People who may have recently moved to the Westside of Los Angeles may not be aware of a historic family cemetery, located on San Lorenzo Street in the Santa Monica Canyon.
On May 28, just in time for Memorial Day, the family, which included eighth generation descendants, came together for a cleanup.
A former Pacific Palisades Citizen of the Year, Bruce Schwartz, was on hand to teach the youngsters how to plant pumpkins on the hallowed land.
The cemetery contains the remains of Pascual Marquez, his youngest son, and perhaps 30 other family members and friends–including 13 people who died in 1909 of botulism after eating home-canned peaches at a New Year’s Eve party.
The family, Ysidro Reyes and Francisco Marquez was among the early settlers to this area, receiving a land grant.
To qualify one had to be Mexican, have good character and be a practicing Catholic. They also had to agree to build a house and plant fruit trees on their land, as well as stock the rancho with at least 150 head of cattle. Marquez and Ysidro received title in 1839.
The Rancho Boca de Santa Monica extended along the beach from Topanga Road to Montana Avenue and then east. To measure the grant, two men on horseback, starting at Topanga Beach and riding down to Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, 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 6,656-acre area was mapped.
The land was eventually sold.
The widow of Ysidro Reyes, sold the family’s shares to Colonel Robert Baker for $6,000 in 1872.
The Marquez family kept their share – dividing into three allotments: residential, grazing and business located at the mouth of the Santa Monica Canyon.
Pascual Marquez’s section of the Santa Monica Canyon included his home, the remains of the family adobe, where he was born in 1844 and the family cemetery.
When he died in 1916, heirs sold portions of the allotment. In 1926, the family felt the cemetery should be preserved.
The graves are marked with hand-crafted crosses made by the grandson of Pascual Marquez, Ernest Marquez, 98, who has dedicated his life to preserving the history of the Boca de Santa Monica Rancho.
Many of the graves were found in 2007 by UCLA’s Dr. Dean Goodman, with help from Canyon Elementary School fourth graders. The student helped him run the ground-penetrating radar imaging equipment.
The cemetery was designated by the City of Los Angeles as Historic Cultural Monument #685 in 2000.
Ernest Marquez, who is the grandson of Pascual, spent several years in court battling neighbors for the right for an easement to the cemetery. In 2005, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge decided in Marquez’s favor.
The family continues to oversee and maintain the cemetery.
In 2011, the north portion of the surrounding lot was added during the dispute over construction of the new house on the south portion of the lot. That north portion is now known as the Santuario San Lorenzo and serves as the entrance to the cemetery.
A co-president of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and a former Citizen of the Year, Sharon Kilbride, is the great, great, great, great-granddaughter of Francisco Marquez and oversaw the May cleanup.
Kilbride attended Canyon Elementary School and still lives in the Canyon on the last original residential parcel of the Rancho Boca de Santa Monica land grant.