Archaeological Recovery of Historic Graves at Castaic, Los Angeles County, California
By David Maxwell, Kathleen A. Bergin, Matt C. Bischoff, Deborah W. Gray
February 9, 1998
Report Submitted to
GENSTAR Northlake LLC
33010 Ridge Route Road
Castaic, California 91384
Statistical Research, Inc.
535 W. State Street, Suite H
Redlands, California 92373
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Figures
List of Tables
Osteological Analysis and Findings
Management Considerations and Recommendations
Attachment 1. Castaic Historic Data Recovery Archival Research — Results by Matt C. Bischoff
Attachment 2. Osteological Analysis — Castaic Cemetery by Deborah W. Gray
Attachment 3. Inventory of Recovered Grave Remains
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1. Area map showing project location
Figure 2. Map showing cemetery plot within project area
Figure 3. Map of grave locations
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1. Osteological Findings for Five Historic Burials
At the request of GENSTAR, Land Company (GENSTAR) based in San Diego, California, Statistical Research, Inc. (SRI) completed a limited program of historic documentary and oral research; field excavation; data identification, analysis and inventory; and materials transfer related to a small historic cemetery plot uncovered during initial construction activities for the GENSTAR Northlake LLC project. The program was initiated upon discovery of human remains in the project area, located near the town of Castaic in Los Angeles County, California (Figure 1). This report documents the circumstances surrounding the discovery situation, and relates the methods used and findings of the historic research, field excavation efforts, and osteological analysis. Management considerations and recommendations are also provided.
Enclosed within a chain link fence, the small cemetery plot was situated on a hillside terrace overlooking Castaic Valley (Figure 2). The terrace, encompassing an area of approximately 1200 m2, is perched about 30 m above the valley floor. This location overlooks the former site of the historic Lazy Z Ranch (now the community of Stonegate), which lies about 200 m to the south. The terrace also contains a dry artificial pond or retention basin which borders the cemetery to the northeast.
The cemetery plot itself was enclosed by a chain link fence that was constructed in the 1960s to replace a barbed wire fence. The fence enclosed a 5 by 14 m (17 by 46 foot) area most of which had been excavated to a 1-2 m depth as part of the Los Angeles County Coroner's investigation. The coroner identified eight potential grave locations and marked each with a lath stake.
SRI investigations were conducted between 13 January and 5 February 1998, and the transfer of grave remains to GENSTAR personnel was completed on 10 February 1998. The results of the historical research are provided in Attachment 1 to this report, and the osteological analysis findings are included as Attachment 2. An inventory of the recovered skeletal remains and associated grave materials are provided, by burial designation, in Attachment 3. Excavation results and general findings and recommendations are reviewed in the following sections. The locations of the five recovered burials, comprising one infant and four adults, are shown in Figure 3.
On 23 December 1997 GENSTAR personnel encountered human remains during grading for the GENSTAR Northlake LLC project, a housing development situated in the Castaic vicinity. The significance of the discovery situation was recognized, and caution was exercised by GENSTAR Construction Superintendent Bart A. May and heavy equipment operators. The discovery location was marked and subsequently backfilled for its protection. Project construction work was directed away from this sensitive location until adequate assessment could be completed by the Los Angeles County Coroner.
Initially contacted on 6 January 1998, the County Coroner's office investigated the small cemetery on 7 January, when the adult interment first encountered by the GENSTAR backhoe operator was removed. Further investigation of the grave vicinity by County Coroner personnel Deborah W. Gray and Erik D. Arbuthnot resulted in the determination that the burial was historic in nature and not the result of criminal activity. Exposure of the surrounding vicinity using a GENSTAR backhoe and operator exposed a small infant burial that was also partially recovered by coroner personnel. The areal exposure revealed the potential for up to seven additional graves to be present in the cemetery plot. The locations of both the discovered and possible additional burials were marked by lath with attached surveyor's tape, and exposed human and coffin remains were covered with plastic sheeting and plywood for protection. The cemetery locale was subsequently backfilled to prevent disturbance or looting of the property until a data recovery effort could be initiated.
At GENSTAR's request, Dr. Donn Grenda of SRI attended a site inspection on January 8, 1998. Following the investigation, GENSTAR determined that the burials should be removed and probably reinterred at an established mortuary park. SRI was contracted to complete the exhumation and related research activities. Field excavation efforts were conducted from 14-17 January 1998, while the related historic research and osteological analysis were completed by 5 February 1998. Transfer of recovered remains to GENSTAR was completed on 10 February 1998.
SRI's excavation program was designed to achieve the following objectives:
- Determine the extent of the cemetery plot;
- Establish individual grave locations within the areas marked as by County Coroner;
- Discover additional grave locations, if any; and
- Recover the human remains and associated materials located -within the graveyard and surrounding vicinity.
A combination of backhoe and hand excavation techniques were employed to address these goals.
SRI's backhoe excavation program proceeded from the efforts completed during the County Coroner's site inspection. A GENSTAR backhoe and operator were used during this effort. The base of the existing excavation was scraped using a backhoe with a 36-inch bucket equipped with a 48-inch-wide beveled metal bar welded across its teeth. This allowed the operator to cut a flat surface by drawing the bar across the excavation floor. Initially the earth covering the raves was scraped away until the plastic covering was exposed. The remainder of the earth in these locations was hand-excavated with shovels, and the plastic and plywood removed exposing the coroner's potential grave locations.
