Olivewood Cemetery in Riverside, California is one of the oldest and best kept cemeteries in the area. I lived in Riverside for a number of years and remember passing by it on numerous occasions. I never visited the cemetery when I lived in the area because I never had a reason to. I’ve visited it twice in the last year and it’s now on my list of my top ten favorites, but that’s another blog . . . Part 1 is about Section D.
Sections A thru D border along Central Avenue, a heavily traveled road, and the Railroad tracks. It is the lower edge of the southern part of this cemetery. The northern part of this cemetery is on the other side of Central Avenue and is the newer section.
People born in Mexico have always been contributing members of California’s culture, growth and economic status. They can be found as far back as the Mission period and probably even before that time. Names such as Higuera, Alvarado and Garcia can be found as early as 1790 on the California census.
These facts are noted only to show what contributing members of society this ethnic group were in the Riverside area, and their length of residence in the United States. Mexican immigrants were landowners early and with their knowledge of the region, helped the area to grow.
Sections A thru D in Olivewood Cemetery are the final resting places for many of these citizens. The more desirable spots in this cemetery are higher up on the slight hill and have names instrumental in the formation of Riverside. The Dyers who once owned a bank in the city have a beautiful plot and crypt at the top of the hill. It is constructed entirely of marble.
As I walked thru the lower section I was saddened to see how segregated the cemetery once was. Section D contains the remains of many veterans that seemingly lost their lives in the defense of our country, yet are relegated to the bottom of the cemetery. Others served, came home and assimilated back into society.
Ramon Sylvester Altamirano’s headstone states that he was a Wagoner. According to his WWI Draft registration he was born 3 June 1885 and was a farm laborer. He was born in the United States and had been a Seaman in the Navy prior to completing the registration. Although I can find nothing on the unit he served in, I do know that his position is equal to a Truck Driver today. During WWI, horses pulled the wagons with supplies, etc. He probably drove one of the wagons. Having served in both the Navy and Army, he was a true citizen of this country.
I can only find two Paul Montijos that served the United States in the Military, and the data does not fit with either one of them. The Coast Artillery Corps began in 1901 as an offshoot of the Artillery Corps. It is conceivable that he was a member of this since he is buried in California and probably was born there as well. He is honored as a veteran, with the flag being placed by the root of the tree that surrounds his headstone.Leonard A. Martinez enlisted on 28 December 1942, just before the new year. He was just 20 years old and would only live for another 2 years. Whether he died as a result of the war is unknown. It is known that Ralph O. Navarro died in North Korea. He was an Light Artillary Infantryman and reported killed or missing in action on 27 August 1951. When he enlisted is unknown. He was only 22 years old.
Dolores Bustos’ enlistment shows that she is an “enlisted man” and was in the Infantry. However! The fact that she was in the HQ leads me to believe that she was in a clerical position. She enlisted 26 January 1943 for the duration of the war, when she was almost 20 years old. Although she was from Texas, she enlisted in Toledo, Ohio.
Reuben Narrango enlisted in the Army on 29 March 1943. Nine short months later he was dead. He was only 19 years old. Another soldier of Mexican-American descent was Magdaleno Torres. He was only 23 years old when he gave his life for our country. He had enlisted on 19 June 1943 and within a year and a half he was dead. His headstone denotes service in the Philippines and his death date concides with the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf under the command of General Walter Krueger. This was a decisive battle for the allies in the Philippines, although they did suffer serious losses. Private Torres was probably one of those.Rosendo Alcaraz is one of several Bronze Star Recipients that are buried in this section. He enlisted on 4 March 1942 in San Pedro, California. He was almost 30 years old. Bronze Stars are awarded for “Heroic or meritorious achievement or service.” Pvt Alcaraz performed such service for his country.Acencion Padilla was not a military veteran, but somebody’s wife and somebody’s mother. The closest translation I could do on this stone is as follows:
Born 21 May 1847
24 June 1903
This is dedicated
to remember my wife
I could not even begin to translate the last two lines. If you can help me, I’d appreciate it! Santiago Florez is buried very close to the railroad tracks and his headstone reflects the pitting and discoloration because of it. I had to photo-edit this picture to make it readable. The closer the headstone is to the tracks, the more difficult it is to read. He was the son of Jose and Margarette Flores, according to the 1920 census. Born in Mexico, he immigrated with his family in 1918, and was only in the United States 13 years before he died.Santiago’s grave is laying flat by the upright headstone in the middle of the picture. His is one of about 3 or 4 there. Notice the proximity to the railroad tracks?
I hope this blog will help honor these people and the sacrifices they made for all of us and for the Riverside area. Whether they were in the Military service or worked locally to provide goods and/or services for people in the area, they were citizens of this wonderful country.
I know this segregation in death is no longer in practice, but I was so moved by the number of military men buried in this area that I had to write about it. These were contributing members of the community, somebody’s loved ones.
. . . and most of all, I salute Olivewood Cemetery in the care they give to each and every plot in this beautiful setting.
- Esther Klotz, Riverside and the Day the Bank Broke. Rubidoux Press, Riverside, California,1972.
- Hugh M. Lewis, Robidoux Chronicles, French-Indian Ethnoculture of the Trans-Mississippi West. Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC, Canada, 2004, chapter 8.
- MacArthur, Douglas. Reminiscences. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964.
- Urdang, Laurence, Editor. The Timetables of American History. Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York, 1981.
- Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920; (National Archives Microfilm Publication T625, 2076 rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- Jackson, Ronald V., California Census, 1790-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 1999. Original data: Compiled and digitized by Mr. Jackson and AIS from microfilmed schedules of the U.S. Federal Decennial Census, territorial/state censuses, and/or census substitutes.
- National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
- National Archives and Records Administration. Korean War Casualties, 1950-1957[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Korean Conflict Casualty File, 1/1/1950-2/7/1957 [Archival Database]; Records of Military Personnel Who Died as a Result of Hostilities During the Korean War, ca. 1977-11/1979; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Korean War Casualty File, 2/13/1950-12/31/1953 [Archival Database]; Records on Korean War Dead and Wounded Army Casualties, 1950-1970; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, Record Group 407; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
- Photographs from Authors Personal Collection