Hidden Treasures in San Mateo County: St. John's Cemetery

If you can get past a natural reluctance to think about it, cemeteries are truly fascinating places.


St. John' s Cemetery in San MateoThis "Hidden Treasure" may be a little strange for some, but if you're a history buff you will enjoy St. John's Cemetery, especially if you're passionate about San Mateo County history

St. John's Cemetery

This property sits right smack dab in the middle of San Mateo, and unless someone tells you about it, you would never know it is there. A friend of mine informed me, and then led me to it. We spent the next hour to hour and a half weaving through the lives of multiple immigrant families that came to San Mateo from abroad.

Impressive History

Every one of the headstones we read, and we missed very few, had at least one family member born in the 1800s. Some lived into their nineties, and many were young men killed in the war in their late teens or early 20's. And of course there were those few that didn't make it past a single year.

Loyal Caretaker

It is peaceful, and full of history, and many of the headstones have pictures of the deceased. Clearly from different times. It is not a pristine place, but it is filled with the history and the lives of many San Mateo families. In particular, I was moved by the memorium right near the entrance in honor of the former Manager & Caretaker John P Kiely. He lovingly managed and cared for the cemetery from 1947-1996 when he died.

The land was donated for the St. John's Cemetery by Mrs. Abby M. Parrott on May 28, 1885, and for the past 125 years this beautiful, peaceful piece of property has been serving as a burial place in the midst of growing San Mateo. St. John's Cemetery stands as a sacred shrine for the people who were so much a part of the history and the traditions of this city.

For the Details

To get all the information about its history, mission statement, hours of operation and location, you can visit the St. John's Cemetery website.

Explore More Cemeteries

If your visit gets you curious about other cemeteries and American approaches to death rituals, try these books for futher exploration:

The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds by Marilyn Yalom and photographs by Reid Yalom

Laid to Rest in California: A Guide to the Cemeteries and Grave Sites of the Rich and Famous by Patricia Brooks and Jonathan Brooks

Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris


Author Bio:

Barbara S. is currently a Library Assistant for the Foster City Library. When asked to participate in library eBranch blogging, her immediate response was "yes". There was just one problem. . .she had no idea what a blog really is, since spending time "surfing the web" is not one of her favorite pastimes. That said, she decided that the opportunity to do something new, especially since it involved writing, was worth the time it would take to conquer the dreaded learning curve.


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