A small Sonora fraternal club is seeking the community’s help to clean up one of Tuolumne County’s oldest cemeteries, which has fallen into disrepair due to repeated acts of vandalism and a lack of resources for ongoing maintenance.
A gravesite is being restored at Odd Fellows Cemetery on West Lytton Street in Sonora. Jesse Jones / Union Democrat, Copyright 2014.
The Sonora lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows will host a “clean-up day” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 3 at the historic Odd Fellow Cemetery at 115 W. Lytton St. in downtown Sonora.
Volunteers at the event can also sign up for the organization’s new Adopt-a-Grave program to help with future upkeep and maintenance on one of the cemetery’s 254 grave plots.
The cemetery, established in 1856, serves as the final resting place for a number of the community’s founding members and notable residents. Headstones bear the names of many pioneer families, including Dambacher, Stoddart, Curnow and Symons, to name a few.
Perhaps the cemetery’s most famous grave belongs to Sonora native and renowned San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli, buried in 1996.
Past issues with vandalism and littering compounded by a general lack of manpower and revenue have made it difficult for the Sonora Odd Fellows to keep up with all the work needed at the cemetery. Only seven members are active in the Sonora lodge, down from more than 200 at its peak during the late 19th century.
For the complete story, see the April 16, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.