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Graveyard Rabbit of South Alameda County by Cheryl Palmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Story of Oak Knoll Cemetery - Part 3

On April 14, 1956 visitors from San Francisco arrived and stated that the condition of the cemetery was appalling! The grass was as high as their waists, cattle were roaming all over the grounds and headstones had been broken and knocked over.

Mr. and Mrs. James W. Swent Jr. saw the cemetery in this condition. Mr. James Swent happened to be a descendant of William Mendenhall. While at the cemetery, the Swent's took inscriptions of the four Mendenhall headstones that could be found. Mrs. Swent wrote to another descendant of William "Phil" Mendenhall, Mr. Chester Langan, and to Mr. Maitland Henry to inform them of the condition in which they saw the cemetery.

Chester Langan went to Livermore and spoke with several people about the condition of the cemetery. Chester removed the headstone of William Mendenhall at that time because he didn't feel anything could be done about the conditions there.

From 1956 until 1962 the Swents visited this cemetery. Their last visit was on December 9, 1962. By this time all of the Mendenhall stones had been removed or broken into bits. There were no signs that Medenhall's had ever been buried here. More desecration had continued to take place. The cattle had disappeared by this time, the grass was lower, but there weren't many stones to be found in the cemetery.

At this point, it was hoped that something would be done by the citizens of the town. A new high school was planned to be built just below the knoll on which the cemetery had been located. It was believed that the pioneer cemetery area should have been kept as a memorial to the pioneers who had developed the valley, and not be kept in the state it was currently in.

In April 1963, Oak Knoll was formally abandoned as a public cemetery. The existing gravestones were removed. If family members could be found, the headstones were given to them to do with as they wished. If family members were not located, the headstones were taken to the city corporation yard.

Oak Knoll Cemetery was no more. The city built heavy wooden play structures and the land was dedicated as a public park. But all to soon the park became dilapidated and most of the structures were torn down.

[Parts of this information was probably written by Mr. and Mrs. James Swent Jr. of San Francisco sometime after December 1962. A copy held by Herb Hagemann, Jr.]
My thanks to the Livermore Heritage Guild and

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