Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Brutal Slaying Remembered

While strolling along the perimeter of Stockton Rural Cemetery, you might notice the elaborate crypts and monuments placed amidst the meager and modest graves. Like everyone rich or poor, famous or not, we all have a story to tell and we all deserve to be remembered. Some stories are more tragic and far more disturbing than others, but again, they didn't choose the way in which they passed no more than we will when our time comes. And just because a death is more shocking or uncomfortable to read or hear about than others, does not mean their story is any less important or shouldn't be shared for fear of upsetting someone's sensibilities.

In this case, we have the story of Geraldine Ortega who was born on August 25, 1946 in San Joaquin County. She was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Copeland, and she more than likely attended high school in Stockton. At the age of 20, Geraldine married a slightly older man named Daniel Ortega, Jr. on August 31, 1966. Geraldine had a six month old daughter, Karen at the time of the marriage to Daniel. (Possibly from a previous relationship). Very shortly after exchanging their nuptials, Geraldine became pregnant with her second child, Teresa. The marriage would prove to be one filled with domestic violence and after 15 months, Geraldine fled from her husband to live with her grandmother, Elva Copeland at 1734 Rhode Island Avenue in Stockton, California.  She had only been living with her for about two weeks before the tragedy struck.

It seems Daniel was not about to let his family leave so easily. Geraldine had been receiving the worst threats from her estranged husband just one week before Halloween, but she had no idea how real the threat was. Just a week later, On November 1, Daniel showed up at Elva Copeland's house and started a physical assault on Geraldine. At some point her grandmother, Elva attempted to intercede to stop him, but that was when the brutal crime began.

During the struggle Daniel took a meat cleaver and physically attacked both Elva and Geraldine, fatally wounding both women. The details of the crime were too gruesome (and in bad taste) for me to describe, so I will just leave you with the fact that he butchered these poor ladies, all the while Geraldine's two infant daughters were in the home, possibly witnessing the act. After Daniel had committed the murders, he threw the murder weapons (meat cleaver and hunting knife) on the rooftop of a nearby building and many hours later, he eventually called the authorities the morning of November 2 and turned himself in.

"Dual Suspect Cries 'I Am Guilty!'
Daniel R. Ortega, 25, of Stockton, who was arraigned in Municipal Court yesterday for the murder of his wife and her grandmother, admitted the slayings during his court appearance. Ortega was booked at the county jail early Friday morning for the murder of Mrs. Geraldine Ortega, 21, and her grandmother, Mrs. Elva Copeland, 80, of 1734 Rhode Island Street in East Stockton.

The suspect reported the murders to Sheriff's deputies Thursday afternoon and subsequent investigation led to his arrest. Officers said the murders occurred several hours earlier. The two women had been hacked to death with a meat clever. Officers said the slaying apparently climaxed a domestic quarrel.

Ortega cried out in court yesterday, "I did it, I am guilty."  His arraignment was continued to Tuesday, November 7 at 2 p.m." -- Lodi News Sentinel  (November 4, 1967) ---

Such a sad and terrible end to two precious souls, who lost their lives far too soon and in such a horrific way.

Elva was laid to rest at Burwood Cemetery in Escalon, California, while Geraldine was buried at Stockton Rural Cemetery in Block 19. Her simple concrete marker lays neatly in a row with others who have passed before or after her, and just like them, she had her own unique story to tell.

I visited Geraldine today and took photos of her grave for her granddaughter, and she was kind enough to give me permission to share the photos and her story with all of you. Since Geraldine's story has been forgotten for so long, I felt the need to share it with you, so she will be forgotten no more.--

Thank you Heather Benfield for reaching out to me! May your grandmother and great-great grandmother rest in peace, always.

(Copyright 2018 - J'aime Rubio, All Rights Reserved)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Murder of Judge Belt

Newsclipping of the time- Sac Daily Union, June 4, 1869

The Stockton Independent, dated June 4, 1869, relayed the story as follows:

“The Late Homicide In Stockton”

“Shortly after twelve o’clock yesterday, Judge George Belt, of Merced county, was shot and killed by William Dennis, of this city, on Center Street, in front of J.A. Jackson & Co.’s office. The tidings of the tragedy soon spread extensively throughout the city, and but a short time elapsed after the sad affair transpired before a large crowd had assembled at the scene of the homicide, every one manifesting eagerness to see the body and ascertain, if possible the cause of the shooting. Various rumors prevailed in regards to the matter, all showing that an old and bitter enmity had existed between the parties for years. As the case will undergo a rigid legal investigation, and not desiring in any manner whatever to bias public sentiment in regard to it, we refrain from giving any of the vague and unauthenticated rumors prevailing, but await the testimony of those cognizant of the facts in the matter.

