could very well do this again, if given the chance, thus the reason he was given a life sentence.

With all the strange circumstances and the complete brutality of the crime, it is insane that the State of California released this man into society nine years after he butchered his own mother. I haven't been able to figure out what he did to violate the terms of his parole, however it is on record that he did return to San Quentin in 1927 and remained there for the duration of his life.

When I first posted the article about Mary Arrivey's death, I stated facts: her background, what happened, and where Gus ended up. I briefly touched on the actual details of the murder. After digging deeper and uncovering this heinous crime, I am left forever scarred at what I read. We sometimes come across articles in the newspapers, online or even segments we hear on the radio or television, speaking of gruesome murders, but in all the years I have researched and wrote about stories such as this, I have never come across one so disturbing.

My heart goes out to Mary Arrivey, and the pain and suffering she must have went through in her final moments. One can only hope she didn't suffer, although the evidence shows she did. I will never look at this case the same again. I wonder now if maybe the reason this story isn't as well known in Stockton as say the "Trunk Murder of 1906," maybe it was because of the sheer brutality of the case. Maybe it was forgotten for a reason...we can only wonder.

Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio, originally published 3/21/2015)
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 


California Prison Records
California State Journal of Medicine, 1912

A Ghastly Murder Remembered - Part 1

Mary Arrivey's headstone sits quietly among the thousands of markers, graves and monuments at the Stockton Catholic Cemetery in Stockton, California. If you look closely, you will notice an odd pattern of scratches on the marker itself. It is safe to say that more than likely we will never know exactly why those scratches were engraved in Mary's headstone, or who did it. The story of how she ended up in the cemetery proved to be one of the most heinous and almost incomprehensible murders I had ever researched.

Mary Arrivey, was born Mary Byrne in 1862. A native of Ireland, she immigrated to the United States at some point in her life, later marrying Augustino Arrivey on December 13, 1881 in Stockton. Augustino was a blacksmith from Louisiana, and was born around 1851. Prior to his marriage to Mary, he was also listed in military records in 1876, as a 7th Corporal in the 2nd Brigade. Although I couldn't find his death record, the city directories later list Mary as a widow. At this point her adult son, Augustin Francis Arrivey is living with her.

The Murder
Mary worked at Stockton Laundry, located at 728 E. Washington, while her son, Augustin worked as a printer at a small newspaper called, "The Mail," an earlier version of the Stockton Evening Mail. According to directories, Mary and her son moved around a lot. During my initial investigation I believed that the incident I am about to discuss took place at 847 LaFayette in Stockton, as her Findagrave memorial suggests.

After further digging, I have found that just less than a block or so away from that location, the home in which Mary was actually living in during 1911, was at 219 S. Locust Street in Stockton. The newspaper claimed that she had lived on Harrison, however the directory speaks of Locust Street as being her home address. I could find no listing of Mary living on Harrison at any point in time. I have to assume, given the address on the directory, that the event actually took place at the original home that stood at 219 S. Locust Street in Stockton and perhaps that was just a clerical error on the part of the newspaper. If I find other evidence later, I will update this blog.

According to the San Francisco Call, dated December 5, 1911, it says:

"Crazed by liquor, Gus Arrivey, a printer of this city, murdered his mother, Mary Arrivey last night in her home...."--

The account goes on to detail that Gus claimed that an airship was circling around his head, when a man in the airship allegedly told him to murder his mother. The heinous and most gruesome crime was committed with a hatchet, while he hacked his mother to death.

He then dragged her body around the home leaving a bloody mess all over the floors. The police found the mutilated body of Mary, along with "disarranged bedding and furniture" that showed signs of a serious struggle.  The police located Gus, two blocks from his home in a nearby swampy, grass area where it appeared he had been there all night. He was found barefoot, hunched down and babbling incoherently.

After such a horrendous act, the investigators were not sure whether Gus was insane, drunk or just pure evil. His sanity was called into question, so Dr. A.W. Holshot examined Gus, and found that he was suffering from "delerium tremens" which is a most severe form of ethanol withdrawal, and was deemed sane to stand trial for the murder of his mother.

