Whiskeytown Cemetery: Alive With Memories & Personalities

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By Robert Rock

Wife Margrid and I recently heard from Luke Lucas (local artist) about an unusual cemetery out in the woods from Whiskeytown, about 15 minutes from our house.

We went last Sunday to see what the fuss was all about, and found the most unusual display we've ever seen.

Unusual people live in these hills, and apparently they share a common interest in constantly gussying up their grave sites on a regular basis. Some of the graves even have permanent benches erected at the foot of the grave so you can sit, drink a beer with friends, and celebrate the life of the lost one. There are no holds barred of what you can place on a grave, including the deceased's favorite potato chips, cocktails, toys, etc.

We highly recommend a Sunday afternoon jaunt to enjoy the country-side and this one-of-a-kind community effort.

To get there, enter the Whiskeytown Lake Park , off Highway 299 west, and when you get to the bridge over the lake, continue straight ahead (rather than cross the bridge).

After a few miles you'll see the cemetery in clear view on the left.

When you get to the baby's butt (see photo), notice a tiny solar panel on the back of the neck. This is connected by a wire to the outreached hand (see shadow) which holds a small lantern that lights up all night long, every night. What a unique idea!

Robert Rock moved to Redding from Santa Rosa in 2000, soon found the local Writers Forum, and became its President for four years. Was a former Technical Writer for McDonnell Aircraft Corp., published environmental engineering articles as a professional engineer, public interest articles for newspapers and periodicals, and a book of short stories which covers the 1920s to 2001, including WW II. Is presently secretary of the local Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and assists students at the Good News Rescue Mission in earning their GEDs.

Robert Rock moved to Redding from Santa Rosa in 2000, soon found the local Writers Forum, and became its President for four years. Was a former Technical Writer for McDonnell Aircraft Corp., published environmental engineering articles as a professional engineer, public interest articles for newspapers and periodicals, and a book of short stories which covers the 1920s to 2001, including WW II. Is presently secretary of the local Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and assists students at the Good News Rescue Mission in earning their GEDs.
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24 Responses

  1. nanny says:

    Doni – i didn't write this to have it published, i just had to get this off my chest. it's sad that this man writes "Unusual people live in these hills, and apparently they share a common interest in constantly gussying up their grave sites on a regular basis" and further stating that there are benches for folks to sit and drink beer, leave cocktails…………and on it goes. thank you mr. rock for your opinionated piece about the "hill folks" who bury their dead at whiskeytown. are you from this area? do you know the history of whiskeytown cemetery? are you aware that people from all areas of shasta county are buried there, and not just the "hill folk"? maybe you should research your articles better, or leave off the inferences to alcohol and slams against the populace. i for one was disappointed to read a piece of this caliber. take the time to read some of the names and then research the people. you will be surprised at who is buried there. did you take the time to see the "unknown" graves that had been transplanted from whiskeytown prior to the filling of the lake? do you know who owns the cemetery? who maintains the cemetery? you missed out on a glorious story. i have several friends and acquaintances from all walks of life who are buried there. we find the serene and peace nowhere else. take a walk through st. joseph's old cemetery – oh wait, you can't. the gates are locked. please mr. rock, spare us more of your slanted stories about the "hill folk". it was disgusting.

    • Jules says:

      I loved the cemetery, I found one of my ancestors buried there, he only has his date of birth and date of death I heard on his headstone, I would still like a picture of it. His name was Michael "Mike " Campbell born in Pennsylvania.

      CAMPBELL MICHEAL –

      05/15/1868, 02/14/1945 PA #134 11-7A

      Could you pass this around and see if someone is willing to take a picture and e-mail to me, I sure would appreciate it.

      I toured the pictures and story online, loved the cemetery and how people love it.

      If someone can do this then please reply here and I will send my e-mail to you. I'll even buy you a drink when I come down to visit!!

      Thanks so much either way!!

      Jules MB

      • Marsha says:

        Jules, did you get your picture yet? I am going the weekend of June 15, 2013 and will try to get you a picture.

        • jennifer watson says:

          if you go again id very much like a picture of a grave site ill give you my email the two people who were my world are burried there and due to money i cant get there and they both died different years but are there together the names are Betty Jean James and Bud James they should be together at Wiskeytown cemetery it would mean the world to me my email is [email protected] please dunno how often this site is checked but it would just be the best thing i would ever receive and would be eternally gratefull

    • Connie says:

      Nanny, are you from WhiskeyTown or from the area? Some friends of ours camped there and they took a picture of a couple next to a tent with a cell phone and also captured a little girl in the pic wearing clothes from way way back. Wondering if you would like to see the pic?