Coroner Bond soon arrived at the scene and took charge of the remains of Judge Belt. The Coroner, in removing the hand of the deceased from his coat pocket, found firmly held in its grasp a loaded derringer pistol. On the body was a bowie-knife, apparently new, and a new scabbard (dagger). Dennis, it is stated, fired the fatal ball from a revolving pistol. The ball entered about two inches under the deceased’s left ear, severed the spinal column, ranged up-ward, and is supposed to have lodged in the brain. The remains were removed to the office of the Coroner, on Weber Avenue, and the following jury of inquest summoned and sworn: C.G. Hubner, E.R. Dagget, J.B. Sears, Patrick Tye, Benjamin Chadsey, and M. Stoll. After examining the body, further investigation was postponed until this morning at ten o’clock, when witnesses will be examined.

Deceased was an old pioneer. He was the first merchant that settled and established a store in Stockton, having arrived in 1848, and located his store on the corner of El Dorado and Levee Streets, there occupying two lots given to him by Captain Weber. Dennis has been a resident of this city for many years, and is an extensive property holder. Dennis was arrested by Chief of Police Fletcher, and placed in jail.”—-

The following news article gives a little bit more information about the incident, although it appears some of the statements contradict the first article:

“About twenty minutes past twelve o’clock this afternoon Stockton was the scene of one of the most horrible homicides (murders would perhaps be a better name) that ever occurred in any civilized community. At the time specified above, George Belt, an old, wellknown and highly respected citizen of Merced County, was shot dead by William Dennis, of this city, in front of the office of J.A. Jackson & Co., on Centery Street.

Without any warning, but in deliberate cold blood, the deceased was sent into the presence of his Maker. For a number of years—dating back at least as far as 1863—- the parties to this tragedy have been engaged in a legal feud involving the right of certain property. A bitter enmity had consequently sprung up between them, and for years no kind word, if any at all, had passed, and for the last three or four years we doubt if they had exchanged a word of any kind. Thus matters have stood.

Last evening, Judge Belt arrived in Stockton, for the purpose of attending to some business. Today, until the moment of his murder, he was about the streets attending to that business and conversing with friends, of whom he had many. About twenty minutes past twelve, he left the office of Jackson in company with that gentleman and McFarlane of Merced, and when just reaching the edge of the sidewalk, preparatory to crossing the street, Dennis approached him from behind, drew a revolver and deliberately shot him.

The unfortunate man did not know that the assassin was near him, and had no opportunity to defend himself. He fell immediately and expired without a struggle. The ball entered about an inch below the left ear, passed through the spinal column and come out on the other side. Dennis immediately gave himself up to the authorities and was taken to jail.”—- Sacramento Daily Union, June 5, 1869

So just who were Judge Belt and William Dennis? 

Hon. George Gordon Belt
Born: September 25, 1825
Died: June 3, 1869

Born in Beltsville, Maryland, George came to California with the Stevenson Regiment at Monterey, later arriving in Stockton around 1849, where he opened up a tent store. At just 24 years of age he was appointed as the first Alcalde (Chief Officer and Judge) of Stockton under the former rule of Mexico. He also was appointed as a licensed trader at the Merced Indian Reservation. He was the one who established the city government in Stockton in 1850. Later on, he was affiliated with the Mason Henry Gang.

William Dennis
Born: April 18, 1809
Died: January 22, 1874

Native of New Jersey, William Dennis was infamously known as the man who shot Judge George Belt and killed him in June of 1869. His infamy seemed to overshadow any sort of reputation he had in Stockton, prior to this incident. It was known that Dennis owned a lot of property within the city, but little else is mentioned. After Belt’s murder, Dennis was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by Judge Cavis of the Fifth District Court.

In Conclusion

The strangest thing I found while researching this story was documentation that claimed Dennis was sentenced to prison for the murder, but died before his term was up. I didn’t think to question it at first, given the fact he did die in 1874; However, according to the Sacramento Daily Union dated November 27, 1869, Judge Crockett released Dennis on a $15,000 bail AFTER he had already been sentenced to 10 years by Judge Cavis.

So apparently, Dennis literally got away with murder. Did he have some friends in high places? It really makes you wonder. When he died in 1874, he was buried in Block 12 of Stockton Rural Cemetery, not too far from his victim, Hon. George Belt, who is buried in Block 11. Now these two enemies are stuck with each other, for eternity. Funny how that worked out, huh?