According to the book, "King Alcohol Dethroned" by Ferdinand Cowle Iglehart, D.D. (1919) he mentions Gus in his reports: 
"August Arrivey, thirty years old, a printer by trade, is
under arrest here, the confessed murderer of his mother, 
Mrs. Mary Arrivey, fifty-eight years old. 'The man in 
the airship told me to do it.' Arrivey continually mutters 
as the only reason for his crime. Because of his actions 
the police believe him insane. Liquor is believed, however, 
to be at the root of the man's crime, as he had for the 
last few years obtained one position after another, only to 
lose them in rapid succession on account of sprees. Mrs. 
Arrivey was found lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen, 
with her skull crushed and her face gashed as if from 
blows from a hatchet. Search of the premises disclosed the 
son, muttering like a child, hiding behind some bushes in 
the yard. Confronted with the dead body of his mother, 
he confessed his crime." This paragraph, which appeared 
in a Stockton, California, paper, a few days ago, is one 
which shocks us for a moment as we read it, and is then 
forgotten as a commonplace incident of life. "--

Gus was found guilty in the 1st degree of the murder of his mother, Mary Arrivey and sentenced to life in prison. He was received at San Quentin State Prison on February 6, 1912, where he served 9 1/2 years. He was then paroled on July 13, 1921, but at some point he violated the terms of his parole, because by 1927, he was back in the system again. He stayed for the remainder of his life behind bars, eventually dying on July 1, 1941. He was buried at the cemetery behind San Quentin Prison.


When I was shown a newspaper clipping of this story by Roland Boulware, the man who entered Mary's information and photograph in Findagrave, I was taken aback by the brutality of the crime. I could not fathom that a son would do such a horrendous thing like that to his own mother. What a sick and demented person this man was to do such a horrible thing.

It also saddened me that we had never heard anything of this story before. With all the infamous stories in our history in the United States, such as the "Lizzie Borden" murders and other heinous crimes, why was this crime virtually erased and forgotten in Stockton's history?

It also made me wonder who may have scratched those lines in Mary's grave? Could it have been a relative? Could it have been Gus? Was it possible that he came to the cemetery at some point before he violated his parole in 1927, and in a drunken stupor he scratched those lines in his mother's headstone?

According to Roland Boulware, he believes the scratches were relatively new when he took the photo several years back. Still, there is no way to know for sure when those marks were left on her grave. In the end, I wrote this blog to honor the memory of Mary Arrivey and tell her story. As morbid as her murder was, this was still a piece of Stockton's history and should never be forgotten or erased again.


(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio, originally published 3/20/2015)
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 

California Prison Records
San Francisco Call (12/5/1911)
San Francisco Call (1/17/1912)
"King Alcohol Dethroned,"- Ferdinand Cowle Iglehart (1919)
Stockton Directories (various)
Census Records, Marriage Records
Military Records
Photos: San Quentin Prison Photos,
Roland Boulware, grave of Mary Arrivey.
Photos of 847 E. Lafayette- by J'aime Rubio
219 S. Locust, google maps

A Forgotten Township Worth Remembering

Just 28 miles northeast of Stockton, and only six miles north of Lockeford, sits a cemetery forgotten in time. People pass through this area daily without batting an eye, never knowing that the farmland they are driving through at one time was the Elliott Township.  Now considered part of Galt, this area was once a bustling little town full of people and businesses, but you would never know from the looks of it.  All that is left as you drive up to the area is the oak trees and a few visible monuments in a small cemetery off the side of the road. Headstones wore out by the hands of time, basking in the sun and the shade of the trees, showing the affects the elements have had on them is all that is left of the town legacy, the graves.

Thankfully, not everyone has forgotten the cemetery or the people from Elliott Township. A handful of people including the cemetery caretaker, many local volunteers, historians and a young man by the name of Drew Klaege are all determined to bring this cemetery back to life again. I had the pleasure of speaking to Drew and his mother Pam a few weeks back and I was really impressed with the passion this young man has for working on preserving the history and the cemetery of Elliott.

When I asked Drew what sparked his interest in the cemetery, he explained that two years ago he had met the caretaker of Elliott Cemetery, Eric Schneider, and after learning about some of the history he became interested in it.  Although time had passed, the thought was never far from his mind, and when the opportunity arose to become involved in restoration effort of the cemetery, he took an idea and ran with it. 

