My nomadic ancestors have graves all over the world but I recently found out that some of them settled in San Diego as early pioneers. This provoked my recent visit to San Diego. Leaving the airport, I had a very personable Uber driver who took me to my hotel in the Gaslamp area, to drop my bag, and then straight to the oldest cemetery in San Diego, El Campo. It is situated in what was once the old town and now has a replica pioneer town. At first I was surprised at how small and basic the cemetery was but there was something haunting about the simple stone markers and recent wooden stakes. Much of the cemetery was taken over when a new railroad was built and many of the residents were re interred in a different part of the city.
This plaque is in remembrance of my great-great-great grandfather Jesse or Julian Ames, a pioneer from Connecticut. His daughter Matilda is my direct link to this very large family. The Ames family has a very large family get-together every year – perhaps I will ask for an invitation? He was born in 1807 and died in 1866.
This is the grave of my other great-great-great grandfather, Juan Maria Marron who was born in 1808 or 1809. From researching historical records there were many people with very similar names born at the same time in San Diego. The re interred graves caused some more confusion but my ancestors are there somewhere and more importantly their spirits live in the modern city of San Diego. Juan and Julian’s children married and are my great-great grandparents.
Of all the graves I looked at, this grave of an Indian maiden pulled at my heartstrings. Did she die of a European plague such as smallpox or flu? Or perhaps life was just harsh back in those days. So many women died in childbirth although I think referencing her as a maiden means that she was without children. Then my mind wandered to my Mestizo heritage. Was this a maiden taken from Mexico or a local native? Cemeteries are so interesting, especially if you have a personal link. In those days, San Diego would have been paradise, good weather, fine farming and seas full of fish.