(Copyright 2018 -J'aime Rubio -

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Stockton's Very Own Texas Ranger

McMullin Monument at Stockton Rural Cemetery

John McMullin
Born: June 27, 1824
Died: November 13, 1868

One of the most majestic looking monuments in all of Stockton Rural Cemetery is in the McMullin plot. John McMullin was born in Baltimore, Maryland the summer of 1827, and by the age of fifteen he had ran away to Texas to join a militia known as the “rangers.”

John McMullin
Upon arriving, McMullin met someone who would turn out to be one of his two best friends in his life, his commander, John Coffee Hayes, one of the men who inspired the Lone Ranger, and Zane Grey’s novel “The Lone Star Ranger.” These rangers weren’t just any militia, they would soon be known as the “Texas Rangers.”

Said to have rode horses better than even the Comanche (which was considered a compliment), McMullin even won a riding match between the Texas Rangers, Commanche warriors and Mexican rancheros.

By 1845,  McMullin was second in command of a company of Texas Rangers led by Ben McCulloch, a former neighbor of the one and only Davy Crockett. He had went to Texas along with his brother, following Crockett who had left earlier on. The many stories of their adventures during this time period is the stuff movies and fantastic novels are made of, and hopefully in the near future I can share more of McMullin’s life with the world.

At some point during the war with Mexico, McMullin met David S. Terry, who had come down to fight alongside the Texas Rangers. The two became close friends and remained so for the rest of their lives. In 1849, the both of them came to California together.  McMullin went from prospecting, to becoming a cattle rancher, and later to breeding horses. He was one of the first people to organize the State Fair, and he helped found the San Joaquin District Agricultural Society.

In 1856, while David Terry was facing problems with the San Francisco Vigilantes, McMullin stayed by his friends side and defended his character on many instances. And when Terry was facing assault charges for beating up the editor of a newspaper that ran a slanderous story about Terry, McMullin was honest about the affair, again defending Terry’s character,  but at the same time not shielding him from consequences of his actions. In the end Terry was only fined $300 for the altercation.

In 1857, McMullin married Eliza Fleming Morgan in Kentucky. He brought her home to California shortly thereafter, purchasing for her a beautiful home on California Street in San Francisco. They went on to have nine children during their marriage.

The family spent their time between San Francisco and San Joaquin County where the ranches were. During his time in San Joaquin County, McMullin built up a 28,000 acre ranch, and also many commercial properties, including a two-story brick structure that once sat on the southeast corner of Main and El Dorado Streets. According to Glenn Kennedy’s research, McMullin also built Stockton’s very first theater.

Unfortunately, Stockton never had a chance to see what other good things McMullin could have accomplished because his life was cut short at the young age of 44. According to his obituary he passed away on November 13, 1868, after suffering with typhoid for only a few days.

The day of his funeral, it was reported that it was the largest procession the city of Stockton had ever seen. With over a hundred carriages following the hearse to the rural cemetery, one can only imagine it was a sight to see. Interestingly, John McMullin had purchased his family plot just across from his best friend David S. Terry. That was actually quite common back then. To the end, McMullin, Terry and John Coffee Hays* remained friends, and two of  the three are resting at the cemetery just across the path from one another.

John McMullin's life is so interesting and detailed that it would take a book to really explain how amazing his adventures were, especially given the fact he lived a relatively short life. I hope to focus more time in the future to tell his story, and go even more in depth, so that others can enjoy learning about this amazing man buried at Stockton Rural Cemetery.

(Copyright 2018- J'aime Rubio,

(* John Coffee Hays is buried in a humble grave at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland).

History of San Joaquin County, George Henry Tinkham
Lone Star Ranger, Zane Grey
Colonel Jack Hays, James K. Greer
Trial of David S. Terry by the Committee of Vigilance, Charles L. Case
Remembered Men in Stockton Rural Cemetery, Glenn A. Kennedy (San Joaquin Historian, 1968)
Tales of Frontier Texas, 1830-1860, John C. Duval

Early History of Stockton's Cemeteries

(Copyright - J'aime Rubio)

Early History of Stockton’s Cemeteries

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.

“The Illustrated History of San Joaquin County” states the very first cemetery in Stockton was located on Channel Street near San Joaquin Street, and later a second one (Citizen’s Cemetery) was started near Weber and Union Streets. Apparently, there was no fence surrounding the grounds, so livestock would run rampant through the cemetery, as well as vandals defacing the monuments and stealing vases. Because of this, that cemetery was also closed.

