I was in Oakland last Saturday for my daughter’s birthday. It was a sunny warm day. She and I took a docent led tour of Mountain View cemetery. When she told people that we were going to tour the cemetery on her birthday many people thought that was a bit weird and asked Why?? She and I are both big history buffs. The Cemetery is full of famous and familiar names as well as not so famous people whose lives are still interesting. Hearing their stories makes history come alive.
I’ve loaded all my pictures on to Flickr and I’ve added captions to most of them based on my notes and what I’ve discovered searching the web since I got home. You can look at them all on Flickr here but I’ll also include a few here
Sara Plummer Lemmon and her husband John Lemmon were both self taught botanists. The tomb stone says "The California Poppy was named the state flower in 1903 due to the persistent efforts of Sara Lemmon" In searching the web I also found a blog written by a woman who had just climbed Mount Lemmon outside of Tucson. She includes more of the Lemmons’ story.
"According to an article we found at the new community center in Summerhaven (on top of Mt. Lemmon), written by Eileen Palese:
mountain was named for the first white woman who dared to climb it, a
vibrant, curious woman who was challenged by the beauty of the mountain’s plant life and the harshness of its precipices.
was in 1881, when the US Cavalry still pursued Apaches and gunslingers
fought it out at Tombstone’s OK Corral that Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon,
a slender, dark-haired woman of 45, challenged and then conquered the
mountain that loomed over the old Spanish community called Tucson.
arrived in Tucson with her husband, John Gill Lemmon, on the first
train ever to reach the town. He was a self-educated botanist, respectfully called the "professor", whose health had been permanently undermined during the Civil War when he was imprisoned by the
Confederates in the notorious camp at Andersonville, Georgia.
and John had met in 1876 at a lecture he gave in Santa Barbara,
California, where she owned a lending library and stationery store. She
already had an unbounded interest in botany, and, when they married
four years later, she was qualified to assist her husband in an
ambitious effort to catalog the plants of southern Arizona, a part of
the world few botanists then had visited.
Their first ascent
into the Santa Catalina Mountains was up the south face, the one
closest to Tucson, along roughly the same path that the Catalina
Highway follows today.
[I’ve left out much of the story which you can read on Alanna’s blog]
Though largely self-taught as a botanist, her work was
outstanding. She published many scientific papers, and, thanks largely
to her efforts, California adopted the golden poppy as its state
flower. She lived to be 93.
A mountain peak is not all that
bears her name. An entire group of plants was named for her by Harvard’s
Asa Gray, one of the outstanding botanists in the United States in the
Perhaps the best description of Sara Lemmon,
was provided by her grandnephew, Dr. Harold St. John: ‘She was
enthusiastic, sincere, intense, a driver and an organizer, cultured,
literary and scientific.’
All in all, she was a woman far ahead of her times"
These are pictures of our tour. I think but am not sure that the man in the middle of the pictures in the checked shirt is Michael Colbruno. Colbruno has done a lot of research on the stories of people buried in Mountain View and has created a wonderful blog of these stories. The stories he shared on our tour added immensely to the tour.
Mountain View Cemetery is 220 acres and was founded in 1883. Over 170,000 people are buried there. It has views of San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay. It was one of the first garden cemeteries. The annual tulip festival was a couple of weeks ago. It is full of the stories of people’s lives from Domingo Ghirardelli to Henry Kaiser, to Julia Morgan to John Lee Hooker.
Allison and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will go back again.