San Francisco History

Greco Russian Cemetery
(aka Greek Cemetery)

Dates of Existence: 1884? to 1893
Location:  between Turk and Golden Gate, Parker and Stanyan
Number interred: more than sixty
Moved to: City Cemetery
Shown on Map of the City and County of San Francisco, drawn by J. C. Henkenus, published by Warren Holt, 1884.
"EXHUMED BODIES.  A Scraper Unearths Five While at Work.  A Street-Extension Job Which Turned Out to Be More Exciting Than Was Expected.  James H. O'Brien had a starting experience on Saturday last.

He is a contractor and was hired to grade a street in the city outskirts, which he started to do on the preceding Monday.

All went smoothly until Saturday, when his troubles began.

He was using a two-horse scraper when one of the teams, going a little higher than any of the others, caught on something and held for a moment and then moved on again.  The driver following the scraper stepped into what he thought was a hole, but on looking down he saw that he was standing in a coffin.

His feelings can better be imagined than described.  His fellow-workmen assisted him to replace the cover of the box and the work went on.

Later in the day another casket was found, and then three more in a bunch, but this was too much for the constitution of the drivers and they stopped work very willingly when quitting time came.

The residents in the neighborhood are very nervous and do not go about much nights just at present, but would have probably overcome their squirmishness had not a boy named Walter Lewis stumbled across a skull in the dark, breaking it.  He buried the two pieces in separate pieces and then went out and spred the story among his acquaintances.

Yesterday quite a number of people visited the place, and upon searching, found many pieces of human bones, probably the remainder of the poor mortal whose skull had been found the night before.

Two of the coffins were lying exposed when a CALL reporter visited the place yesterdy afternoon, and although the tops were removed by someone in the crowd no marks were found whereby the corpse could be identified.

The history of this gruesome unearthing dates back to about eight years ago, when the Greco-Russian church had its cemetery in the neighborhood referred to.

The exact location of the Greek cemetery, as it was called, was between Turk street on the north, Parker street on the east, North Willard on the west and the extension of Golden Gate avenue on the south.

Running through the cemetery is the line of a street called Aldine, and this is not opened through on the cemetery side.

One of the neighboring residents as far back as eight years ago tried to have the road opened and the cemetery done away with.

He did not succeed at that time, but six years later many of the monuments and tombstones were taken away from the cemetery and with the bodies were removed to the City Cemetery.

The resident who had been endeavoring to have the cemetery removed in order to improve his property now probably believed that his course was clear.

He therefore went to work and procured signatures of adjoining property-holders to a petition for the opening of Aldine street.  He is known to have secured signatures representing 331 feet, but it is said that representatives of 390 feet held out and were unwilling to have the work done, even if the city proposed to take the street.

Shortly after this partial list had been obtained, O'Brien, the contractor, was hired and the work of grading was started with the results described.

A number of Greeks were interviewed yesterday, and by some it was stated that the property graded belongs to the Greek Cemetery Association and that the city has no right to do anything with it.  They say that when the land was bought the society paid $17,000 for it, intending that it should always be used as a last place of rest for dead Greeks.

The records at the City Hall show only twenty-six bodies interred at the cemetery, but at the time of the removal referred to over sixty bodies are entered as having been taken to the City Cemetery, showing a curious discrepancy.

The street has been sewered after a fashion by the contractor, but the lower end does not connect with any main sewer and consequently the job is of no use.

Some of the Greek community will immediately take steps to have the grading stopped at least until the bodies can be removed.  The think that the whole lot is covered with bodies."

Source: San Francisco Morning Call, 30 January 1893.


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