In order to earn his Eagle Rank in Boy Scouts, he had the opportunity to lead a community service project. Naturally, Drew thought of building a kiosk for the cemetery in order to allow visitors to learn the history of the Elliott Township and those who are buried there. The idea was a home run!

Along with being the leader of the project, which involved designing, planning, financing  he also had to bring his idea to fruition by being an overseer of the job.  The task was not an easy one, according to Pam, "The process of getting the project approved took three separate presentations. After gaining approval from the Boy Scouts, the cemetery caretakers and finally the Galt Historical Society, Drew's project was on its way."

After appropriating the funds totaling  $1,000.00 by way of donations, Drew was able to gather the materials needed in order to build a kiosk for the cemetery. The kiosk will feature the names of those interred at Elliott Cemetery as well as historical information on these people, the town's history and several photographs to be displayed for posterity.

History of Elliott Township 
According to Pam Trassare, Elliott was originally known as Hawk's Corner, for the general store built by Mr. Hawkins on the northwestern side of Liberty Road and the intersection on Elliott Road.  Later, when John Hurd Hickey purchased Mr. Hawkins land,  he and his brother, along with fellow resident Mr. Johnson, renamed the town after the pioneer rancher, Dr. George Elliott who developed the settlement of Dry Creek just two miles north of Elliott. Being that Dr. Elliott had just died a few years earlier in 1858, it is safe to assume that the naming of the town was done as an effort to honor the doctor, posthumously.

By November 25, 1863, it was officially a town with the opening of its very own post office.  Old township records show that at one time there was 51 farmers, 1 merchant, 2 doctors, 2 carriage makers, 1 civil engineer and a stock raiser living within the township. Although a small area, the little town was certainly growing, eventually building a school house for the children. It was recorded that by the 1880's, 70 percent of the men working in the area were farmers.

The photo to the right above was provided to Drew by Don and Gayle Gibson. The image shows the boarding house which was located in Hawk's Corner along with some of the early residents: the Ralphs family and the Hart family.

According to the book"Lockeford's Beginnings: A Pioneer Doctor's Dream" by Delia Marcella Thorp Emerrick, a county tax for schools was passed in legislation, allowing for 5 cents to be taken out of the 30 cents tax for every $100 of property to allow for a school fund.  A name that may be familiar, Dr. George Locke, of "Lockeford," was the clerk for the newly established school district, while G.C. Holman was the school commissioner.   Unfortunately there wasn't enough taxes collected to make a dent in building the school, so it was documented that all bachelors in the area donated $5 each to appropriate the funds necessary to build the school house. The cost was $100, and the building was known as the "Rag School House" due to its construction of wood frames and floors, with canvas walls.

The town seemed to flourish for a good twenty years or so, but according to journals of Delia Hammond Locke, it appears as if the Elliott Township started to feel the effects of the economy by the 1890's and dwindled down to nonexistence. "There was a railroad strike that greatly affected the residents in the town," stated Pam Trassare. "That and the possibility of fatal outbreaks in the area during the same time period could have all played a part."  An outbreak of tuberculosis in Clay Station, as well as a Diphtheria outbreak in Lockeford during that very time period, could very well have affected the population of the small township of Elliott. It seems like the perfect storm: health crisis, economic woes due to the railroad strike, all leaving residents without food, supplies, etc. It was a recipe for disaster, more than likely forcing most residents to leave.  Other historians such as Amy Berkebile have been researching the history of Elliott as well as the residents interred at the cemetery, and there is a lot of history to be told and much left still to be uncovered.

The Cemetery

The Elliott Township Cemetery appears to have been there long before the town officially was. The sign outside says the cemetery was established in 1859. Interestingly, the oldest grave there is dated at 1822. I know in many cemeteries relatives were often disinterred from their original burial place and reburied in other cemeteries to be closer to family, and perhaps that could account for the gap in years from the earlier burials to the year that the cemetery was officially established.

The Elliott Methodist Church was later built in 1876 on the cemetery grounds, although there is no trace left of it today. In all there are 80 residents documented at the Elliott Township Cemetery that caretakers know of.  When I interviewed Drew, he mentioned one particular grave that stood out to him. It was the grave of Joseph Steely.

