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Familiar Names at Cieneguitas Cemetery

Mexican War and Civil War Veterans Buried in Noleta


A reader sent me a great study by Neal P. Graffy, written in March 2001, called “The History of the Cieneguitas Cemetery.” The burial ground is also known as La Patera Cemetery, due to its location (but not to be confused with the current La Patera Cemetery), and “Old Catholic Cemetery” due to its administration by the Franciscan fathers.

According to Graffy, the graveyard in the Santa Barbara area following the arrival of the Spanish was located at El Presidio, founded in 1782, followed by the Riviera Cemetery, on the lower Eastside of the city, in or about 1846. Then, in 1870, a Catholic cemetery was established on the edge of the foothills above the town, where the St. Francis Hospital was later built. The Cieneguitas Cemetery followed in 1875, and Calvary, the one on Hope Avenue, in 1896. Cavalry is the only one that’s still open.

Cieneguitas in Spanish means little swamps, and Graffy described the area as “an impenetrable jungle of small trees, brush, vines, ooze, flags, and swamp grass.” Way different than what it is now. Many of those interred at Cieneguitas were transferred to Calvary. It wasn’t until I had lived in Goleta for several years that I even became aware of Cieneguitas Cemetery, located in what’s commonly known now as Noleta, near the 4400 block of Hollister Avenue, right behind the County Coroner’s Office.

The particularly interesting thing about it is that it is one of the locations where veterans of the Mexican War and Civil War were buried.

It is important to mention that a study done by Edson T. Strobridge says that “the State of California, being located so far away from the more active scenes of the Civil War, was not called on to furnish troops for immediate service against Confederate soldiers, and no quota was assigned to it … Nonetheless, war calls were eventually made upon the state for several regiments and battalions which totaled more than 16,000 men (plus the 500 men who enlisted in 1862 and became a part of the quota for the state of Massachusetts) and ultimately became a part of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry. With the exception of those who enlisted for Massachusetts, the California forces took no part in any of the great battles of the Civil War.”

Some of the names—most of which belonged to members of the First Battalion Native California Cavalry Company C—that you’ll see in the following list, compiled by Strobridge, who is from San Luis Obispo, on December 8, 1998, may also belong to ancestors of present residents whose families have been in the area for more than a century.

The following entries were originally made in Spanish. I’ve included the page number where they can be found in the Death Book, to make it easier for you to look them up for yourself.

Manuel German, 45 years of age, buried February 18, 1874 (p. 3)

Felipe Badillo, 56, buried July 23, 1884 (p. 8)

Vicente Ordaz, 52, buried May 21, 1879 (p. 39)

Antonio Maria de la Guerra, 66, buried January 29, 1881 (p. 53)

Bernardino Lopez, 65, buried January 10, 1884 (p. 65)

Antonio Rodriguez, 70, buried January 4, 1887 (p. 82)

Jesus Soto, 43, buried February 19, 1887 (p. 83)

Lino Ruiz, 40, buried November 8, 1887 (reinterred at Cavalry) (p. 88)

Clemente Espinosa, 42, buried January 16, 1888 (reinterred at Cavalry) (p. 90)

Francisco Cordero, 78, buried January 6, 1889 (p. 96)

Miguel Pico, 48, buried January 21, 1890 (p. 103)

Pablo Valencia, 68, buried July 13, 1891 (p. 112)

Jose de Jesus Cordero, about 60, buried December 14, 1891 (p. 113)

Jose Maria Ayala, 61, buried January 22, 1892 (p. 114)

Jose Maria Garcia, 57, buried August 3, 1892 (p. 117)

Juan Scolan (John Scollan) , 72, buried August 25, 1892 (p. 118)

Jose Rufino Leiva, 62, buried May 22, 1893 (p. 112)

Narciso Valencia, 48, buried November 3, 1893 (p. 124)

Jose Maria Valenzuela, 70, buried February 6, 1894 (p. 125)

Ismael Soto, 53, buried February 10, 1895 (p. 133)

Juan Ygnacio Valencia, 72, buried September 26, 1895 (p. 138)

It was not until October 23, 1895, in Death Book #2, that the entries are made in English rather than Spanish:

Jose Salvador Valdez, 70, buried November 17, 1895 (“in Catholic Cemetery”) (p. 139)

Nicolos Orellana, about 76, buried February 6, 1896 (“native of Chile, interred in Catholic Cemetery”) (p. 141)

And the following entry marks the first burial in the new Calvary Cemetery, at 199 North Hope Avenue:

John C. Kays, 83, buried September 2, 1896 (“native of Ireland”) (p. 144)

The Cieneguitas Cemetery is definitely a trip back into our history. If you decide to visit, you’ll see pieces of sandstone that once made up a base for a headstone, or, perhaps, curbed the edge of a single or family plot.

I encourage everyone to contact me at transilpro@gmail.com with any topics about which you would like me to write in the future.

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