Following the completion of our excavations on January 17, the area was backfilled. Following exposure of the known interments, the backhoe was used to explore the surrounding area in an effort to locate additional graves. The chain link fence was removed and areas beyond its boundaries were investigated with negative results. The area north of the fence was not explored because the graveyard lay within a few meters of the edge of the historic pond depression, and this locale seemed too narrow to contain additional graves. The area on the southwest and northwest sides of the cemetery was flat and broad, and could have contained additional inhumations. The area upslope of the fenced enclosure was considered to have a high potential for human remains. A 2 by 3 by 1.5 m deep hole had been excavated in this upslope area within two meters of the fence prior to SRI's excavation program. According to local sources (see Attachment I), a metal coffin of a solder killed during World War II or the Korean War had been buried in the cemetery, and this hole may have resulted from an effort to relocate or remove the burial. A U-shaped area about S meters wide was excavated to a depth below the cemetery base level in an effort to find additional caskets, but none were located. At the completion of the backhoe excavations, five graves were located in the graveyard, one of which had been removed in its entirety by Coroner personnel. All burials were situated within the cemetery area demarcated by the chain link fence.
Five graves within the cemetery plot were hand-excavated using shovels, trowels, awls, whisk brooms, and paint brushes following standard archaeological procedures. Generally, each interment was isolated from the surrounding sterile soil by pedestaling the feature using the outline of the casket and/or outer box for boundary definition. The wooden lid of each coffin was carefully removed to reveal the skeleton and its surrounding matrix of dirt. The skeleton was then fully exposed using small hand tools. Following photography and videotaping of the exposed skeleton, the bones were removed and bagged, by burial provenience, together with the other materials associated with the grave. The soil matrix associated with each interment (including that within the coffin, immediately surrounding it, and beneath it) was screened through l/4-inch mesh hardware cloth to maximize the recovery of small bone, clothing remains, coffin hardware and ornamental pieces, and other items characterizing the burial. The material assemblage associated with each interment was photographed as a unit and inventoried. Due to the fragile nature of the wooden coffin and/or exterior box remains, it was not possible to collect all the wooden debris from each burial. The skeletal remains and material assemblages from each burial unit were placed in individual sealed boxes for transfer to GENSTAR.
One exception to these procedures occurred in the recovery of Burial PD-1. The disturbed fill surrounding the casket was screened through l/4-inch mesh, and bone and grave materials recovered and bagged. However, the intact portion of this infant interment was removed in bulk, transferred to the SRI Laboratory, and screened through 1/8-inch mesh due to the small size of the bones and the prevailing weather conditions. Information on the individual graves, their contents, and the condition of the skeletons recovered from each are described below.
Burial PD-1 comprised an infant interment of small dimension. Age was estimated at newborn to six months, but race and sex could not be determined (See Attachment 2). The easternmost burial in the cemetery plot, this interment stands apart from the others, separated by roughly twice the distance as that between the remaining graves. The casket had been placed within an outer box for burial, and this collapsed inward to immediately adjoin the coffin surfaces. The casket was roughly rectangular in shape, with rounded corners and a large glass viewplate set within the coffin lid. The feature was pedestaled and the profile exposed. Upon exposure, it was determined that the coffin collapsed into itself, compressing the thickness of the feature. The southwest corner of the coffin, however, remained primarily intact, which facilitated estimation of the coffin's approximate dimensions. The dimensions are as follows: width 14 inches, length 16 inches, height 8 inches. The collapsed portion of the feature was approximately 2.5 inches in height.
Burial PD-1 had been partially disturbed and the skeleton partially recovered during the coroner's field inspection. Fragments of decaying dressed wood and other prepared wood were recovered from the fill surrounding the feature, as was a single long bone. Also occurring in the fill were fragments of thin aqua glass and one piece of thicker amethyst glass. The aqua glass was derived from the view plate, which was set into the polished wood lid. The painted and varnished lid of the coffin was oval in form with a beveled edge and a raised section, also beveled, within which the view plate was framed. Protecting the viewplate was a separate oval-shaped wooden covering that had been painted and varnished similar to the rest of the lid.
Burial PD-1 was removed in bulk on the afternoon of 15 January 1998 due to an impending rainstorm. The burial and associated soil deposit was subsequently screened through 1/8-inch mesh hardware cloth at the SRI Laboratory in Redlands. The infant casket was highly decorated. Lid and casket ornamentation included a small metal bird and lamb, metal leaves, metal flowers ("rosettes"),and star shaped metal items. Other materials recovered include a casket handle, nails which appear to be square-cut, other nail fragments, and an ornamental knob.