Joseph Steely
"I like history," Drew explained, " and here was this unmarked grave of a civil war veteran. They just recently found his grave and put a new gravestone, so I became very interested in who he was."

Joseph Steely was born in August of 1828. Although born a native to Ohio, Joseph's family stemmed from Old English roots. He married in 1854, to Rachel Briggs, and later enlisted in the military after the news of Fort Sumpter's attack in 1861.  Documented as First Sargent for Company B of the 3rd Regiment in the Ohio Infantry, Joseph was stationed at Camp Chase in Columbus. He continued his service, reenlisting twice up until the middle of 1864. When his service was finally over, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri and again to Johnson County, Kansas and raised his family there. Sadly, his wife passed away in 1881, and Joseph was permanently disabled after an accident at a saw mill. From then on, he depended on his sons to care for him and the household. Eventually the idea to move to California came up, when his now adult sons had the opportunity.

The California Great Register's list Joseph Steely as being a resident in Elliot in 1884. It also lists him as living in Clements in 1892, 1894 and Mackville in 1896. He later passed away on May 18, 1898 and was buried at the Elliott Cemetery.  His children, sons Marcus and George lived in nearby areas, while his daughter Mattie lived in Clements. In all he had 5 children: 2 sons and 3 daughters. His oldest son, Marcus later committed suicide in 1941 at the age of 81.

There are many people buried at the cemetery with fascinating stories still left to be told. Take the story of Eliza Ann Peter whose broken and forgotten headstone is all that remains left of her memory. Her beautiful epitaph reads,
 "Remember me, as you pass by, 
As you are now, so once was I;
 As I am now, you soon will be,
 Prepare for death, and follow me."

Her cause of death still eludes researchers to this day. In hopes to get answers, I tracked down a gentleman named Jim, who is a descendant of Eliza's husband. Merriman Peter, whom I will be writing about extensively in an upcoming blog, was Eliza's husband. I have found out more about him than I have Eliza, although his story is quite interesting as well. Combined with the research I completed along with Jim's information, I have been able to come up with a short biography on Eliza.

She was born as Eliza Ann Peck on September 27, 1841, in the State of Texas. When she was just a child, her family moved to California, as the Census records for 1852 state that she was 11 years old living in San Joaquin County. She later popped up in archived marriage records, in Sonoma, when she wed Merriman Peter on October 20, 1859.

The Census records for 1860, lists Eliza and Merriman living in Petaluma with an infant (one of their daughters) and a young boy, John (9 years old). This couldn't have been Eliza's son, for she had only been married to Merriman less than a year and she was only 19 years old. Merriman had been married once before, and his wife died in childbirth, so it is possible that this was his son from his first wife he had in Missouri. The child's state of birth was also listed as Missouri, which strengthens my theory.

At some point Merriman moved out to Dry Creek which was just a few miles north of Elliott, and there they settled. Eliza gave birth to three daughters: Marietta (born 1860), Josephine (born 1862) and Amelia (born 1864). Sadly, Eliza died on July 27, 1865, due to reasons unknown. In an old interview published in the Stockton Record, honoring Merriman Peter's life, it briefly mentioned his marriages, noting :

  “Peter has been married three times.  His first wife, taken when he was 24 years of age, in western Platt County, Missouri, died nine months later in child birth.  In 1858, while farming in Sonoma County, Peter again married.  Three children, all daughters, were born before death again reached into the life of Merriman Peter, snatching the second Mrs. Peter away six years after the wedding. Peter, as he explains, then became both a father and mother to his three little girls, until some years later he "finally found a mother for them, a good mother, too, and we raised them up all right."---

Unfortunately, I was still unable to find out the cause of Eliza's death, although it still remained a tragedy.  In the end, I bet if we were to take each and every person buried at the Elliott cemetery we would find a plethora of history and fascinating stories. I was very happy to be able to write this short blog about this lovely and historic cemetery, as well as bring attention to the fine folks who are so passionate and willing to restore it. I hope that more and more people will be drawn to the wonderful history of this place, and that it will never be forgotten again.

