History uncovered in Mariposa cemetery

FRESNO, Calif.

The Mariposa Town Cemetery dates back to 1851. When you walk the grounds you understand why some call it a historical museum, without walls.

Volunteer Kip Winters explained, "It's going to take a little time and elbow grease but we'll be able to find some history about Rob Jack."

Winters is uncovering history by cleaning old tombstones. The county doesn't even have records on some of the people buried in the town cemetery. Many of the burial plots date back to the gold rush.

Winters said, "I'm going to be finding out along with them as I kind of do my own investigating here to find out what Rob Jack had to offer. What he did for Mariposa."

Ron Loya established the Adopt-A-Plot program a year ago because some tombstones were in such bad shape. He said, "Some of these have so much moss and lichen on them they're unreadable."

Over 2,000 people are buried in the Mariposa cemetery - more than the town's current population.

Loya said, "You can put together the story of Mariposa and the story of gold and the story of California merely by walking around and reading the headstones."

William Costello, the original voice of Popeye, is buried here.

Volunteers like Nancy Kemp treat their adopted burial plots like family.

A.N. Breece died in 1865 after being hit by a stagecoach.

Kemp explained, "Just because of deterioration at his site he's being run over again - by cars. When Ron told us that we wanted to take him on. We wanted to help him rest more peacefully."

It is a historical treasure hunt. "So much to uncover. Little gems."

Visitors have already noticed a dramatic difference. The cleaning constantly reveals hidden clues from the past.

The Adopt-A-Plot program seeks more volunteers. You can call (209) 628-8990 for more information.

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