Situated approximately 8-10 feet west of the infant interment, Burial PD-2 contained the skeletal remains of a male Caucasoid between 36 and 50 years in age and about 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 9 inches in height (See Attachment 2). Early exposure revealed a vague wooden outline, which comprised an outer box complete with a set of six, probably silver plate, hinged ornate handles. The outer box and casket were "mummy-shaped," and collapsed inward on all perimeters, so much so that the long profile of the intact coffin resembled a canoe. The outer box and casket surfaces were largely contiguous, but when separated, fill soil was no more than one inch thick. The wooden surface was sway-backed in appearance due to molding of the coffin lid into the formerly empty spaces surrounding the body. The outer box/casket measured 74.5 inches in length, 17.5 inches wide at the head, 20 inches wide at the shoulders, 16 incl1es wide at the mid-section, and 9 inches in width at the base or feet; the height was 14.5 inches. Measuring 2 by 2 by 16 inches each, four wooden stakes, possibly painted, were positioned two on either side of the coffin and approximately 62 inches apart on each side. These may have been used to stabilize the casket in preparation for burial.
After removal of the outer box wood, the casket lid was revealed and it appeared to have been painted and varnished. It was also decorated, as was the remainder of the casket, with small and large diamond-shaped metal ornaments. One interesting item was attached to the casket lid over the chest area. This ornament resembled a miniature calla lily bud or asymmetric candle holder in shape. Other items recovered from Burial PD-2 include six silver-plated knobs or ornaments, two glass buttons, nine small nails, and two large nails bent at right angles near the tip, similar to those recovered from Burial PD-3. These may be cut nails, but the degree of rusting made this determination impossible to reach.
The skeleton from Burial PD-2 was in good condition, although the bones were damp, soft and easily broken. The cranium was severely damaged prior to our excavations, with a large break on the right side, encompassing the face and part of the cranial vault; the fractures were probably caused by the weight of the soil overburden. The ribs were also highly fragmented, probably due to the same process. It appeared that all fragmentation was post-mortem.
The skeleton was placed on its back with the head facing to the left (east), which differed from the other adult bodies recovered (which faced straight ahead) The arms were positioned so that the humeri were at the sides of the body, with the forearms crossing at the waist. The legs were straight with the knees close together.
The lower limbs were very robust, with marked ligament attachments, particularly on the posterior femur. Large mastoid processes and a relatively large brow ridge were evident on the skeleton. The teeth were stained grey and had a translucent appearance, probably due to soil minerals. Many of the teeth, particularly the molars, broke from their roots and came loose during excavation. Because a paintbrush was being used, teeth loosening and displacement was probably the result of the generally soft nature of the bone. Both the face and the mandible were highly fragmentary. No pathologies were noted during the excavation.
Burial PD-3 was situated approximately 5 feet west of Burial PD-2. It contained the remains of a relatively short male Caucasoid between 21 and 28 years old and with an estimated stature of 4 feet 11 inches to 5 feet 2 inches (Attachment 2). The individual was buried in a plain rectangular box lacking handles and ornamental hardware. The coffin was approximately 71 inches long, 23 inches wide, and 13 inches deep. The wooden lid of the coffin had collapsed onto the skeleton, and the floor of the coffin was situated directly beneath. The lid was peeled back to expose the skeleton. The maxilla and skull were fragmented during exposure, but the rest of the skeleton remained articulated until recordation was complete and removal initiated. Materials recovered from the grave include coffin wood, bone, metal nails and a button, a safety pin; white glass buttons of two different sizes, and small textile fragments (one may be decorative). The coffin was assembled using large and small nails. Eight 2-inch nails were bent at right angles approximately 0.5 inch above the nail tip.
Oriented roughly northeast to southwest like the other burials, the skeleton was placed fully extended on its back with the arms folded over the midsection of the torso. The lower limbs had a "bow-legged" appearance due to being splayed at the knees, probably to accommodate placement of the individual within a box that was too short. The dentition was in very good shape with little wear and no noticeable sign of abrasion or caries. Missing teeth appear to have been lost post-mortem due to the lack of alveolar resorption. The cranium was very fragmentary, as was much of the pectoral girdle Whereas some of the cranial breakage may have occurred during excavation, fragmentation of the pectoral girdle may have been caused by the weight of the overburdened soil. The arms were largely complete, although the right forearm was not well preserved. No visible pathology was present in the skeletal areas examined.
Burial PD-4/6 contained the remains of a male Caucasoid over 40 years in age at death. Estimated stature of this individual is between S feet 4 inches and 5 feet 6 inches. Burial PD-6 is the provenience designation originally given by SRI to the adult skeleton removed by coroner personnel during the 7 January 1998 site assessment. The PD-4 designation was assigned by SRI during the February excavation program because it was an area littered with scattered coffin wood and some metal items (nails, casket ornaments and/or hardware) and demonstrated some potential for comprising a separate interment. Upon further examination, it was determined that PD-4 actually represented a disturbed deposit and was likely the spoil associated with the previously excavated Burial PD-6, which is situated immediately to the west. The two provenience designations were combined to PD-4/6 because only one interment was represented. Also supporting the idea that a single interment was represented is the fact that the ornamental hinged casket handles collected by the coroner from Burial PD-6 match those collected from the PD-4 locale by SRI, and, similarly, small metal cross ornaments, distinctly different from those associated with the other graves excavated, were collected by both the coroner and SRI.
The area excavated by coroner personnel to facilitate the removal of Burial PD-6 was 72 inches in length and roughly diamond-shaped in configuration, broad at the shoulders and tapering toward the feet. The coroner felt that this locale had been disturbed at some time in the past, possibly due to the activities of grave robbers. An articulated skeleton was not located, rather the coroner recovered scattered bone fragments, coffin handles, wood fragments, and four buttons. SRI completed additional excavations in this location and encountered two hinged handle fragments and metal casket ornaments.