      Also, I totally agree with what you said. Some people are so narrow minded. I'm sorry he hurt your feelings.

      Connie

      • Carole says:

        Hi Connie,
        I live in Weaverville (further up the mountain from Whiskeytown Lake) and have invited a large group of people to go down to Whiskeytown Cemetery for a tour this Sunday August 3, 2014. I read your comment on the Whiskeytown Cemetery website and would love to see this picture that you captured with the couple standing next to the tent and the little girl in old-fashioned clothing. Can you PLEASE send me a copy of the picture? When I read that all the hair on my upper body stood up! Would love to share it with the group of people going with me this Sunday! Thank you!
        Carole

    • jennifer watson says:

      i agree my grandma and grandpa are burried there and well i havent been able to get there to see them due to money but they were my life and the best and most kindest people i have ever know and my grandma was an artist and her art was donated to places around redding when she passed .

  2. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    I've visited the Whiskeytown Cemetery several times and always been delighted and touched by the thoughtfulness that goes into the marking & decorating of the graves. In this country most modern cemeteries are perfectly flat with strict regulations about what can be used as mementoes – and then those are picked up and discarded right away, so as to facilitate mowing: a case of corporate efficiency over the human touch.

    For those who love cemeteries, the Ogburn-Inwood Cemetery is also worth a visit.

  3. Dennie says:

    My much loved Grandmother and Mother are buried in Whiskeytown Cemetery. Both are native born Californians, as am I, although not in Redding. To me, this cemetery allows the love and respect for those who have gone before us shine through. One of my greatest moments of remembering, showing respect and my love is riding my horse from the nearby trail right up to their grave sites. Maybe the thought of that is "unusual" but then again, maybe our sterile lives today should raise concerns.

  4. Linda says:

    I wish you would not have told everyone where this cemetary is now it will probably be trashed …. I know of another one like this but I will not tell.

    • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

      Actually, it's hardly a secret. The Newspaper Which Shall Not Be Named has done articles on it, and until very recently there was a photography exhibit of the cemetery at the Whiskeytown Visitor's Center, which was featured on the National Park Service website.

  5. pmarshall says:

    Cemeteries are very interesting and historical. I wouldn't put them down at all. May they rest in peace.

  6. Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I have several friends buried in the Whiskeytown Cememtery and a grave marker that I made for one of them almost 30 years ago still identifies the gravesite. Nanny, I can understand your upset about the article, but the language used to "Hillbillyize" the cemetery; "a shared interest in Gussying up the graves", reflects a perspective of someone who is more comfortable with headstones over which a power mower can run without interference. Anyone who views the cemetery as an oddity will have plenty to talk about, but after you've attended a funeral at this cememtery or you come back to put flowers on a grave your friend, your perspective is clearer. We bury our friends. That we can make their head stones and put a windchime over their grave is a gift.

  7. Barb says:

    I too have loved ones buried at this cemetary. I just attended a very moving service for the tragic loss of our friends son in the flash flood that just happened. It was hundreds of people standing on a hillside remembering an amazing man who was so tragicaly taken from us. The setting of love and nature and peace of the whiskeytown cemetary was the perfect backdrop to his life. I too plan on being buried there. I expect my friends and family to GUSSY up my grave with things that really matter to them and remind them of our lives together. Not just another granite marker that is impersonal and cold. The graves at Whiskeytown tell stories about the peoples lives. You write them in your head when you walk through there. They may not be accurate but the mental pictures that are created from the momento's and personalities reflected are priceless.

    I think the incredulous attitude of the writer here is insulting and unfortunate. I guess for some of us old time families from Redding and Shasta County its about your roots and your people and not about sterility.

