The Pioneer Memorial Cemetery was founded in 1874 as an alternative to the San Fernando Mission for burial for non Catholics and those who could not afford the mission resting place. It is the second oldest cemetery in the Valley, as the San Fernando Mission Cemetery takes the prize for being founded first. The Cemetery was originally forty acres in size. However, in 1894, due to a real estate boom that occurred at that time, thirty acres were sold to those wishing to build and own their own homes. This reduced the cemetery in size down to ten acres. In 1889, the San Fernando Cemetery Association was founded and they began to record burials in that year. Many of the burials that were recorded from 1889 and onward were from the pioneer families that lived in the area at that time, including five Civil War veterans, ten "John Does" and a great number of children, many of whom were infants at time of their demise. This is reflective of the higher mortality rate that affected infants and newborns at that time in history due to illnesses, premature births, and crib death.
According to Cemetery records, some of the cemetery's inhabitants were not buried in coffins, but in either packing cases, or wrapped in lamb's wool. Some were even buried there in the middle of the night, unofficially, so as to not have the expense of the burial to worry about. It is speculation to say that some were probably buried that way if the deaths were not natural. Prior to being known as Pioneer Memorial Cemetery, the burial grounds were called Morningside Cemetery. As years passed, Morningside eventually became smaller. In 1927, a mortician by the name of Will G.Noble bought the last remaining 3.8 acres of the cemetery, which is the size that it is today. Mr. Noble ran the cemetery for the remainder of his life. He died in 1939, which is the year of the last official burial. Morningside Cemetery had been an active burial place for roughly fifty years, until it was abandoned following the death of Will G. Noble. Nineteen years later, efforts to restore the burial grounds led to Mr. Noble's widow donating the cemetery in 1959 to the Native Daughters of the Golden West. At that point the cemetery was legally closed to burials and it was abandoned once more. Two years later in 1961, the San Fernando Pioneer Memorial Cemetery was named State Historic Landmark No. 753. It was then cleaned up, water lines were installed, new trees were planted, and a new flag pole was added to the grounds. After forty years of preservation, the Native Daughters of the Golden West handed the reigns of ownership over to the San Fernando Valley Historical Society on October 1, 2002. Today the cemetery is cared for by volunteers affiliated with the Pioneer Cemetery Committee of the San Fernando Valley. The committee opened up the landmark to the general public in 2004. It is opened for visits the third Saturday of every month, between the hours of 9 am to noon. Currently, the Cemetery Committee dedicates its time and effort to raising money for the preservation and upkeep of this state treasure. In addition to donations, they hold various fundraising events to raise the money that is so desperately needed.
The question that has not been addressed here is whether or not the cemetery is haunted. The answer to that is a definite yes, according to the cemetery volunteers that are there for the various events and fundraising activities held there throughout the year. Those that spend a minimal amount of time there have experienced various paranormal occurrences and the Cemetery has been featured on an episode of the Bio channel's "My Ghost Story". The Cemetery Committee is in the process of planning ghost hunting tours of the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery later in the year to share the folklore that accompanies the landmark, as well as raise funding. Check this Examiner's articles for future ghost hunting events that will be offered by the historical society in coming months. For those interested in visiting the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery, it is open on the third Saturday of every month, from 9 am to noon. For more information, contact the San Fernando Historical Society at (818) 365-7810.
~Until next time, Traci Otake -L.A. Paranormal Examiner