The Burial PD-4/6 casket appears to have been highly decorated, and a religious theme was expressed by the ornaments. Recovered from this burial were 6 hinged metal handles, three with an ornamental cross attached, 16 small metal cross ornaments about 2 inches long, 4 large metal ornamental crosses approximately 3.5 inches long, additional cross fragments, and 7 ornamental items, possibly corner hardware, with small crosses on top. Six glass buttons and large and small round nails were also associated with this interment.
Burial PD-5 was the westernmost interment in the line of raves enclosed within the small cemetery plot. Situated about three feet west of the coroner's pit (Burial PD-6), it contained the remains of a male Caucasoid between the ages of 33 and 46. The man was estimated to be approximately 5 feel 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches in height (Attachment 2). A coffin handle exposed by the backhoe helped establish the location of the grave. The coffin was outlined by digging shallow trenches at its northern, southern, and eastern sides; the western side was situated next to a backhoe trench, and this wall was removed.
The casket had been placed within an outer box, rectangular in form and measuring 78 by 32 inches. The "mummy-shaped" casket was approximately 72 inches in length and 24 inches in height. The outer box collapsed inward to the perimeter of the casket on all surrounding surfaces. The coffin lid was painted a dark blue-green color (may have altered after burial), and situated over the torso area was a large, flat piece of metal shaped like a ribbon and embossed in large letters with "At Rest." Two sets of handles were collected during the excavation, one for the outer box and the other for the casket. The outer set (6) appeared to be painted steel, while the inner set were either silver or silver plated, and very ornate. Additional ornaments were found in association and these include eight metal casket "feet" and flat, crown-shaped metal items. Three white glass buttons, a metal collar stud, and textile fragments were also recovered from the grave. The casket and outer box were constructed using wire nails, and screws.
Fully exposed within the casket and generally well preserved, the skeleton was positioned fully extended on its back with the arms crossed. The left arm was folded across the waist, and the right arm extended over the pelvis. Considerable post-mortem breakage to the ribs and pectoral girdle was evident. Pathology in the lower thoracic vertebrae in the form of arthritic lipping was noted. The teeth showed a fair amount of wear, particularly on the incisors, especially those of the mandible. This may have been caused by pipe smoking, as the wear is considerably greater than that seen on the molars. The upper left lateral incisor had a large caries along the gum line; the adjacent area on the canine also was decayed. One tooth (either p4 or m1) on the right side of the mandible was lost before death, with full alveolar resorption, and the surrounding teeth beginning to move towards each other. It also appears that both lower m3 were absent; based on the proximity of m2 to the ascending ramus. Of particular interest was the degree of preservation present in the hands. Most of the bones had traces of adhering soft-tissue, and several of the phalanges remained well-covered; two fingers retained articulated elements. The cranium was too fragmentary to assess.
SRI conducted archival research and oral interviews relative to the small cemetery plot. The primary goals of this research effort were to determine which individuals were likely interred in the fenced graveyard, and the period of time when the burial plot was used. As discussed in Attachment 1, the graveyard containing the human remains was situated on the historic Lazy Z Ranch, a property originally settled by the colorful William Willoby Jenkins.
OSTEOLOGICAL ANALYSIS FINDINGS
Osteological analysis was completed to determine, to the extent possible, the sex, race, ac. and stature of the individuals interred in the graveyard. It was hoped that correlations between the historic record and the physical remains could be made with the result being that actual individuals would be identified by name and approximate date of burial. However, this was not the case. The osteological study also identified the bones recovered from each burial, and this information is provided in Attachment 2. The result of the osteological analysis are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Osteological Findings for Five Historic Burials.
The age of this grave is unknown at this time; however, according to Little et al. (1992), coffins with glass viewing plates first appeared in 1848 in the eastern U.S.; one would expect some lag-time prior to their appearance on the west coast, suggesting that this grave dates no earlier than the 1850s.
MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
SRI was not involved in the GENSTAR project until the human remains were discovered during grading, and is therefore unaware of the review process undertaken by GENSTAR to achieve compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In terms of the CEQA process, GENSTAR filed a Negative Declaration for the project with the County of Los Angeles, affirming that the proposed housing development did not demonstrate the potential to have significant impacts on the environment, including archaeological and cultural resources.
CEQA Appendix K, Archaeological Impacts, defines the actions to be taken when human remains are found in a location other than a dedicated cemetery. Section VIII, "Discovery of Human Remains," Part A directs that no further excavation or disturbance of the site or nearby area should occur until the County Coroner is informed and a determination is made concerning the need to undertake a cause of death investigation. Section V111 continues with specific directions for the treatment of Native American remains discovered during project development, but does not address the treatment of non-native human remains.