  8. Christine Gannon says:

    I am the mother of a child buried at the Whiskeytown Cemetery, and she has been there for 22 years. There is nothing unusual about wanting to work through grief and loss, and this particular cemetery has offered us the opportunity to do so. Anyone who has suffered the death of a loved one understands the importance of expressing their grief, and I am appalled that one would show such disrespect for the survivors of the people buried beneath the soil, including myself. I have spent much time over the years watching the different ways that people mourn and grieve, and most importantly heal. It’s one thing to speak your mind, but-Mr. Rock-wouldn’t you want more people to read your material based on you own compassion, or does it simply not matter? Journalism does not have to be about the tearing down of individuals whom you know nothing about, and freedom of speech should not be an excuse to stereotype people when the people you are writing about are simply trying to learn to live their lives through loss. My suggestion would be to do your homework as to who you may be writing about, instead of hurting those of us who have spent a lifetime living without our loved ones, and do not just “sit, drink a beer with friends, and celebrate the life of the lost one.” Not all of us respect our loved ones that way, just because it is not a traditional cemetery.

    • roisin Fontes says:

      i too am the mother of a child buried at whiskey town cemetery. actually today should have been his eighteenth birthday. on October 4 it will be 15 years since he has passed.. he rests i'n a plot with his grandma, great grandma,, and his great grandpa McKenna..

  9. Steven says:

    Are there two 'Whiskeytown Cemetaries'? Seemingly both are near Redding. Google-ing for it, i found one supposedly at 4555 Veterans Ln, Redding, CA 96001 next to supposedly the Shasta County Coroner's Offices. The other one, I can't seem to find an address (suppose their isn't one) and it's supposedly found by driving past a Whiskeytown Park, off Highway 299 west, cross bridge over the lake, continue straight ahead (rather than cross the bridge) and after a few miles you’ll see the cemetery in clear view on the left. Using Google Maps, these two 'Whiskeytown' cemetaries are nowhere near each other. One's supposedly near Whiskeytown lake and the othe just a couple of miles south of Redding. My Dad's buried 'there' and I'd like to someday be able to find it and pay my respects.

  10. Karen Shapland says:

    My great great grandfather, Samuel Doss, left Arkansas with two sons for the California Gold Rush… only the sons returned. There is a handwritten notes in my aunts papers that say he died of small pox in Whiskeytown… having papers in Arkansas identifying Whiskeytown as where he died leads me to believe that it must be true… We have been to that very lovely cemetery and seached each and every headstone. Realistically, he was probably just buried by his sons where he died… near wherever they were mining…. but we choose to believe he is buried in one of the "unknown" marked graves… I am a great lover of cemeteries and this is one of the best… we are all on our journey to one and this one seems to be a great "destination".

  11. debra kay houston says:

    I was wondering if there is a web site that has pictures of the headstones or markers. I am looking for Gladys Koberstein – That is her maiden name. Born in August, 1908, WI, Sauk County- Died 1998, May. She would have been my great aunt. She had a remarkable story in life.

    • Was she buried at the Whiskeytown? (Readers, can any of you answer Debra's question?)

      I understand this curiosity. I'm on the hunt for photos of my grandfather's headstone at St. Raymond's Cemetery in New York.

  12. Debra Kay Houston says:

    Yes, the information I received was that she was buried in Whiskeytown Cemetery.

  13. katherine sundy says:

    hello , my mother was buried there i was adopted so i never really know my mother i know was buried there her name is Linda Nell Douillard could you please send me picture of where she is buried at i would be so very apprecaited, she pass away in feb.1986 …..thank you so very much 🙂 I dont know any other information about her.

  14. Marsha says:

    Greetings, all-I am going to Whiskeytown Cemetery and will try to find and photograph the requests made. Any others? Marsha

  15. Valerie Fern says:

    I just came across an old article written by a Mr. Robert Rock regarding Whiskeytown Cemetery. It is a poorly written article, filled with judgements and uneducated comments.

    My mother is buried there. She was not a "hill folk", although, I wouldn't have loved her any less had she been, but rather a strong, independent woman who lived her life to the fullest. A retired bank manager, a mother, grandmother, friend. She worked her way up to become the manager of Security Pacific National Bank in Morro Bay. She was an avid reader, loving mysteries and history.

    We drove out to Whiskeytown prior to her death. She walked the paths, looked at the natural surroundings, breathed in the pine air and told my brother and I, "This is where I wish to be buried."

    It suited her.

    Over the last 16 years, we have placed photos, art work, bricks from her best friend's patio, a bench and we have planted her favorite shrub, the Shasta Daisy. It is peaceful for me to "visit" her there.

    Mr. Rock's piece about this cemetery reminds me a a 5th grader's effort to write an essay without doing any research.

    Valerie Fern

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