When the rural cemetery was finally planned, a huge parcel northeast of town is what was chosen. That land belonged to E.M. Howison, Captain Weber’s former clerk. It was after the city appointed six trustees to plan a newer cemetery, that Weber and the trustees purchased the seventy-five acres from Howison together to establish the rural cemetery. Weber paid $1,000.00, while the trustees appropriated the remaining $1,700.00, making the total cost for the land, $2,700.00.

Mr. Lowe was the very first landscape gardener for the cemetery. The land was broken down into 1,500 lots, both large and small, along with roadways, plots and lots of trees and bushes. The cemetery was established in 1861, and remains one of the only privately owned cemeteries in California operating under the State Act of 1859.

(Copyright 2018 - J'aime Rubio,

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Honoring the Kennedy's

Brothers Glenn, Maurice and Roy Kennedy were born at the turn of the Century in Stockton, California, to parents Ernest Walter Kennedy and Avah May Jones Kennedy.  Growing up in Stockton during it’s infancy, and watching it sprout up into this huge city over the years must have made a huge impact on this family, because it was the history of Stockton and its early pioneers that led to them getting
involved in the Rural Cemetery.

Anyone who is truly knowledgeable about Stockton Rural’s history, will always mention the Kennedy’s at some point while speaking about the cemetery itself. The Kennedy’s were the life blood of the cemetery for decades upon decades. Had it not been for this passionate family of history lovers, much of what is preserved today regarding those buried within these gates would be forever lost.

Maurice Kennedy and his wife, Marietta, both worked at the cemetery together. Maurice was the cemetery’s superintendent and general manager, while Marietta worked as the secretary for over 20 years until her retirement. Glenn Kennedy, brother to Maurice, was the biggest history lover of them all, and he not only worked as secretary and treasurer to the cemetery for many years, but he devoted his life to researching the history of everyone buried within these hallowed grounds.

Glenn Kennedy spent years researching, compiling, writing and publishing small books dedicated to honoring the dead at Stockton Rural, by telling their stories in great detail. He would often donate his published works to the local elementary schools to encourage the children to learn more about Stockton history and those who made history in Stockton. His lifelong work is remembered with every story that has been resurrected from the past and put to paper by way of his hand.

According to all the records I could find, it does not appear that Glenn ever married, but instead was married to his work as a local historian. On November 30, 1994, at the age of 94 years, Glenn Kennedy passed away. His obituary found in the Stockton Record stated that at his request there was no funeral or memorial service. His accomplishments were not given a mention either. 

The fact that he requested there be no funeral or services for him shows he must have been a very humble person, and not one to toot his own horn. That is very telling on the part of his personality. Although he strove to bring back the stories of the forgotten ones at Stockton Rural, digging through archives, books and every record he could get his hands on to make sure none of these pioneers were forgotten, Glenn was uninterested at leaving his own personal legacy.   

No other person had such dedication to this cemetery, and I doubt there will ever be anyone with such devotion there again. Those who roam the winding paths of this property, taking photos, reading headstones and even researching the stories within, will never understand the depths of loyalty and love he shared for this place. Sadly, when Glenn passed away, his legacy was swept aside and nearly forgotten.

I have vowed that as long as I am researching the stories hidden here, and as long as I am walking these grounds, I won’t let Glenn Kennedy be forgotten. I will always keep Glenn Kennedy’s legacy alive by speaking about him and all the work he did here so that his lifelong passion and dedicated research will have not been in vain, because I feel that just like he wanted to make sure everyone was remembered here, now I want to do the same for him.  

To the original keeper of the forgotten ones, you will not be forgotten either.
  Rest in peace dear Glenn.

P.S. Thank you to Roland Boulware, a long time Stockton Rural Cemetery researcher who initially introduced me to both Glenn Kennedy's work as well as the cemetery itself. 

(Copyright 2018 - J'aime Rubio,
Photos by: Roland Boulware.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Not So Haunted Cemetery - Stockton Rural Cemetery

So recently I have been hearing about all sorts of "ghost tours" and ideas for "haunted tours" throughout the state. It has become almost a fad lately, and it appears that everyone wants to get on the bandwagon.  Now all of a sudden it seems like every historic place is claiming to be haunted, and offering "haunted tours" or spreading ghost stories at various locations. FYI: Just because a place is historical doesn't mean that every place is haunted. Stockton Rural Cemetery will be no exception, sadly.

