DOWNEY – The only cemetery in Downey opened in 1868 and holds many graves of the city’s pioneers. Many tombstones at the cemetery feature designs and material which are no longer being used.
The cemetery was marked as a historical site in May 1981 in conjunction with the Memorial Day service that year. The Downey Historical Society dedicated its ninth historical plaque at the cemetery during the Memorial Day service and members of veterans organizations participated in the ceremony.
The cemetery began as a family burial plot and now, according to some records, is the final resting place for more than 3,000 individuals, including veterans of every war from the 1846 Mexican-American War to the Vietnam conflict. Many founding fathers, pioneer preachers, early aviators, frontier homemakers and their little children are buried at the site.
When the cemetery started it was surrounded by farmland and had many wooden markers. The first known accounts of cemetery management began in a ledger dated 1889. According to ledger notes, some expenses were for mending fences to keep out chickens, and for purchasing scythe for clearing grass.
Notes from the 1920’s stated the cemetery was covered with weeds, gophers, gopher snakes and lizards to the point that the cemetery was looking very creepy and sad. Lakewood Boulevard was not there at that time and the old, deep wagon road to the cemetery was covered heavy with sand.
Some famous Downey people buried in the cemetery are the Ardis family, John Kirby Banks, Thomas Blythe, Andrew Jackson Bramlette, Dr. William Andrew Brown, Issac Newton Cochran, Maston Duke Crawford, Alegeron Sidney Gray, William Hammerton, Emily Nelson, Sidney L. Parke, Benjamin Franklin Witherspoon (our early constable and sexton of the Downey Cemetery) and a grave for Indian Joe, a Kaweah Indian.
Take a walk through the Downey Cemetery and see if you can recognize some of the names of the early pioneers. See how many of them have been honored with streets being named after them.
If you want to learn more about the history of the cemetery, visit the Downey history center.