 COPYRIGHT- 2015, J'aime Rubio (originally published on April 10, 2015)

Census Records, Marriage Records,,,
San Joaquin Historian, Peggy Ward Engh, 1996
Interviews with Pam Trassare & Drew Klaege
Photos from: Drew Klaege, Pam Trassare, Don & Gayle Gibson, Amy Berkebile, San Joaquin Historian, Friends of Elliott Cemetery Facebook Page.
"The History of Clements." by Margaret L. Lathrop
Newspaper article c/o Jim Carpenter
"Lockeford's Beginnings: A Pioneer Doctor's Dream" by Delia Marcella Thorp Emerrick

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

First African-American Churches in Stockton

If you visit Stockton Rural Cemetery, in Stockton, you will find many well known names. Names for which streets and even surrounding towns have been named after. You will also find pastors, preachers and ministers from many churches. After all, Stockton was once referred to as the "City of Churches."  Today I will reflect on the first two African-American Churches in Stockton and their humble beginnings.

The very first African-American church in Stockton was the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded by Reverend Virgil Campbell in 1854. The wooden church was dedicated on May 20, 1855, by Reverend Phillips, and presided over by Reverend Campbell. By 1858, they decided to build a more lasting structure, this time designing their new church to be constructed of bricks.

The cost for the church was $ 1,800 at the time, and the cornerstone was laid on March 11, 1859, by Reverend J.B. Hill. There they stayed at 121 S. Commerce Street (corner of Commerce and Washington) for 20 years. Once it was noticed that the exterior of the building was beginning to deteriorate, funds were raised to hire Mr. Beasley, to remodel the church.  On May 2, 1880, the congregation rededicated their church, presided by Reverend J.D. Coyle. By 1880 their membership had grown to 19 adults, and 28 children attending Sunday School, which was superintended by J.B. Barton.

List of Earliest Pastors (up to 1880):

Virgil Campbell
A.M.E. Church on Stanislaus/Channel Streets
James Fletcher
Thomas Green
J.H. Hubbard
E,L. Tappan
Jesse Hamilton
Jeremiah B. Sanderson
J.H West
and J.D. Green.

By the 1950's A.M.E. purchased the former church of Grace Methodist on the corner of Channel and Stanislaus Streets, where they have been ever since. --


The African Baptist Church

First organized by Reverend Jeremiah King in September of 1854, the congregation did not officially have a church building until 1859, when they moved into the old Pioneer Presbyterian Church on Captain Weber's land. Weber donated his parcel to Reverend Jeremiah King for their congregation, although the church did pay for the structure at a very discounted price. Originally sold for $14,000 in 1850, the building was sold to the African Baptist Church for a mere $800. A fraction of the original price.

Reverend Jeremiah King looked after his congregation, and it was said that he only missed one sermon out of all the years he served his congregation as pastor. The one time having Samuel Reed conduct the Bible Study. By 1880, the congregation had 16 adult members and 30 children attending Sunday School.  Sunday School teacher Mrs. True*, worked for 8 years, while Mrs. Stowe* worked for 5 years.  (*Caucasian).

There is a marker on the south side of Washington Street just east of Madison in Stockton that marks the spot where Reverend Jeremiah founded his Baptist Church, and where history will forever remember it.--

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio, originally published June 30, 2015)
Source information from,
"History of  Stockton"- George Henry Tinkham

all photos are copyright protected

Block 27, Stockton Rural Cemetery

In a previous blog post back in March of 2015, I touched on the subject of Block 27 within the Stockton Rural Cemetery. I also proved that it was NOT a segregated "colored only" section, despite the fact that it has been erroneously spread as such.

Apparently the truth wasn't good enough for some individuals who went ahead and contacted the news to tell a different story to the press. Before anyone knew it, Fox40, KCRA and even the Stockton Record did segments on the alleged "racial" story that Block 27 was the "colored" section of the cemetery, where the early African-American pioneers were buried there and forgotten, while their graves were purposely neglected. The news jumped on the story without even bothering to see if it was true. I don't know about you, but that says a lot about where journalism is going today, doesn't it?

I am also a journalist, I also write for a newspaper as well as my own blogs, but I have integrity for what I write about, and I refuse to tell a story without checking on the facts and finding proof to back it up or debunk the claim before telling others about it. Unfortunately it seems most "professionals" today don't do their homework, leaving it up to people like me, the ones who actually go out there and do the research to tell the truth for the world to read for themselves.  