GENSTAR adhered to the requirements of CEQA Appendix K by directing work away from the sensitive area until the coroner determined (1) that a cause of death investigation was not required and (2) that the human remains were not Native American in origin. Construction work did not proceed in the cemetery area until SRI recovered the human remains and associated grave materials, and the area was backfilled. While not a regulatory requirement, a Native American monitor (Chumash), Mr. Randy Folks, volunteered to observe the excavation program. He was present onsite for three days, missing only the last day of fieldwork. No Native American artifacts or human remains were uncovered during the excavation program. Because CEQA does not address the disposition of non-native human remains, GENSTAR fully addressed CEQA requirements relative to the discovery of human remains in the project area. No further CEQA compliance actions are required.
The following alternatives are presented and analyzed to assist GENSTAR in the disposition of the five burial units in their possession:
- Return the recovered remains to relatives or descendants of the deceased.
- Rebury the remains in an area of the proposed development that will not be disturbed.
- Rebury the remains in an established cemetery.
Option 1 does not appear to be a viable alternative: very little could be determined about the identities of the four adult males and one infant. William Willoby Jenkins was probably cremated in Los Angeles in 1919, and his remains were not present in the graveyard. It is likely that at least one Jenkins relative was buried there, however, because Jenkins' daughter, June Kinler, continued to visit the plot after the Lazy Z Ranch was sold to The Newhall Land and Farming Company in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Currently, no members of the Jenkins family reside in the area, and other relatives could not be located.
Option 2 has some merit, but reburial of the remains elsewhere within the project area does present drawbacks. Once the housing development is completed, GENSTAR cannot control where homeowners are likely to excavate or even if planned "open space" locations will be maintained in perpetuity. A second discovery situatiol1 involving the same materials sometime in the future is a situation to be avoided to the maximum degree possible.
Option 3, reburial of the remains in an established cemetery, is recommended to GENSTAR as the most responsible alternative presented, and one that provides the least impact on the completion and marketing of the housing development. Implementation of this option will assure that the human remains will not be disturbed sometime in the future, a situation that is generally prohibited by California Health and Safety Code. Reburial in an established cemetery follows through witl1 the treatment of respect and dignity provided the remains when they were initially interred in the graveyard. Additionally, should relatives of the deceased be located, the reburial site could be visited and/or the remains claimed.
GENSTAR reviewed the above options and indicated that Option 3 will probably be implemented. The Eternal Valley Memorial Park in the Santa Clarita vicinity has been identified by GENSTAR as the probable location for reburial of the human remains and associated grave goods recovered from the Lazy Z Ranch graveyard.
1980. Simpson Springs Station: Historical Archaeology in Western Utah. Cultural Resource Series 6. Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Office Salt Lake City.
Little, B.J., K.M. Lanphear, and D.W. Owsley
1992. Mortuary Display and Status in a Nineteenth Century Anglo-American Cemetery in Manasses, Virginia. American Antiquity 57:397-418.
Myhrer, K, W.G. White, and S. Rolf
1990. Archaeology of the Old Spanish Trail/Mormon Road: From Las Vegas to the California Border. Contributions to the Study of Cultural Resources Technical Report 7. Bureau of Land Management, Reno, Nevada.
Castaic Historic Data Recovery Archival Research — Results
Matt C. Bischoff
According to local tradition, the land surrounding the current Genstar housing development was settled by William Willoby Jenkins in the late nineteenth century. According to local residents and those familiar with the history of the area, the recovered graves are those of the Jenkins family, whose descendants remained on the property until the 1960s. Some locals claim that one of the burials is that of Mr. Jenkins himself. Local lore maintains that Mr. Jenkins was killed in 1916, the result of gunplay. This same local lore claims that Jenkins was a "rough and tumble" horse breeder, oilman, poker player, land speculator, and swindler. Jenkins was reportedly a member of the California Rangers, a vigilante law-enforcement unit operating in the Los Angeles area in the 1850s. It was another similar group, of which Jenkins was a member, that was credited with capturing the infamous outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez. Several stories exist, including one that describes Jenkins, who upon hearing of government programs allowing swampland to be acquired cheaply and easily when surveyed by boat, mounted a boat on wheels and surveyed land surrounding the current project area. The land that he acquired through the years became known as the Lazy Z Ranch (Worden 1998).
Adding to the richness of the Jenkins lore, stories of a feud between the Jenkins and neighboring families, the Chormicles and Roses, are described by local historians. The feud, which lasted for several years, resulted in a Hatfield and McCoy kind of story, complete with shootings, barn burnings, and ambushes, which left 22 dead. The affair was allegedly begun over a disagreement concerning a parcel of land in 1890, and Jenkins's death was one of its results. According to the story, when herding cattle into Charlie Canyon one day in 1916, Jenkins was shot by Billy Rose, who was also running cattle in the area (Rock 1998:A1). [Webmaster's note: The shooting occurred in 1913. Jenkins survived.]
The violent death of William W. Jenkins is affirmed by most local residents of the Castaic area. Mrs. Donna Chesebrough, who grew up in the area, recalled that her grandmother, Rosa Cordova, testified on behalf of Billy Rose during his trial for the shooting of Jenkins. According to many, Jenkins was subsequently buried in the small cemetery following his death (Donna Chesebrough, personal communication 1998). This version conflicts directly with a 1919 obituary notice found in the Los Angeles Times, which is referenced below. There is a possibility that Mr. Jenkins was, indeed shot as described in the local lore, but he may not have died immediately from his wounds. He may, in fact, have survived the gun battle only to die later in Los Angeles, as described in this obituary. (Newmark and Newmark [1930:76, 655] mention another William W. Jenkins in southern California, but apparently he "left for Arizona ... where he lead an adventurous life" and died on October 19, 1916.)
