Click to enlarge.
Sarah Robinson. Her name is carved into a cracked but remarkably well preserved 19th-century tombstone discovered Aug. 4, 2014. A Sprint employee was working on a cell phone tower in the hills above Acton — actually just east of Agua Dulce Airpark as the crow flies — when he noticed it.
Who was she? Local historians and law enforcement officials were baffled.
"There were no clues to where the tombstone came from or how it came to be abandoned in the hills," according to a report from the Palmdale Sheriff Station, where the headstone was taken.
The perfectly legible inscription reads:
May 19, 1822
June 22, 1889
Across the top of the marker are raised and worn letters reading, "Mother."
Many speculated and proffered theories. Was this obscure location an old homestead, and did the tombstone mark an actual grave in a forgotten family plot? Was it stolen and discarded by thoughtless vandals? Was it simply an old movie prop from one of the many films made in the area, left behind by a careless crew?
Yet another possibility: It may have fallen victim to the desecration of old cemeteries by city officials and developers in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in the name of progress. Hundreds of grave markers were unethically and improperly discarded to make room for buildings and open-space parks.
Yes, there are people with no regard for the dead or the living.
No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, every cemetery is filled with the rich history of towns and cities and the citizens and pioneers who made them what they are. Every grave holds a story waiting to be told.
If Sarah Robinson existed, I wanted to know her story.
Sarah Ware Robinson
Margaret "Maggie" Naomi Robinson
b. March 23, 1857, Illinois
d. February 13, 1923, Los Angeles
Margaret married Lemuel Warren Beeson in Bourbon County, KS, July 28, 1879.
Priestly "Peter" Robinson
b. November, 1859 Illinois
d. January 8, 1938, Los Angeles
Not married at time of death; no known children
Archimedes "Kimm" Samuel Robinson
b. March 17, 1860, Quincy, Ill.
d. June 18, 1943, Downey Precinct, Los Angeles
Married 1st: Anna Woodruff, July 26, 1904, Los Angeles (widowed)
Married 2nd: Julia Kelly Coronado, March 21, 1931, Los Angeles
No known children
Sarah's son John Brown from her first marriage remained in Illinois, married and raised a family. He died in Quincy, Adams County, Ill., on April 5, 1923.
Although there may be living descendants through her son John, I focused on the Robinson family in Los Angeles. All known descendants of Sarah and Priestley Robinson are through her daughter Margaret Robinson Beeson. There was no record found for children born either to Priestly or Archimedes Robinson.
Compiled from census records and city directories
1860 – 1863+: Sarah, Priestley and children Margaret and Priestly jr. are living in Quincy, Adams County, Ill.; Priestley is a day laborer.
1870: Sarah, Priestley and children Margaret, Priestly Jr. and Archimedes are living in Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kan.; Priestley is a white washer.
1875–1879: Sarah Robinson, age 52, is widowed by 1875 and living with her daughter and two sons in Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kan. Sarah is a washerwoman, Priestly Jr., now known as Peter, is a painter and Kimm (Archimedes) is a blacksmith.
1880: Sarah, age 58, and son Archimedes are living with daughter Maggie and her husband Warner Beeson in Beloit, Mitchell County, Kan. Son Peter is still living in Fort Scott, running a billiard hall at a "house of ill fame."
1885: Sarah, age 63, is living with her sons Priestly and Archimedes in Atchison, Atchison County, Kan.
Daughter Maggie Beeson is also in Atchison living with her husband's family.
After 1885: According to the 1888 Los Angeles City Directory, she is residing with the Beesons. This is Sarah's last known address.
1888 Los Angeles City Directory
Warner L. Beeson, contractor; grading
962 East First, Boyle Heights
Sarah Robinson, widow
962 East First, Boyle Heights
June 22, 1889: Sarah Robinson died. Location unknown.
Places of residence for Sarah's children after her death:
CA Voter Registers
1890 Downey, Los Angeles
Lemuel W. Beeson, 31, Illinois, Farmer
I was not able to find Sarah's sons from 1888 thru 1891 in city directories or voter registers. It is possible they had not yet moved to Los Angeles, or they lived elsewhere temporarily for work. (Acton perhaps?) In 1892, they are again with the Beeson family.
1892 Garapata, Calabasas; Post Office: Los Angeles
Lemuel W. Beeson, 32, Illinois, Farmer
Kim Robinson, 31, Illinois, Farmer
Peter Robinson, 32, Illinois, Farmer
1896 Calabasas Precinct; Post Office: Colegrove
Lemuel Warner Beeson, 37, Illinois, Farmer
Kimm Robinson, 35, Illinois, Farmer
Peter Robinson, 37, Illinois, Farmer
LEMUEL W. BEESON
Issue date: August 16, 1899
Map shows parcel is near town of Topanga. There was a Garapatas Canon near Calabasas at the time but is actually in Topanga. Census for Topanga Canyon is included on Calabasas census. There is currently a Garapata/Garapito creek in Topanga. It means "Tick" in Spanish.
1900: No longer in Calabasas, Maggie and Lemuel Warner Beeson are living with their five children at 549 Buena Vista Street, Ward 2, Los Angeles. Her brother Kimm Robinson is living with them, occupation: blacksmith.
