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Visitors to Laurel Cemetery in Murrieta no doubt have often wondered just who, or what, was responsible for its formation and location, near the mountains on Ivy Street, southwest of the town which it overlooks.

In 1873, Juan Murrieta occupied land in the valley for sheepherding, and in 1884, he sold what would be eventually known as Murrieta to the Temecula Land and Water Company.

History tells of burial grounds before the year 1886, when a baby was buried on the land that, in 1963, was known as the Thorobred Paradise horse ranch and of the burial of some early settlers on the hill where Mr. and Mrs. Mack Stone had their home. These remains were later moved to the present site.

Cemetery records were lost for many years until Mike Mance, because of his interest in Murrieta history, located the deed to the property and uncovered many items of interest for the cemetery trustees.

The deed reads as follows: 

“Temecula Land and Water Company, a corporation formed under the laws of the State of California, will sell to A.B. Burnett, C.J. Davis, R.W. Bollen, D.L. Connell and H.B. Lashlee, all of Murrieta, for the sum of one dollar U.S. gold coin, all that real property situated in the County of San Diego, State of California described as follows:

“To wit commencing at a point 1650 ft. from the intersection of Hayes Avenue in westerly direction along said Ivy St., thence southerly 660 ft. to a point, thence westerly 660 ft. to a point, thence northerly direction 660 ft. to a point on Ivy St., thence along said Ivy St. in easterly direction 660 ft. to the point of beginning, said to contain 10 acres more or less, situated in the Murrieta Portion of the Temecula Rancho, county of San Diego, State of California”.

After the deed was given to the trustees in 1886, community spirit prevailed in caring for the burial plots. Groups would take picnic baskets and spend the better part of a day with hoes and rakes, keeping the graveyard neat and clean.

Notes taken from the records of the Historical Society give the following information about the cemetery: 
  • In 1893, the township of Murrieta was changed from San Diego County to Riverside County.
  • Oct. 21, 1913, Urban Tarwater was asked to check on cemetery ownership and management of property.
  • Dec. 16, 1913, Historical Society tried to determine ownership of property.
  • Mar. 19, 1914, M. W. Thompson reported no record of Murrieta Cemetery, or Laurel Cemetery, at Riverside County Court House. A.K. Small stated that the cemetery was deeded to a Board of Trustees and deed on record in San Diego County.
  • Apr. 21, 1914, Mr. Foret moved the Board of Trustees take steps to acquire possession of cemetery land.
  • Oct. 20, 1914, G.L. Black, clerk, reported receipt of a deed to the Murrieta Cemetery made to the Board of Directors of the Historical Society and signed by Messrs. C.L. Davis and H.B. Lashlee.
  • Feb. 16, 1915, G.L. Black read a resolution passed by the County Board of Supervisors placing the Murrieta “Laurel” Cemetery in the hands of the Historical Society to be looked after and managed by the Society. Board of Directors moved G.L. Black, clerk, to write Mr. Davis for whatever cemetery money held in his possession. Clerk was to call on Mr. Zimmerman to get plot records of cemetery.
  • May 18, 1915, Sylvia Miller, clerk, made a motion to sell cemetery plots at a rate of $10 per family lot and $2 for single lots.
  • Jan. 18, 1923, in Town Hall, Urban Tarwater asked to take care of staking out the cemetery and appoint helpers. A committee composed of Mrs. A.K. Small, Mrs. Blanche Anderson and Mrs. Sarah Thompson to get in touch with those interested in improvement of the cemetery and collect funds for same.
  • Jun. 23, 1924, a mass meeting called because of the fire that destroyed the historical hall.
  • May 15, 1928, Nellie Thorne Thompson, clerk, W.C. Anderson and Mrs. Stroup asked to check the cemetery clean-up campaign. Willis Thompson asked to see Mr. Barnett in regards to State and County money for Cemetery work.
  • Mar. 19, 1929, Willis Thompson reported an association had to be formed to get aid from the County or the State.
  • May 16, 1938, the Murrieta Valley Cemetery District was organized by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. In June of that year, Rose Tarwater was appointed secretary, which office she held until 1961, with Floyd Rail and Amos Sykes completing the first Board of Trustees.
  • Sept. 1938, a mass meeting of all property owners and owners of lots of record was held.
  • Aug. 4, 1939, Walt Borden and Elmo Dunham drilled a well.
  • In 1940 and 1941, the Murrieta Machine Shop sold fencing to the cemetery district, the windmill was sold to the Board by Vic. Garrison and fence links were installed. Frank Burnham sold the District the gates and posts (still in use today) and Cecil Rail set the posts. In the spring of 1942, a tank house of bricks was built, shrubbery purchased from Yung’s nursery in Elsinore was planted and the beautiful roses in the cemetery were planted in March of 1944 by rose lovers in Murrieta. Six hundred feet of irrigation pipe purchased from Fallbrook Hardware was installed.
  • Faithful caretakers spent many hours cultivating the shrubs and trees and keeping the cemetery neat, and for their benefit, a shed for storing garden tools was built in March 1945.
  • Some markers were burned during a fire and were not replaced. Today, there is only one original wooden cross left. Each generation has a different style of marker or tombstone, and, following the modern day trend, only smaller, flat markers are allowed.
An interesting part of the cemetery’s history concerns the horse-drawn hearse used for funerals: 

George Ward, one-time Riverside undertaker, apparently was the first owner of the hearse, having purchased it in 1888. It was used in Riverside until 1910 when it was taken to Murrieta, where it was used for some time, then stored for two decades. E.H. Preston, of Riverside, ‘rediscovered’ it and entered it in a parade in May of 1940. Currently, it is assumed to be somewhere is San Bernardino.

The above information is an excerpt from “My Children’s Home” by Arlean V. Garrison, a life-long Murrieta resident and owner/operator of the Murrieta Machine shop, which also served as home to the cemetery office for many years.

Presently, the District has an on-site office, built in 2006, and an on-site maintenance building, completed in 2009.

First Burial of Record
Mable M. Hending:   1875-1886

“Famous Names” Burials
Douglas Fowley:   1911-1998   (Actor)
Lorne Black: 1962-2013 (Bass Player in the Rock Band “Great White”)