For the record, I have absolutely nothing to do with any of the ghost tours that will be happening in the future at this cemetery. If you want to learn the history of a place or a person, then I am the person to talk to, but I do not like to get involved in the haunted aspect when it comes to historical tours. That is just my personal preference.
So what does that have to do with Stockton Rural? Well, I just learned that there will be some ghost tours happening there this year. Again, besides my personal feelings, I know that there hasn't been much in the way of ghost stories involving this cemetery over the years from 1861 to the present day, so I am curious to find out where all these stories are suddenly coming from? 
I do know of two possibilities though, and that is why I decided to write this blog, in order to address it ahead of time. Way back in 2009, a book titled "A Ghost Hunter's Guide to the California Gold Country" came out by author Jeff Dwyer. His chapter on Stockton Rural is vague at best, but at the end he had to throw in a "ghost story," if that is what you want to call it, claiming that an apparition is seen after dark in the cemetery near the grave of Peter Singleton Wilkes. For the record, the cemetery never stays open after dark, they close early between 4-4:30 pm most times, I know because I have been coming there for years.

Also, if anyone out there knows about Peter S. Wilkes, it would be my fiance' - as he has a very special connection to this man, and he was researching about him years before anyone took an interest in his grave. As my fiance' often says "I was country when country wasn't cool," that's Roland. He has been wandering this cemetery for over 10 years, taking photos and researching thousands of people who are buried here when no one else cared. If anyone would know about Mr. Wilkes, or any claims of ghosts haunting the cemetery, it would certainly be Roland.

So what does he have to say about it? Absolutely nothing. He states for the record that although he has had many paranormal experiences in his life, in various locations, Stockton Rural Cemetery is not one of them. Period.

Roland has also been there in the evening (after hours) with the manager years ago when they were trying to figure out who was vandalizing the crypts and stealing the doors, but even then that is not the norm. The staff locks up when the cemetery closes around 4-4:30 pm ALWAYS.  The only people that get in there after dark besides a security guard, are homeless people who jump the fence near the railroad tracks, and they aren't talking about ghosts.
For the record, there has never been any sorts of documented or verified stories of ghosts or paranormal experiences at Stockton Rural, period. Playing on these stories might be fun for those who like the paranormal but to me it is a huge disrespect to the memories of those buried there, resting in peace.
Besides the unverified story about Peter Singleton Wilkes' grave, the only other story that could possibly have given some sort of idea of supernatural activities is the story of Daisy Dryden, another resident at Stockton Rural. However, even her story doesn't state anything about her grave being haunted.

You see, Daisy Dryden claimed to have seen into the other side just before dying. Some believe she was hallucinating while others believed she really could see between the veil of the human and spirit realm. After she died she was buried with her siblings at Stockton Rural. Her mother, who wrote this account in a book "Daisy Dryden, A Memoir" believed Daisy and her siblings were all resting in peace, and that their souls were together in Heaven. Whatever it is you believe, we cannot ignore the fact that Daisy's own mother never mentioned anything about her grave being haunted.
Again, I am sure in the near future you will start to read about or hear sensationalized stories about Stockton Rural claiming that apparitions are seen, or that ghosts roam the cemetery at night, but where are these people who allegedly saw these things? No one has any documentation or witness accounts to share or cite as a source, it is all hearsay and conjecture. And again, where have all these stories been for the past 150 + years? They certainly were not documented anywhere in any local history books, so did they just spring up out of thin air? It appears so. 
In all the years I have been roaming this cemetery, all I have ever felt there was peace. I personally believe that those buried there are all resting in peace, and do not haunt the cemetery, though I respect everyone else's beliefs. Still, don't you think that if a ghost wanted to haunt somewhere it would be a place they remember? Where you lived? Where you died? A place you loved? In that respect, cemeteries, although often thought to be creepy, would really be the last place that a ghost would choose to haunt, if you stop and think about it. Again, that is just my opinion.
If you do hear about ghost stories involving Stockton Rural Cemetery in the future, please take them with a grain of salt. They are more than likely fabricated to entertain, not educate. ---

(Copyright 2018 - J'aime Rubio,

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Reverend Jeremiah King - Setting the Facts Straight

The Non-Endowment Section of Stockton Rural Cemetery 

In the past couple of years there has been a lot of misinformation spread about the life of Stockton's late Rev. Jeremiah King. According a few websites (including an article in a local newspaper) a person labeled as an "historian" was interviewed about King's life. Sadly, only one fact within the entire article holds up, and that was the mention of the establishing of the African Baptist Church in 1854. That's it.

From the claims that Rev. King struck it rich mining during the gold rush, to the theories he had purchased many properties throughout San Joaquin County and even an entire city block on the waterfront district, all the way down to the very stretching claim that in his spare time King used "militant" force by hiring spies and armed horsemen to go after illegal slave owners and free slaves within the county, none of these claims can be substantiated with factual evidence. 

Again, I cannot stress this enough -- if you do not cite sources, you cannot make these sorts of claims. 

According to records Jeremiah always claimed to have been from Georgia (although I did find one where it says Tennessee). Although we know where Jeremiah was born, it is very unclear exactly when he was born. 

The 1860 Census states that a man named Jeremiah King was living in the O'neil (or O'Neale) township of San Joaquin County, living with Abbey King, Jack Barret and Westley Hemphill. But this record claims he was born in 1794, in Georgia. (Marriage records indicate that Jeremiah King married Abby Tulop in San Joaquin County on January 29, 1860.)

The 1860 Census for that specific township, which was pretty huge, listed only five African-Americans as residents, Rev. King and his wife being two of the listed five people. In fact, According to the "Population of Race, Sex and Nativity" provided by the U.S. Federal Census Bureau., lists that in San Joaquin County during 1860 there were only 126 African-Americans, 9,106 Caucasians and 139 Chinese residing within the entire county. 

Going back to Rev. King....

Just a few years earlier, in 1854, Reverend Jeremiah King had founded the African Baptist Church, later known as the Second Baptist Church. According to the book, "The History of Stockton" by George Henry Tinkham, published in 1880, it goes on to state:

"This church was organized in 1854. They had no house of worship until 1859, when they purchased the pioneer church of the Presbyterians for $800, just $13,200 less than it cost nine years before. The lot was given by Captain Weber."

So as you can see, Reverend King did not have the funds to build the church nor purchase the land at the time of establishing his church, and it even took five years before they could obtain a set location for their congregation. That was when Captain Charles Weber generously gave the lot to Rev. King.

Rev. King (and his congregation) paid $800 for the church structure that was on the land. They were getting a pretty sweet deal since the building had cost the Presbyterians $14,000 to build just a shade under a decade prior.  He remained the pastor of the church for 25 years (from 1854-1879), and eventually retired. 

"Their first pastor was Jeremiah King, and from a young man in 1854, he has grown old in the service of this people. He has been absent from his pulpit only once, and during that time the pulpit was supplied by Rev. Samuel Read.  They have sixteen members of the church, and over thirty pupils in the Sunday School. In this school two white ladies in the name of Christ and the human family taught continuously for thirteen years; Mrs. True teaching five years, and Miss Stowe eight."- “The History of Stockton”, George Henry Tinkham, 1880.

The location of Rev. King's church was on the south side of Washington Street, east of Madison Street. On September 19, 1986, and a plaque was placed by officers and members of the Second Baptist Church in honor of Reverend King. The actual location of the church would literally be where the present freeway is now, since Washington street used to go straight, but now it curves north in that spot because of the freeway.

The "An Illustrated History of San Joaquin County" states:

"The Second Baptist Church (colored) was organized in September, 1854. Subsequently they purchased the famous frame church which Rev. James Woods had brought from San Francisco for the Presbyterians, the first in the State. This building they moved to its present location on the south side of Washington street between Commerce and Beaver streets, fitted it up and have ever since occupied it. Recently it has been remodeled and improved, at an expense of $525. Numerically this church has always been weak. At present there are about twenty-two members. Regular preaching, once a month. A Sunday school is maintained. The deacons are J. Burrows, T. Petter and C.H. Sublett. Rev. W.A. Mitchell has been pastor since 1887."--- published 1890. 

Moving forward....

The 1880 Census states that an African-American man also named "Jeremiah King" was listed living in the O'neil Township again, this time though it lists his age as 66 (same age he was in 1860) and now he has a wife named Rachel (who was crippled). 

Is this the same Jeremiah King? It’s the only person with that name in the entire county.

The name Jeremiah King comes up again in several of the California Great Register's but each year his listed date of birth changes. 1871, page 31 states his date of birth as 1806. 1872, pg 45 states his date of birth was 1807. 1873, pg 36 states that his birth date was 1808, while 1875 states his birth date was 1810. 1876, pg 34 states his birth date was 1811, while 1877, pg 37 states his birth date was 1812.  There is also two more registers, in Nightingale precinct of the O'Neil Township San Joaquin County in 1880 and 1882, both times his date of birth is different again. 1880, pg 34 says he was born in 1804, while 1882, pg 37 says he was born in 1806.

Very little is documented by primary sources in regards to Jeremiah King's personal life except for the fact that he was listed as a "Farmer" in the 1860 Census and a "Jobber" in the 1880 Census. The term "Jobber" by definition means someone who performs occasional side jobs, not someone who is employed full time in any set trade or profession. 

Besides census records or marriage records, there are no details about Rev. King's life while in San Joaquin County that have been located, therefore we cannot definitively give an in depth personal biography because of the lack of primary source material.

According to census records, during at least the last decade of his life, he lived on property next to the Pacific Insane Asylum which was located in Woodbridge just north of Lodi. In fact, both census records are for the O'Neil Township which spanned from Lodi, Woodbridge all the way clear out to the Collegeville area but was NOT part of Stockton. 

In all the records I have searched I have found no documentation that Jeremiah owned any property other than the one parcel of land that the African Baptist Church was located on, which again was given to him as a gift by Captain Charles Weber. He might have owned the land he farmed on in 1860 or he could have been sharecropping for another farmer, although I haven't located any land deed records with his name for the Woodbridge area as of yet. If I do find any, I will certainly update that information on the blog I am currently writing about King’s life. 

Rev. King's short biography which was written by the late Glenn Kennedy, a longstanding trustee of the Stockton Rural Cemetery, states: 

"Born in Georgia. He came to Stockton in 1854 and started the African Baptist Church which is now the Second Baptist Church. He was pastor for twenty five years and missed only one service in all that time.

In 1862, during the Civil War years, when feelings were running high, he came to the trustees of Rural Cemetery asking for a place for his people. His request was granted and in all the years that have followed, Rural Cemetery has reserved a special place for his people. He was loved and respected by all the people of the community as a builder of men."--- “Stockton Area Pioneers,” Glenn A. Kennedy (1992)

This is an important point to make since over the past few years there has been confusion and serious misinformation spread about Rev. King's life as well as the history of the so-called "colored section" at Stockton Rural Cemetery known as Block 27.

According to documented facts Rev. King was able to have a section "reserved" for his congregation, but the Block itself is NOT a segregated section at all. I have been researching burials in that section for years and I have found just as many Caucasian burials as I have African-Americans which proves that the area was not segregated. 

The fact of the matter is this, although a small area within Block 27 may have been reserved for Rev. King's baptist congregation, the block itself was not a colored section. Think of it this way, Rev. King's reserved area in Block 27 is no different than if a family reserved a large plot within a section of the cemetery, the block itself is comprised of every type of person you could imagine (Caucasian, African-American and yes, I even found a Hispanic male, too).

From Reverends to farmers, housewives to prostitutes, a fallen Police Officer, many European immigrants, a Judge, a Confederate Major and even a County Clerk, that section is full of history but one thing is for sure, it was not full of discrimination. 

And as far as the area of that cemetery getting very overgrown during the spring and summer months, there is a reason for that too, and it isn't because of racist neglect. Block 27 is merely a non-endowment section of the cemetery just like Block 36 or Block 14, both which are adjacent to Block 27. That means that section does not get the upkeep that other sections are supposed to get because all those people who purchased their plot in the non-endowment care area did not pay for perpetual care of their graves or the land surrounding it. Go to any historic cemetery and you will always find an endowment care and and non-endowment care just like Stockton Rural. (also the staff at the cemetery weed-eat the non-endowment areas at least twice during the spring and summer months).

As far as claiming only one section of the cemetery was for colored people, that appears to be false, too. I have found many African-American pioneers buried in Stockton Rural Cemetery in sections all over the cemetery, so that contradicts the idea that only one section of the cemetery was set aside just for “colored” people.

When I created Rev. King's Find-a-Grave memorial several years ago, I did a lot of research to find out who he was, and tell his story accurately. There hasn't been any more information available about his life by way of primary sources. This is the most detailed account of what I could find about Rev. King's life and his congregation at the First African Baptist Church in Stockton without adding speculation or theorizing about his personal life without facts to back them up.

In ending, please do your research when it comes to finding the truth about people of the past. It is our job to search diligently to uncover the documented facts and not spread fabricated stories that cannot be backed up by documented sources. This sort of thing only causes confusion or upsets others. Also, if the person presenting the history cannot or will not share their sources with the public that is a red flag that they are fabricating their story. All true historians ALWAYS cite their sources. 

Happy History Hunting! 

--If anyone has any primary source documentation that may conflict with any of my findings, please feel free to contact me with that information along with your cited sources and I would be happy to add the information to my blog. --

(Copyright 2015 - J'aime Rubio -
Photo: J. Rubio (Copyright 2015)

Note: I have published some of this bio on Find-a-Grave; content is still copyright protected.

