Canyon School fourth graders visited the Pascual Marquez Cemetery, which is located on Lorenzo Street in Santa Monica Canyon.
They were greeted by members of the family, including 98-year-old Ernest Marquez, who attended Canyon School from 1930 to 1936.
Marquez great grandfathers Ysidro Reyes and Franciso Marquez originally had a land grant that encompassed the Palisades. He wanted to save his family cemetery and fought in court for an easement. In 2005, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge decided in Marquez favor.
The cemetery is not open to the public, because in the lawsuit that ultimately allowed the easement, the family is only allowed six events a year—the field trip to teach fourth graders about local history, is one of them.
Marquez’ son, Ernest, spoke first about native plants located on the grounds and their importance. He asked the students, “If you were sick, where would you get medicine?” “If you want juice, where would you go?” he asked.
“Whole Foods,” one student said.
Ernest than explained there weren’t stores, “they planted and used bushes and shrubs that could be medicinal and also serve as a food source.” He pointed out the Toyon, which had red berries, could be mashed for a drink, the leaves could be used for tea and the wood for arrows and harpoons.
He showed them the California lilac, the leaves could be used for tea. “It drops seeds in the ground, but nothing happens until a forest fire opens the seeds, which allow them to grow,” Ernest said.
He showed students a prickly pair and said people used the fruit: the leaves would be used for napales. Then Ernest showed the thorns. “What could they be used for?” he asked. “Sewing needles,” one said.
“What else?” he asked. None of the fourth graders could come up with an idea, so he gave a hint, “What don’t your parents want you to have?”
“A boyfriend,” one student said, which brought laughter. It turns out the needles were also used to make tattoos.
Ernest daughter Monica Marquez went over the requirements for a land grant from Mexico, 1) promised to raise cattle, 2) build a house, 3) be a Catholic and 4) be a good citizen.
She explained how the land grant which ran from Topanga Road to Montana Avenue and then east was measured. Two men on horseback, each held a long pole that was connected with long buckskin ropes of 100 varas (a vara was about a yard).
The first horseman put his pole into the sand and the second then rode as far as the rope would permit and placed his pole in the sand. They repeated this action until the entire 6656-acre area was mapped.
All Mexican land grants were cattle ranches and one had to have 500 head of cattle. They were not raised for food, but rather for their hides, which were called “leather dollars,” and were used in trading for goods.
The students then went to the interior of the cemetery and saw the crosses, which have been hand-made by Ernest. There are about 50 people buried in the cemetery.
In 2007, Canyon fourth graders helped UCLA’s Dr. Dean Goodman run ground-penetrating radar imaging equipment to find the graves.
Forensic dogs were also brought to the site and the two methods completely concurred about where people were buried.
In addition to the family, Kit Carson’s son Sam and his dog are also buried in the cemetery. The last person buried there was Pascal Marquez, in 1916. “They buried him in the same angle as the bed in house,” Sharon Kilbride said, who also attended Canyon School, and still lives in the Canyon on the last original residential parcel of the Rancho Boca de Santa Monica land grant.
Marquez’s latest book, the highly acclaimed Rancho Boca de Santa Monica was given to the teachers, so they would have it for the Canyon School Library.