Visiting the Marquez Cemetery Provides Local History

Ernest Marquez answers fourth graders’ questions at the Marquez Cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon.

Canyon School fourth graders made an annual visit to the Pascual Marquez Cemetery on December 11.

They were greeted by members of the family, including 99-year-old Ernest Marquez, who attended Canyon School from 1930 to 1936.

The cemetery is not open to the public, because in the lawsuit that ultimately allowed the easement on Lorenzo Street in Santa Monica Canyon, the family is only allowed six events a year.

Marquez great grandfathers Ysidro Reyes and Franciso Marquez originally had a land grant that encompassed the Palisades. Ernest 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.

This field trip to teach fourth graders about local/state history, is one of the six events allowed.

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. One student guessed stores.

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.

Ernest’s daughter Monica Marquez spoke about the requirements for a land grant from Mexico. Those who received them, 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.

Members of the Marquez family (left to right) Ernest Marquez, Monica Marquez, Ernie Marquez and Sharon Kilbride spoke about the history of this area to fourth grade students while in the family cemetery.

The students then went to the interior of the cemetery and saw the crosses, which had 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.

After the short history lesson, the fourth graders enjoyed snacks and looked at the hand-made crosses.

Members of three Canyon fourth grade classes visited the cemetery, which is within walking distance to the school.

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