In 1856, W.W. Jenkins was living in Los Angeles and serving as a deputy constable, when he was ordered to attach the property of a Mexican named Antonio Ruiz. Ruiz resisted the action, and as a result, was shot by Jenkins. The shooting resulted in a near riot by members of the Mexican community of Los Angeles, who attempted to reach Jenkins. Jenkins was put in jail for his own protection, and eventually placed on trial. Jenkins, therefore, was certainly living in Los Angeles proper during the 1850s, and not in the Castaic area. A few years later, Jenkins was described as a "refugee of Los Angeles," although it is not clear where he was living at the time. Apparently, Jenkins was accused of burglary in Los Angeles, and fled to Mexico. From Mexico, he was pursued back into California. According to the author of the diary from which this information was obtained, Jenkins was sought in revenge for his killing of Ruiz (Hayes 1929:109 [Note 5]). Jenkins's primary residence through the 1860s appears to have been Los Angeles.
Documentary records confirm that Mr. Jenkins was living in the Los Angeles area from the 1850s through the late 1870s. Jenkins was active in the purchase and sale of land, and most of the deeds attributed to him are located in Los Angeles during this period. Sources indicate that Jenkins may have been active in the Castaic area as early as the late 1860s, establishing an oil well in Pico Canyon in 1869. Jenkins apparently staked a claim on Castaic Creek in 1872, although he did not settle on the property until 1878, when he married his second wife, Olive Rhoades. The first deed attributable to Jenkins in the Castaic area dates from 1875, and involves the sale of water rights to the Castaic Water District Placer Mining Company. Clearly, therefore, Jenkins owned property in the region prior to this date, and it is possible that he was living in the region prior to 1878. He was quite active in the buying and selling of mining claims and rights in the Castaic region, and may have lived in the area. Jenkins continually added to his holdings in the region throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, purchasing land, water, and mining claims from several entities (Reynolds 1992).
According to materials in the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Jenkins settled down in the area in 1887. It was at this time that he married Olive Rhoades and began raising horses for his longtime associates Baldwin, Workman, and Temple (Reynolds 1989).
Research performed at the Los Angeles County Assessor's office indicates that Jenkins owned, at the turn of the century, the property that contains the graves. Unfortunately, the assessor's map book dating prior to 1900 were destroyed, and could not be consulted. Following Jenkins's death, the owner of the parcel is listed as Olive Jenkins (his widow), and later, June Kinler (one of his daughters), and Alexander Hanna. By 1961, the land was owned by The Newhall Land and Farming Company (Los Angeles County Assessor). June (Jenkins) Kinler was one of Jenkins's daughters by Olive Rhoades, and the other was named Anita Ruby (Jenkins) Kellogg (see Reynolds 1992). These two daughters have since passed away and are buried in the area although certainly not in the recovered cemetery (Margaret Coker, personal communication 1998).
There were several other families living in close proximity to the Jenkins property. According to the 1905 Los Angeles County Assessor's map, William Chormicle is listed as the owner of the northern portion of Section 24, in Township 5 North Range 17 West, while Jenkins owned the lower portion of the section. Jenkins at one time claimed that land upon which Chormicle had settled with a hastily built cabin, was actually his (Jenkins's) property. The dispute, which flared up in 1890, resulted in Jenkins sending two of his men, George Walton and Dolores Cook, over to remove Chormicle from the property. In the ensuing gunfight, both Walton and Cook were killed. Chormicle was placed on trial for murder and was soon thereafter acquitted. The feud continued on and off until the mid-1910s, when Jenkins was supposedly killed (Los Angeles Times 29 January 1989:4).
According to local residents of the Castaic area (one of whom comes from a family who has lived in the area for over three generations), the land comprising the burial plot was always remembered as "the Jenkins place" (Donna Chesebrough, personal communication 1998). Bill Kinler and his wife June lived on the property through the 1950s, until it was sold to The Newhall Land and Farming Company in the early 1960s. In the recent past (1960s) the gravesite was enclosed by a small chain-link fence, likely put up by The Newhall Land and Farming Company. An earlier fence was remembered by local resident Donna Chesebrough, who grew up in the area. This earlier fence was of a different shape than the later chain link one and had a small gate on one end, which was approximately 3 feet tall. Within the burial plot, Mrs. Chesebrough (personal communication 1998) recalls seeing pieces of wood, and these may have been original grave markers.
Ms. Gloria Mercado, whose family leased land that encompassed the burial plot, recalls a great deal regarding the old cemetery. Apparently, the Mercado family was close to the Kinlers, who at one time owned the plot. The Kinlers sold the land that had at one time been Jenkins's Lazy Z Ranch to The Newhall Land and Farming Company in the 1950s. In turn, the Mercado family leased a portion of the land from The Newhall Land and Farming Company. At that time (late 1950s), the Mercados lived in the original Jenkins ranch house, which according to Gloria was built sometime in the late 1860s. The Kinlers had an agreement with the Mercados to allow them access to the land to visit the cemetery, as the plot was Mrs. Kinler's family cemetery. The Kinlers even buried their son, who was killed in World War II, in the family plot (although he was eventually moved to another location). The Mercado family took care of the plot, mowing the grass occasionally and placing flowers on the graves. Gloria recalls seeing several, simple wooden crosses marking the graves, which numbered between 5 and 10. Sometime in the 1950s, an employee of The Newhall Land and Farming Company installed a fence around the plot in order to keep cattle off the graves (Gloria Mercado, personal communication 1998).
