Grave Markers

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Grave marker GLGM29 recovered from Evergreen Cemetery.  (Courtesy of Chinese Historical Society of Southern California).
Grave marker GLGM29 recovered from Evergreen Cemetery. (Courtesy of Chinese Historical Society of Southern California).

The Chinese Historical Society of Southern California holds a collection of over sixty grave markers from the Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. The markers date back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The gravestones belonged to the deceased inhabitants of Old Chinatown in Los Angeles and were located on the east side of Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. The pieces range in length from 8 inches to over two feet and are made of white marble with gray striations. Most of the markers have an engraved general description in Chinese characters of the deceased person’s name, place of origin, and date of death. 

In what was referred to as a Potter’s Field, Chinese Americans were segregated from the rest of the population and were required to pay $10 ($195 in today’s currency) to bury their dead, while the rest of the population could bury impoverished individuals at no cost. By 1924, there was little room left in the indigent cemetery and the Evergreen Crematorium began burning the rest of the unclaimed bodies. The grave markers that were left over from disinterment, along with other forgotten graves, were eventually used by the owner of the Crematorium to build a pathway to the entrance of the building. 

The abandoned gravestones were later discovered and donated to the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California for preservation. These grave markers serve as visual reminders of the forgotten history of Chinese American pioneers. 

Place(s): Los Angeles, CA

– Jeannette Nadal, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California

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