About - History

The Early Years

The San Gabriel Cemetery and its next-door neighbor, The Church of Our Saviour, share an early common history. Both began on land originally donated by Benjamin Davis Wilson. Part of the cemetery property was donated by Henry R. Messenger, first Rector of The Church of Our Saviour. Also, church lore tells of Dr. Messenger permitting burials in the property to the west of the church; however, no records of these burials can be found.

  • 1833. Mexican government secularizes much of the California property once owned by the missions. This property, including the land on which the cemetery now sits, is taken over by private owners.
  • 1854. Benjamin Davis Wilson purchases Rancho de Cuati from Hugo Reid. He builds a home, which he calls Lake Vineyard, at the present San Marino intersection of Euston Road and Patton Way.
  • 1864. Elias Birdsall begins a Protestant Sunday School in the Los Angeles area. This will eventually become St. Athanasius parish. The Wilsons are among the communicants at the church.
  • 1866. Birdsall leaves Los Angeles. Henry Messenger takes charge of St. Athanasius.
  • 1866 – 1868. Henry Messenger in charge of St. Athanasius. During this time, Mrs. Amos Maine Vinton contacts Messenger to inform him that she wishes to fund a new Episcopal church in the Southern California area. Wilson, along with Leonard J. Rose, Luther Harvey Titus, and Edward John Cage Kewen, all owners of large sections of land in the San Gabriel Valley, encourage Messenger to locate the new church in the Valley. Messenger agrees and decides to build the church on property donated to him by Mr. Wilson.
  • 1869. Messenger holds first services of The Church of Our Saviour.
  • 1872 – Dedication of the Church of Our Saviour.
  • 1872. The San Gabriel Cemetery is founded and the San Gabriel Cemetery Association is formed.

  • 1873. Messenger leaves Church of Our Saviour.
  • 1874. Cemetery property is separated from that of its neighbor, The Church of Our Saviour.
  • April 16, 1874, Articles of Incorporation for the San Gabriel Cemetery Association filed with the County Clerk.
  • 1875 – Wilson sells land west of the Church to the San Gabriel Cemetery Association.
  • January 13, 1876. Deed issued conveying 6.2 acres from Henry Messenger to the San Gabriel Cemetery Association.
  • November 23, 1876. First burial of record.
  • 1878. Benjamin Davis Wilson dies at the age of 67. His service is held at Lake Vineyard on March 13, 1878, followed by interment at San Gabriel Cemetery.
  • 1893. Cemetery house is built at a cost of $337.62. The house has since been moved to its present site and a second story has been added. What used to be the porch is now the office area.
  • 1897. Cemetery Board asks its Secretary, Lansing Thurber, to write a history of the Cemetery. Mr. Thurber responds that constructing such a history is impossible due to the dismal state of cemetery records. He reports that records prior to December 30, 1887 are incomplete or missing.
  • 1922. Cemetery Board proposes extending the cemetery by purchasing 22 acres from the Dobbins tract. The proposal is met by strong oppositions from residents of Roses Road, who present the San Gabriel City Trustees with a petition against the extension. The Trustees decide to limit cemeteries within city limits to their present site.
  • April 20, 1924. An article in the Los Angeles Times announcing the building of a new mausoleum at San Gabriel Cemetery engenders strong protest from the community. A week after the article's appearance, the San Marino City Trustees introduce an ordinance forbidding the erection of mausoleums or crematoriums within the city limits
  • January 5, 1929. Cemetery incorporated.
  • 1950’s. Beautification of cemetery. Roads widened and bordered with large trees.
  • 1966. Garden Mausoleum constructed.
  • 2003. Completion of Family Estates and Private Gardens.
  • December, 2007 Completion of Heritage Mausoleum