The much-talked-about shootout between the Jenkins and Chormicle clans apparently took place on the Jenkins Ranch. According to many, however, those that were killed in the gunplay were not buried in the Jenkins family plot (Gloria Mercado, personal communication 1998).
It must be remembered that in frontier environments (which Castaic certainly was in the late 1800s), the burial of the dead was usually accomplished in relatively small, family-owned graveyards. These family cemeteries would generally be on an isolated portion of the family's property, and each grave would be marked in a simple way. As communities grew, burials were increasingly accomplished in communal cemeteries, where family members would pay to inter their deceased relatives. These public (or private) cemeteries would generally have associated written records that indicated who was buried in a given plot. Family plots, such as the one recovered at Castaic, rarely have associated records, except for those maintained by members of the family.
It is doubtful that William W. Jenkins is actually buried in one of the recovered graves. An obituary in the Los Angeles Times dated October 20, 1919, indicated that Mr. William W. Jenkins had died in Los Angles the prior day. The obituary maintained that Jenkins was visiting relatives in the city when he became suddenly ill and died. A funeral was to be held on Saturday, and the body was to be cremated at the Brown and Company Undertaking Chapel in Los Angeles. Mr. Jenkins, the article stated, was born in Circleville, Ohio, in 1835, and made his way to California in 1858, where he served as an undersheriff and as a California Ranger. Late in his life, the obituary notes that Mr. Jenkins became a rancher and owned extensive property in the Castaic Canyon, where he was residing upon his death. He was survived by a widow and four children: Charles and Lee Jenkins of Los Angeles, Mrs. Charles Kellog[g?; see below] of Saugus, and Mrs. June Owens [later Kinler?] of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times 20 October 1919). Official death records at the Los Angeles County Recorder's Office were consulted. Unfortunately, no death certificate could be located for Mr. William Jenkins. Death records for several individuals with the name Jenkins were found, although it was not always possible to determine if they were from the same family as William W.
As a result of the current research, it is believed that the recovered cemetery does, indeed contain the remains of some of the Jenkins family. It is unlikely, however, that Mr. Jenkins himself is buried there. Jenkins's second wife, Olive, passed away in the 1950s, and is also not likely one of those interred in the cemetery. The two daughters, June and Anita Ruby, were also not interred in the cemetery. It is possible that the child (children) interred in the graves were those of W.W. Jenkins and either his first wife, Jenny, or his second wife, Olive. The other members of the graveyard, being all male, may be ranch hands that worked for Mr. Jenkins, and may even represent some of those killed during the infamous Jenkins-Chormicle feuds. If there are ranch hands buried in the plot, there are also likely to be Jenkins family members in the cemetery, otherwise a descendant (June) would have had no reason to return to visit the plot.
Los Angeles County Recorder's Office, Real Estate Records, Norwalk
Los Angeles County Assessor's Office, Map Books, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Public Library, History and Genealogy Room, Los Angeles
South Central Coastal Information Center, Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles
Death Records, City and County of Los Angeles 1890-1925
Los Angeles County Assessor Map Books 1900-1996
Records of Deeds, Los Angeles Recorder's Office
USGS Maps of Castaic area, 1902, 1937 1941
South Central Coastal Archaeological Information Center Files
Mr. Dean Gilmore, Los Angeles County Coroner
Ms. Margaret Coker, Santa Clarita
Mr. Paul Spitzerri, Homestead Museum, Los Angeles
Mr. Scott Glover, Los Angeles Times
Mr. Steve Padilla, Los Angeles Times
Ms. Pat Clark Doerner, Ojai
Mr. Leon Worden, Santa Clarita
Ms. Carol Rock, Santa Clarita Signal
Mrs. Donna Chesebrough, Castaic
Mr. Paul Kreutzer, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society
Ms. Gloria Mercado, Santa Clarita
Mr. Phillip Scorza, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society
Hayes, Judge Benjamin
1929. Pioneer Notes from the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes. Privately printed, Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Times
1919. Obituary of William W. Jenkins. 20 October.
1989. Gaudy Days of Castaic's Great Range War. 29 January.
Newmark, Maurice H., and Marco R. Newmark
1930. Sixty Years in Southern California l853-1913, Containing the Reminiscences of Harris Newmark. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
Reynolds, Gerald G.
1992. Santa Clarita: Valley of the Golden Dream: An Illustrated History. World of Communications, n.l.
1989. Happy Birthday Castaic! Santa Clarita Valley Historical Times 14(3). Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Santa Clarita.
