The Ecphorizer

Quiet Reflections
Gary Harris

Issue #30 (February 1984)


While visiting the gold rush country in and near Jackson, Cal. during the recent Ecphorizer Gathering, I had an opportunity to see not only the Jackson of today, but also Jackson as it existed at various times since gold was first discovered at nearby Sutter's Creek in 1848.

[quoteright'/>I did this by visiting local cemeteries, reading and reflecting on the grave markers and the stories told by them. The first of which was the local Catholic Cemetery. This cemetery looked very old and was about average in terms of upkeep compared with other cemeteries that I have visited. What impressed me here was the fact that the gold rush attracted people from all over the world, not just Americans following the dictum "Go West, young man."

For example, Henry Campbell, (d. 12/14/1901 at age 70) a native of Co. Arniagh, Ireland; Raymond Plasse, (d. 2/25/1892 at age 64) a native of Lyon, France; John Bales, (d. 2/1/1880 at age 34) a native of South America; Jacob Griesbach, (b. 9/11/1807, d. 1/27/1887) a native of Prussia; and Joseph Brignoli, (d. 4/10/1904) a native of Borgonovo, Italy. This is not to say that the American-born did not also come, such as James Porter (d. 5/30/1882 at age 63) from Meadeville, Pa. and Thomas M. Pawling (d. 1/21/1877 at age 50) from Philadelphia, Pa. (Mr. Pawling's grave marker prominently informs one that he was the late judge of Amador County.)

However, if one were to judge by cemetery populations alone, the primary source of immigrants to Jackson during the gold rush was Italy. Names such as Forni, Datzman, Digitale, Busi and Sanguinetti are far more prevalent than the Smiths and the Jonses.

I could not help but wonder what sort of epidemic went through the Jackson area during 1877 as there were several graves of children ranging in age from 6 months to 9 years that showed they had died in the summer and autumn of that year. Typical were the side by side graves of Lolita (d. 10/3/1877 at age 6 yrs, 3 days) and Eveline (d. 10/11/1877 at age 3 yrs, 5 months) Littlefield. Imagine the anguish of a community that loses almost half a generation of its youth in a single year.

But disasters do not happen only to children. There is a mass grave in this cemetery that commemorates the Argonaut Mine fire of 8/28/1922. I list the names here because they probably have never been listed outside the Amador County area and they show who were the laborers of the third and forth generations. Peter Bagoye, Rafaelo Baldocchi, Dominego Boleri, Eugene Buscaglia, John Gaminada, Peter Cavaglieri, Manuel Costa, Paul Delonga, A. Fazzini, V. Fideli, Simone Francisconi, Battista Gamboni, Timothy Garcia, Maurice Gianetti, Giuseppi Giorza, Lucio Gonzales, brothers Antonio and Luis Leon, Battista Manachino, Pio Oliva, Emanuel Olobardi, Aldino Piagneri, Giovanaria Ruzzi, Domenico Simondi, George Steinman, Daniele Villa and Caesare Zanardi all lost their lives in this one tragic event.

As an item of interest to all readers of the comics in the daily newspaper, before leaving this cemetery I chanced upon the grave of Mary Worth. This Ms. Worth (d. 4/30/1889 at age 87 yrs, 11 months) may not be the one that served as the inspiration for the comic strip, but she certainly lived a full life for her time.

The Catholic cemetery is not the only cemetery in Jackson. In the front of a very picturesque white church, on a hillside that can be seen from the main highway entering Jackson, is the cemetery of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In fact, this very nicely kept church and cemetery are noted as being the first Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States. A very prominent grave is that of the Very Reverend Archmandrite Sebastian Dabovich, first adminstrator of the Serbian Church in America.

Many of the grave markers in this cemetery are written in Slavonic, using the Cyrillic alphabet. The family names and places of origin are discernable to anyone with a smattering of either Russian or Greek. Names such as Ambulia, Pobor, Tusup, Gigovich, Bryovich, Curich, Ivezic, Spremo, Andrich, Pejovich, Maksimovic and Jovicich are to be seen (and not a single Smith or Jones anywhere.) Place names ranging through present day Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary are well represented. An example is the Gacanich family who came here from Boka Kotorska (Yugoslavia today). Acim Gacanich (b. 4/20/1873, d. 9/27/1921), from the city of Mokrine, married Mile (b. 9/15/1880, d. 11/10/1967), from the city of Zeieolka. One of their two children, Marie, died at age 1 year in Sacramento, Ca., while the other, John, died in Seattle in 1978 at the age of 68.

I wonder what tragedy may have befallen Alexander and Elizabeth Boehtlingk, who both died in November, 1947. I also can imagine the anguish of Ms. Vujovich, who saw her husband Milajlo (b. 11/18/1888, d. 8/27/1922) die six months before the birth of their son Michalov (b. 3/5/1923, d. 2/24/1924) and then watched her son die before his first birthday.

But the immigrant families represented in this cemetery contributed more than labor to their new home country. For example, Daniel Dragolovich, (d. 1/18/1934), a private in the 3rd Demobilization Camp during WW I, or Ilija Sjeklocha, (b. 1888, d. 1975), a veteran of three wars, or Branko Naumovich, (b. 1895, d. 1972) an Air Force General. And the immigrants were more than soldiers, as the grave marker of Radomir Stijovic (b. 1920, d. 1977) indicates that he was a nuclear scientist.

I am certain that there are other cemeteries in the Jackson area with other stories to tell, just as I am certain that the stories told by the cemeteries that I visited may have been blurred by time. Maybe the next time I am in Jackson I will learn more, or maybe the next time you are in Jackson or anywhere else you can use your own imagination to understand your world a little more. 

Contributor Profile

Gary Harris

Computerist and Dungeon-master Gary Harris counts as one of his acievments trading Ohio tornados for California earthquakes in 1972. He once held the Mensa office of Chief Hobbit.




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