For nearly 150 years, the trustees of the Mountain View Cemetery Association have been charged with maintaining the 200-acre historic cemetery in the Oakland hills.
The association is a nonsectarian, community nonprofit, and the trustees are local community leaders dedicated to carrying on the mission the first trustees envisioned when they came together in December 1863 to discuss setting aside a burial ground for a rapidly growing community.
Among the group that met that long-ago day are Samuel Merritt, Anthony Chabot, Ralph Kirkham and Hiram Tubbs (Tubbs hosted the meeting at his gracious namesake hotel located east of the newly configured Merritt's Lake, as it was popularly called at the time).
Also present at the meeting was a 41-year-old minister from New York named Isaac Brayton who was heavily involved with a small school, the Contra Costa Academy, then located in downtown Oakland. In need of funds to support his school, which would eventually become College of California, Brayton agreed to sell some land he owned in the hills to Merritt, Chabot and the other cemetery associates.
It turned out to be a win-win transaction. Merritt and the others called in noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (of New York City's Central Park fame) to begin laying out a garden-like park for burial plots. Brayton invested the $13,000 he received for his property in buildings and furnishings for the academy. Within a short time, Brayton's academy would be accorded land-grant college status and would move from Oakland to the site now known as the University of California. A new community called Berkeley would grow around the campus.
Retired physician and UC Berkeley grad Ron Bachman is a docent at Mountain Cemetery and will be leading a "Founders of Cal" walk at 10 a.m. Oct. 27. Like all the tours offered at Mountain View, this one is free.
Bachman sees many parallels between the development of the university (which opened in 1869) and the development of the cemetery (which was dedicated in 1865, shortly after the end of the Civil War). On the tour, Bachman and his co-leader, Jane Leroe, also a UC Berkeley graduate, will point out grave sites of notable people associated with the university, such as Henry Durant (1802-75), brothers John (1818-1891) and Joseph (1823-190l) Le Conte, Jane Sather (1824-1911) and a host of others. They also will be talking about architect and teacher Bernard Maybeck, and his famous student, Julia Morgan, both of whom also contributed to the history of UC Berkeley They, too, are buried at Mountain View.
Brayton contracted tuberculosis and did not live to see his academy transform into a distinguished university. He died in 1869 at the age of 47 and is buried at Mountain View. In due time, Merritt, Chabot and Tubbs would be interred there.
For more on the history of Mountain View and a schedule of upcoming tours and events, go to www.mountainviewcemetery.org.
For further reading, I recommend "Mountain View Cemetery" by Dennis Evanosky, which is available at the library, and the online history compiled by Michael Colbruno, "Lives of the Dead: MountainView Cemetery in Oakland," at mountainviewpeople.blogspot.com.