1998. Graveyard of Pioneers Discovered. The Signal [Santa Clarita] 9 January: Al, A4.
1998. The Bones of the Baron of Castaic. The Signal [Santa Clarita] 9 January:Opinion.
Osteological Analysis — Castaic Cemetery
Deborah W. Gray
The following is a basic ostcological analysis of five historic burials. These burials were recovered from a property underdevelopment by Genstar Inc., Castaic, Los Angeles County by Statistical Research, Inc. The burials, numbered PD#1, PD#2, PD#3, PD#4/6, PD#5, were examined on January 28, 1998 at the Statistical Research lab located in Redlands. The analysis consisted of an evaluation of each burial for bones present, sex, age, race, and stature. Time since death is generalized as historic.
||Newborn to 6 months, based on long bone length and lack of tooth eruption (Bass 1995).
||Information relevant to sex and race are best determined from DNA at this stage of growth. Material present is indicated below [diagram on file].
||Male; narrow pubic body, narrow subpubic angle (Suchey-Brooks 1990).
||36-50; Endocranial sutures closed 36+, no vertebral lipping (Baker 1984).
||Caucasoid, includes Hispanic (Giles and Elliot 1962).
||5'6 to 5'9; Humerus maximum length 31 cm, 3.08 (31.0)+70.45 +/- 4.05 (Trotter 1970).
|| Material present is indicated below [diagram on file].
||Male; narrow pubic body, narrow subpubic angle (Suchey-Brooks 1990).
||21-28; Pubis Phase III — 21-46, Rib Phase 2, 20-2 (5uchey-Brooks 1990, Yasar et al. 1984).
||Caucasoid, includes Hispanic (Giles and Elliot 1962).
||4'11 to 5'2; Femur maximum length 39cm, 2.3 (39.0)+61.41 +/- 3.27 (Trotter 1970).
|| Material present is indicated below [diagram on file].
||Male; femoral head, maximum diameter 44 (Jantz and Moore-Jansen 1988).
||40+; based on mandibular resorption (Wyler: personal observation).
||Caucasoid, includes Hispanic (Giles and Elliot 1962).
||5'4 to 5'6; Femur maximum length 43.5cm, 2.3 (43.5)+61.41 +/- 3.27 (Trotter 1970).
|| Material present is indicated below [diagram on file]. These remains were excavated by Genstar staff and are extremely fragmented.
||Male; narrow pubic body, narrow subpubic angle (Suchey-Brooks 1990).
||33-46; Pubic Phase IV — 23-57, Rib Phase 5, 34-46 (Suchey-Brooks 1990, Yasar et al. 1984).
||Caucasoid, includes Hispanic (Giles and Elliot 1962).
||5'7 to 5'9; Femur maximum length 47cm, 2.3 (47.0)+61.41 +/- 3.27 (Trotter 1970).
|| Material present is indicated below [diagram on file]. Spina bifida, expoure of the sacral canal was noted on this individual. This condition is congenital, but is not considered as a contributing factor to cause of death.
These burials were presumed to represent the Jenkins family burial plot. However, the mortuary demographics indicate an alternative theory. With the exception of the infant, all the remains present are adult males. The coffins include two styles, shouldered and rectangular. The latter, first introduced in 1862, evolved into the modern rectangular casket. This series of burials may belong to a small plot set aside for ranch hands or caretaker of the Jenkins Ranch. It's possible that if a Jenkins family plot exists it may lie upslope.
Deborah W. Gray, M.A.
Research Specialty: Biological Anthropology
Douglas L. Wyler D.D.S., M.F.S.
Research Specialty: Biological Anthropology
INVENTORY OF RECOVERED GRAVE REMAINS
Burial PD-l Box Inventory
1 small metal knob
4 ornamental metal leafs
1 metal ornament with a star on top
9 small ornamental metal flowers
1 small metal handle with a lamb on top
1 small plastic bag with aqua and purple glass
1 small metal ornament with bird on top
4 3-inch square cut nails
8 miscellaneous nail fragments
Burial PD-2 Box Inventory
6 silver or silver-plated handles
4 silver or silver-plated knobs or ornaments
5 ornamental metal flowers
1 metal "calla lily" ornament
2 glass buttons
16 diamond shaped metal pieces and assorted small metal pieces
2 cut nails, bent on the bottom
9 small cut nails
3 large diamond shaped metal decorative pieces
Burial PD-3 Box Inventory
1 safety pin (in two pieces)
1 piece of fabric attached to wood
1 metal button
2 glass buttons (1 large, 1 small)
8 2-inch nails bent at the end
18 small nails
18 large nails
Burial PD-4/6 Box Inventory
1 nail fragment
1 3.75-inch nail
1 broken decorative metal fragment
1 small ornamental metal handle with cross
2 pieces of metal handle
5 pieces of metal cross
1 whole metal cross (bent)
Burial PD-5 Box Inventory
6 metal handles possibly from crate
6 small ornamental metal knobs or handles
1 small metal knob stamped "100" on the back.
8 small metal coffin feet
6 silver or silver-plated coffin handles
1 small ornamental metal piece stamped "At Rest"
68 2.5-inch wire nails
2 3.5-inch wire nails
32 1 .75-inch nails wit
h bent tip
2 2-inch screws
1 R5-inch screw
3 broken buttons
1 small bag of fabric fragments
2 bags of coffin wood.
Note: Inventoried materials were boxed by burial designation and transferred to GENSTAR personnel for reburial at a mortuary park in the vicinity of Santa Clarita, California.