First off, if anyone who reads this blog feels the need to fact check my findings, feel free to do so. In fact, I encourage it! People need to start questioning what they read and what they see on the news and in the newspapers, books, and at schools and colleges. Do not believe everything you are told, even if it comes from what you expect to be a reliable source. More often than not, people just don't do their homework and keep regurgitating the same old stories over and over without even trying to see whether or not it was fact or fiction.

History of the Cemetery

Before we dive into the whole "Block 27" issue, lets go into a short history of Stockton Rural Cemetery, shall we? 

The land the cemetery is on was originally owned by Captain Weber. Stockton Rural Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Stockton. According to the History of Stockton  by George Henry Tinkham, Captain Weber deeded the land for the cemetery to "rural associates" who then brought in plants and trees to make the cemetery more like a park. When Captain Weber was still alive, he was often seen there in the cemetery spending a lot of his time working on the grounds. In his older years he was more reserved and spent a lot of time gardening and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the cemetery as well as other gardens. 

History of Block 27

In 1862, Reverend Jeremiah King approached the trustees of the Rural Cemetery asking for a place for members of his congregation to be buried together. The trustees allowed King and members of his congregation to be buried in the non-endowment section, along with everyone else who could not afford to pay endowment care fees. Perhaps at one time they considered that small area within Block 27 to be a "colored section" for that particular church group, but Block 27 as a whole was not a segregated section of the cemetery. No, it was just an non-endowment care area just like Block 36 and Block 14 that are adjacent to Block 27 on both sides.

Even the Stockton Pioneers book written by the late Glenn Kennedy, who was a long time part of the history of Stockton Rural Cemetery even mentioned the fact that from the time Reverend King requested a spot for his people, that they had "reserved a special place" at their request. Did you catch that?  They granted a request, meaning they wanted to be buried together, not that they were forced to, and not because of segregation. In fact he went on to add that Reverend King was "loved and respected by all the people of the community as a builder of men."  If anyone knew the relationship Reverend King had with people in Stockton they would know that he was a respected man, and even Captain Weber himself gave King the land for the African Baptist Church. 

It appears that the earlier African-American settlers who were buried at Stockton Rural Cemetery chose to be buried next to one another, not because of being forced to due to segregation but instead because they wanted to.  Reverend Jeremiah King requested that they all be buried together and the cemetery granted the request.   

All those who were buried in Block 27 were not all African-American either. No, in fact there are many burials and headstones in that block that are Caucasian, and I have done the research to prove this.  

What about the rumored 300-700 unmarked graves?

There have been rumors spread within a few news articles that Block 27 holds the remains of several hundreds (somewhere along the lines of 300- 700) of African-Americans that are unmarked. I believe this to be false. This rumor started in a newspaper article in the back in 2006, yet when I have written the cemetery, its manager and its trustees to question them about that subject as well as many other things, they have failed to respond time and time again. 

Could it be because they actually have no proof of these alleged "unmarked" graves? I think so.

Personally, it doesn't seem possible given the size of the area that encompasses Block 27 along with the graves that are already there, to have that many people buried there without any markers or any additional information. Another fact we must consider is that from 1860, 1870, 1880 and even up to the turn of the century, there weren't more than a few hundred African-Americans total living in the entire county, let alone Stockton. 

If you look at the chart below, the circled numbers show going backwards from 1880, 1870 & 1860 the population of African-Americans in San Joaquin County. As you can see during 1860 there were 126, In 1870 there were 223 and in 1880 there were 328.

If you read my earlier blog about the first African-American churches you would see that by 1880 there were only 16 adults and 30 children in attendance at the African Baptist Church, while there were 19 adults and 28 children attending the African Methodist Church in 1880.  These numbers correlate these statistics below. Remember the list below shows all African-Americans in the county, not just Stockton. It is safe to say more than likely even by 1880 there weren't more than a few hundred, if even that many living in Stockton who were African-American, adults and children included. With these statistics in mind it would be mathematically impossible that there were so many hundreds of unmarked graves of African-Americans buried there.   