After 1900: According to later census records, directories and vital records, the family continued to live in Los Angeles and San Pedro area. Some members of the Beeson family are buried at Evergreen Cemetery. Kimm and Peter also died in Los Angeles but were cremated. Sarah was not buried at Evergreen or Rosedale Cemetery.
— Tricia Lemon Putnam
Searches of family trees produced just one possible match:
Born: May 19, 1822 in England
Died: June 22, 1889, location unknown.
Of the many family trees found for the Ware family, the dates for Sarah were consistent. Unfortunately, no one seemed to know where she died; nor did they have a source for her date of death.
The family histories show Sarah Ware was married to a man named Brown, not Robinson.
Pushing on, additional searches of death, cemetery and census records, news archives and directories — and contacting members of her family — yielded a connection.
Was it a coincidence, or could this be the same Sarah Robinson memorialized on the tombstone?
The Ware Family
Sarah Ware was born May 19, 1822, in Lenham, Kent, England. She was one of 13 children of George Ware and Naomi Comfort Biggs.
The Ware family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and while some children remained in England, others immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Mormon communities in Utah.
In January 1855, George and Naomi Ware left their home in Preston, Lancashire, England, and immigrated to the United States. When they arrived, they met other family members and continued their perilous journey to Utah.
Before reaching Utah, George Ware died from cholera in Atchison, Kan., in April 1855.
That same year, daughter Sarah and her family took a different ship to the U.S. They settled in Quincy, Adams County, Ill., later moving to Kansas and eventually to Los Angeles after 1885. Why Sarah didn't join her parents and siblings in Utah is unknown.
Today, many Ware descendants live in various cities in Utah as well as in Lancashire, England.
Sarah Ware, aka Sarah Robinson
Sarah Ware married James Brown on July 13, 1846, in Preston, Lancashire, England. They had five known children, only one of whom survived beyond age 2.
In 1853, James Brown died. In February 1855, Sarah remarried in Preston, Lancashire, England.
Her new husband was Priestley Robinson.
Detail from passenger list. Click to see full page.
The following month, March 1855, Sarah and Priestley Robinson and Sarah's son John emigrated from Liverpool, England, to Philadelphia on the ship Juventa. John is the only child shown with Sarah on the passenger list, where he is identified as John Brown Robinson, age 8.
Sarah and Priestley Robinson settled in Illinois and later Kansas. They had three children together, all born in Illinois: Margaret "Maggie" Naomi Robinson, Priestly "Peter" Robinson and Archimedes "Kimm" Robinson.
Sometime between 1870 and 1875, Sarah was again widowed. She turns up on the 1875 Kansas state census living with her three children in Fort Scott, Bourbon County.
The last census where Sarah can be found is in 1885. Sarah and her sons are living with her married daughter Maggie and son-in-law Lemuel Warner Beeson in Atchison, Kan.
At some point between 1885 and 1888, Sarah accompanied her daughter's family to Los Angeles.
According to the Los Angeles City Directory for 1888, Sarah is residing with the Lemuel and Maggie Beeson family in Boyle Heights. This is Sarah's last known address.
Archimedes' 1931 marriage certificate identifies his parents as Priestly and Sarah Robinson, nee Ware. Click to enlarge.
Sarah Robinson died the following year, June 22, 1889.
According to later census records, directories and vital records, the Beeson family and Sarah's sons continued to live in the city of Los Angeles, Downey, San Pedro and Calabasas-Topanga. Their Los Angeles County marriage and death certificates confirm their mother was Sarah Ware Brown Robinson from England.
Sarah's son John Brown from her first marriage remained in Illinois, where he married and raised a family. He died in Quincy, Adams County, Ill., on April 5, 1923.
What was Sarah Robinson doing in the Acton area, if indeed she was ever there? That's still a puzzle. No family connection to the Acton area has yet been found. It is possible her sons lived there temporarily for work. They were farmers and laborers. One son was a blacksmith — and the mining boom town of Ravenna, west of Acton and south of the tombstone discovery site, certainly had plenty of work for blacksmiths back in the day.
I have contacted and continue to stay in touch with Sarah's gr-gr-grandnephews in England and Utah. They have been a tremendous help in this search which, in turn, has enabled them to update their family trees. I also had the pleasure of contacting a gr-gr-grandson who lives in Thousand Oaks. He knows little about his ancestors and knew nothing about Sarah. I told him what I had learned, and he shared his family stories.
Unfortunately, Sarah's place of death and burial location remain a mystery. Death certificates in Los Angeles were not required until 1905. Beginning in 1877, the city of Los Angeles kept a register of deaths that included areas outside of the city, but it is unknown if all deaths were reported. No entry was found for Sarah Robinson.
Movie prop or coincidence? Maybe we'll never be absolutely certain the old tombstone belongs to Sarah Ware Robinson, but I am convinced it does, and I remain hopeful that someone will step forward with the answer.
For me, there is some closure in knowing who she was. This search was a wonderful journey as I learned about her life and the hardships she endured. May she not be forgotten, and may her final resting place one day be found.
Sarah's broken tombstone was found near the intersection of Valley Sage and Indian Brave roads. Click map to enlarge.