CASTAIC GRAVEYARD REMAINS MYSTERY.
CASTAIC - The land below the Northlake community has a colorful past, some of which was uncovered - literally - when a small graveyard was found during development five years ago.
While the bodies of four men and an infant were never positively identified, many believe the remains, later reburied at Eternal Valley cemetery in Newhall, were relatives of irascible Castaic settler William Willoby Jenkins.
``We lived on the old Jenkins ranch. I remember when I was a girl there was a small cemetery, and (Jenkins') relatives would sometimes come and visit,'' said Gloria Mercado Fortine, a lifelong Santa Clarita Valley resident.
The gray headstone that rests in the Garden of Pioneers at Eternal Valley Memorial Park describes the five as early residents of the area and dates their original burial in the 1870s.
Authors of an archaeological report theorize that the bodies were those of local workers and a worker's baby. But Mercado Fortine dismisses the theory that the bodies were those of ranch hands or traveling workers.
``When we were little there was a little cemetery, but there weren't any markers. There were just mounds of dirt,'' she said. ``My parents taught us to be very respectful. I remember an old couple would come once or twice a year to visit the cemetery, and they'd always visit with my parents.''
The discovery of the remains in late 1997 prompted a documented excavation by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office and investigators hired by Genstar, the company then developing the land.
Each body was found inside a decaying coffin. Everything found near the graves - such as glass buttons, nails and metal coffin adornments shaped like crosses and flowers - was removed and buried with the bodies at Eternal Valley.
While the sex of the infant could not be determined, investigators estimated the baby was no older than 6 months. A small metal bird and a lamb were found beside the tiny coffin, which included a plate of beveled glass on the top for viewing.
``The infant's coffin - it may have been a jewel box,'' said Jim Hurley, care center supervisor at Eternal Valley. ``When they were buried here, we placed them into four black coffins and a white one for the baby. Our mortuary clerk wrapped the baby in a baby blanket.''
The remains were reburied on March 18, 1998.
Mercado Fortine said she intends to visit the relocated grave soon.
``I've yet to get out there. But I certainly feel a connection with them,'' she said. ``I imagine they enjoyed the beautiful open fields and mountains where we used to ride horses as kids.''
Five bodies in an unmarked graveyard in the Castaic hills near Northlake were reburied in 1998 at Eternal Valley Memorial Park.
Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 24, 2003|
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