|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Established in 1849 by Capt. John Sutter, it was the first cemetery in Sacramento. In 1956, all burials were removed from the cemetery and relocated primarily to Sacramento City Cemetery or East Lawn Memorial Park.
New Helvetia Cemetery (1845-1956) was contiguous with the (Sutter's) Fort Burying Ground, established in the early 1840's and served as Sacramento's first cemetery until 1849. Starting in 1916, most of the beautiful hand-carved monuments were replaced with flat concrete markers in order to turn the cemetery into a park.
In the mid 1950's when land was needed to build Sutter Middle School over 5,000 early settlers and pioneers were moved. 4,691 "unknowns" were moved to a plot the City obtained in East Lawn Cemetery, approximately 400 "knowns" were moved to the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, and a small number moved by families to other cemeteries.
Plans by the city to replace the gravemarkers with new ones did not materialize and the original markers were given away, taken, or disposed of. There is no history of even a single memorial designating the areas as the sites of those removed from New Helvetia. These early settlers were essentially forgotten until the 1980's when East Lawn Memorial Park, in cooperation with the Old City Cemetery Committee, generously provided a large monument and corner walls demarcating the area. Subsequently recovered grave markers have been placed there, and four large monuments have been erected memorializing Sheriff McKinney, the first Sheriff of Sacramento; Dr. Pendry, an early Physician; Daniel Blue, in whose home St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church was started; and the hundreds of indigents buried at New Helvetia.
Hoping to recover as many lost or stolen headstones as possible, including those from other historic cemeteries, the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission and the District Attorney have teamed up to establish the County's first grave marker amnesty program. Under this program, individuals returning grave markers may do so without fear of prosecution.
The Cemetery Commission urges anyone wishing to surrender a marker or headstone to contact the Cemetery Commission – no questions asked. Homeowners often discover grave markers in their yards and gardens being used as stepping-stones. For more information or to return a grave marker, the public can call (916) 874-9103 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.