Personally I think someone down the line has confused this "unmarked" grave story with the forgotten graves on the other side of the fence facing California Street. That open space beyond the chain link fence was once one of the two burial grounds that once belonged to the State Hospital and now it is just a forgotten field, with hundreds and upwards to thousands of remains buried there, literally forgotten in time. You see, that is a story worth looking into, and one with actual proof that it exists.- Please see: History of Stockton State Hospital Cemetery & Its Decline

So far I have recorded about half of the visible graves in Block 27 and what I have found has proven to be more interesting than any conjured up story! There appears to be just as many Caucasian burials as African-Americans in this block which disproves the "colored-section" theory.

The truth shall set you free

The area that is known as Block 27 is simply a non-endowment area, meaning that it is not maintained like an endowment care area is supposed to be. If people are looking for someone to blame about the non-endowment care areas, you really can't blame anyone, not for that. Back when Stockton Rural Cemetery was established, the area was dry in the summer and plush during the other seasons. There was no irrigation systems for that part of the cemetery. The people who purchased plots there knew what they were getting, a dry spot on the east side of the cemetery. 

Pioneers graves buried for years (block 26 & 28 areas)

Time and the elements haven't been kind to some of the headstones, especially the ones flat to the surface of the ground. As time went on and little to no maintenance done, eventually many of the flat stones have been buried under overgrowth of grass, weeds or dirt. Again, this isn't anything you won't find at other cemeteries with non-endowment sections. (ex: Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland). If you look at many of the nicer monument headstones, a lot of them are African-Americans too, not just the Caucasian headstones. Like I said, it wasn't about color, it was about money.

See the overgrown hedges? This is in an endowment care area. 
There are plenty of other areas in the cemetery that are considered to be endowment care areas and they are in worse condition than Block 27. The cemetery staff have failed at keeping sight of the fact their job is to maintain a historic cemetery, not just a business. By the way, the cemetery is a non-profit but seems to act like they are a for-profit business. They have plenty of assets and money to be keeping up the historic grounds of the cemetery properly yet they fail to do so. The areas where they sell plots and have funerals is always kept up nicely, but the other parts of the cemetery are forgotten, even in the areas that were paid for endowment care.

In Block 26, 28 and 35, which are endowment care areas, there are headstones of early pioneers laying flat in the dirt and encased in years of mud build up, basically cementing them into the ground. Broken stones covered by twigs and leaves intentionally by the landscaping staff at the cemetery and no one is doing a news story about that. These were the original pioneers of Stockton, the 49ers who came during the Gold Rush. Their graves are forgotten, broken and ignored. Where is the outrage over that? What about the pioneers buried there? Are they less important that those in Block 27? No. 

What about the west end of the cemetery, at Blocks 19 and 22? They have been clearly neglected for years, with dirt, debris, leaves and build up covering row after row of flat markers. What about the family crypts that are not protected from thievery, or the plots such as the E.S. Holden plot or Stewart-Smith plot, where the hedges are so overgrown you cannot even reach the crypts or monuments from their entrances? 

Sections 19 & 22 (west side) are in worse shape than Block 27
Where's the outrage??
Everyone deserves to be remembered and everyone deserves to have their resting places treated with care and respect. Sadly, the staff at the cemetery doesn't seem interested in preserving the history of the cemetery and it appears that the only time the cemetery staff fix anything is when you report them to the state for not doing their jobs. When and only when the staff starts treating all areas of the cemetery as a historic ground that needs some TLC and preservation, and when they step up to the plate and fix the entire cemetery, not just one block, will all these deceased residents of Stockton Rural truly be vindicated. But I don't see this happening any time soon. Instead they choose to look the other way. The saying, "out of sight, out of mind" seems to come to my mind for some reason. 

In the end, the facts are the facts and neither you nor I can change that to suit an agenda. There are African-Americans buried in Block 27, but there are African-Americans buried all over the cemetery from Block 26, Block 14, Block 35, as well.  And remember this, there are Caucasians buried in Block 27, too, meaning it was not the "colored section." 

I hope this article will settle the segregation debate once and for all. I suggest that next time a news channel or newspaper reporter decides to do a story on this subject that they at least do a little homework before hand.

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio) Originally posted June, 2015
Photos by: R. Boulware & J. Rubio

All research and data compiled by J. Rubio
All photos are copyright protected.

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio