Wed10222014

History at our fingertips : Local group unearths fascinating stories through cemetery records

In conjunction with its 60th anniversary this year, the Los Altos Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has published “Mountain View Cemetery Records; Pioneer Park, Santa Clara County, Mountain View,” a compilation of historical records that resurrects the area’s colorful past.

Members have donated copies of the book to area libraries to promote access to local history. The book includes tombstone photos, maps, old newspaper articles, deeds, burial documents and other records that recall the occupants of a cemetery that was excavated and replaced by Pioneer Park. The park, named for the resting place of many city pioneers, was completed in the 1990s.

Telling the stories of local families provides important historical details, according to Roberta Kerr, regent of the Los Altos chapter.

“History isn’t black and white like we learned in school,” she said. “It’s full of kinks and wiggles. It affects the future. Parts of it are very grim and parts are very funny. Without looking at it, we just don’t know.”

The book features such residents as Samuel P. Taylor, one of the earliest Mountain View postmasters. Other stories include that of a woman whose leg was amputated and buried. After her death, she was interred beside it.

“Living in modern-day Los Altos jades our idea of how it used to be,” Kerr said. “It was wild, which is one of the wonders of this place. There were gunfights … measles and diphtheria epidemics.”

Kerr told the story of the cemetery’s old caretaker, who visited his favorite bar before going to his home on the property, a rickety shed made of wood.

“Well, he basically got (drunk) and next thing you know, the whole cemetery caught fire,” she said. “And since so many of the grave markers were wooden, it’s easy to see why so many records of where people were buried got lost.”

The Los Altos chapter of NSDAR, an offshoot of an organization founded in 1890, is for women bonded by proven lineage to an American Revolutionary War patriot. Congress incorporated the society in 1896. It has since flourished, with more than 3,000 chapters nationally, as well as international chapters in Bermuda, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy and Canada, among others.

The chapter’s book on Mountain View is available at the Mountain View Library on the shelf labeled “Genealogy.”

For more information, visit www.californiadar.org/chapters2/losaltos.

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