Early California rancheros maintained their own family cemeteries on their lands. The Perea and Ruiz families, who farmed in San Francisquito Canyon
in the mid-1800s, were no exception. The Ruiz family cemetery, as it's known, may have been the Santa Clarita Valley's largest private burial ground.
It was actually started in 1888 by property owner Ramon Perea (8/31/1838 — 1/25/1915) upon the death of his wife, Antonia, who wished to be buried
on the hill overlooking the Perea ranch house.
Prominent in the cemetery is a series of six grave markers and a larger monument with the Ruiz family name engraved, memorializing the deaths
of Enrique (Henry) Ruiz and his wife, Rosaria Perea Ruiz, and four of their children, ages 8 to 30, killed in the St.
Francis Dam disaster of March 12-13, 1928.
Several prominent citizens prededed them in death, including two Newhall saloon owners: Martin Ruiz, 1868-1900 (Henry's brother); and Nick Rivera, who joined the family by marrying Martin's widow.
Of note, too, is a gravestone inscribed "Niebes Ruiz, Born 1794, Died 1904."
According to great-granddaughter Michelle Nuñez, birth records indicate Niebes Ruiz was actually born about 1812.
The cemetery sits on a tranquil hilltop approximately six miles south of the dam site. Featured in this
photograph, shot in 1963 by Fred Trueblood, is a Ruiz descendant: Mabel Packard Wagner, daughter of Lady Linda (Dominguez) and Tony Packard. Lady Linda was niece to Henry Ruiz; Lady Linda's mother,
Guadalupe, was Henry's sister.
Reader Carol L. Beeman of Pineville, Louisiana, adds (June 18, 2002):
I am a displaced fifth-generation Native Daughter of California now residing in Louisiana, but remember visiting the SCV many times while growing up in Montrose, CA, in the '40's and '50s.
I am a direct descendent of Ramon Perea, who established the Ruiz Cemetery on the death of his wife, Antonia Duran Perea, at the age of 34 in 1888. Hers is the stone that is always referred to as the oldest stone in the cemetery. Ramon was my father's grandfather and he told my father that Antonia asked him to bury her on the hill behind their ranch house in the San Francisquito Canyon, and he did. He said he put the cemetery high on the hill so in case there ever was a flood down the canyon, it would not wash the cemetery away. How right he was! The San Francisquito flood waters did not wash away the cemetery. My father also helped search, recover, and bury flood victims, including his relatives, the Ruiz family. I was saddened to hear of the recent fire, however, grateful that once again the Ruiz Cemetery survived.
Read more about Ramon Perea here
View a different scan of this same image here.