"Stockton Area Pioneers"- Glenn Kennedy
History of San Joaquin County, 1890
History of Stockton - George Henry Tinkham, 1880
Federal Census Records (for California, San Joaquin County).
California Great Registers, 
Marriage Records (CA)
"Population of Race, Sex & Nativity", Federal Census Records (for California, San Joaquin County.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Two Graves of Henry Behnke

This mystery has been puzzling me for a while now and it was originally brought to my attention by my fiancĂ©.  Mr. Henry Behnke, one of Stockton Rural Cemetery's eternal residents has not one, but two headstones and they are in separate areas of the cemetery, too!  

Henry Behnke was born on May 20, 1829 and died on March 2, 1862. One of his headstones states his name "Henry Behnke" (found in Block 26, lot 24) while the other just says, "H. Behnke" (found in Block 24) - but both share the exact date of birth and date of death. 

Although a few people have pondered the thought that perhaps there were a set of twins, both with the same date of birth and similar names starting with an "H," that maybe in some freakish accident both lost their lives on the same day.  Although I guess anything is possible, I would say that it is near to impossible and in this case highly unlikely.

You see, the only record I can find where he is mentioned, there is not other mention of another male "Behnke" with him.  According to  "An Illustrated History of San Joaquin County, California" Henry is mentioned very briefly in the biography of a man named John Corsten Grupe.   Grupe went on to marry Catherine Behnke, who I believe was Henry's sister, and this is how Henry's name was mentioned within the biography.

"In the spring of 1852, he (Grupe) went to San Francisco and took ship for New York, going by way of Panama; from New York he shipped at once to Germany and in the fall of the same year returned to New York. In the meantime he had sold his store in New York to his brother, and after stopping there a few days, started on a return trip to California. This time he came by way of Panama. 

In New York he met a number of persons who came to California with him. Among them was Catherine M. Behnke, who he afterward married. The others were Henry Behnke, Hattie and Rebecka Behrmann, Lena Meyer, John Kulmoe, John Wilkins and Henry Meyer, -- nine in all; of these, four only are living.  They crossed the Isthmus on a mule train, then took ship and came to San Francisco, and landed at Stockton on November 10, 1852.

On December 1, he was married to Catherine Behnke, and Henry Meyer was married to Rebecka Behrmann, both on the same day. " --

So we now know that Henry came to Stockton on November 10, 1852 and he died on March 2, 1862. After searching archived Census records I was able to determine that both Catherine and Henry came from Germany just like Mr. Grupe. According to the 1900 Census for the Douglas Township in San Joaquin County, Catherine Grupe was still living, but now a widow. She was living with two of her sons by that point. She was listed as being born in 1831, just four years younger than her older brother Henry, and that she was from Germany.

Unfortunately, this is where I have hit a dead end with learning more about Henry's life here in Stockton, and why on earth he has two headstones. I have found three other Henry Behnke's who lived in San Joaquin County, between the 1850's up to about 18 years ago. 
I can only assume that some of these "Henry's" are related to him somehow.

1) Henry August Behnke was born in 1854 and lived in Stockton in the 1890's because he is listed as a registered voter in the 1896 voting registry.  

2) Henry Behnke, born in 1850 and died 1928 (San Joaquin County)

Could one of the above listed men be his son? 

3) Henry John Behnke was born on February 8, 1918 and died in January of 2000, in Lodi (San Joaquin County). 

Could he be a grandson maybe? 

After searching the abstracts of the Stockton Daily Independent newspaper, dated March 3, 1862, I located Mr. Behnke's death notice. (They misspelled his name though).

"DIED- in this city, at the Avenue House, on Sunday morning the 2nd, Henry BENCKE, a native of Hanover, Germany, aged 32 years. His funeral will take place from the Avenue House at 1 o'clock this Monday afternoon."---

Answers to the rest of this mystery are still eluding me at the moment. 

I recently reached out to the Stockton Rural Cemetery office to see if they could shed some light on the mystery of the two headstones, one being found in Block 24 and the other in Block 26.  After speaking to Clara Navarro, who works in the cemetery office, she had no information to give me. The cemetery staff state that their archive records are in storage, so basically they were not willing to search through the records for this information.

As disappointed as I was to hear this, it does not deter me from my search for answers. I will keep searching to find out just who Henry Behnke was, and why he has two headstones, and I will not stop seeking these answers until they are available. 

I hope you will check back with me in the future as I plan to continue updating this particular blog post with more information as it becomes available.

(Copyright 2018- J'aime Rubio. --