Keep Martinez’s Rich History Alive!

Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery - c. 1830-1840

Come with us as we visit some of the numerous headstones housed in the oldest known cemetery in Contra Costa County...

In this cemetery were laid to rest many early pioneers of Contra Costa County. Many were drawn to California by gold, but fulfilled their dreams for a better life in other ways. Although it is currently unknown when the cemetery was founded, when it’s first burial occurred, or what it’s original name was, it is believed to be one of the oldest cemeteries in the state.

The land was part of the Don Ygnacio Martinez 1823 land grant, Rancho El Pinole, platted in the original 1849 survey of Martinez by surveyor Thomas A. Brown for Col. William M, Smith. Col. Smith was the son-in-law/agent for the Martinez family and founder of the City of Martinez. Most likely it began as their personal family cemetery before it was seized for back taxes.

Extremely high taxes were accessed by the US Government to perpetuate a “legal” land grab from former Spanish/Mexican land owners. Later it was sold to Beverly Holiday and John Livingston through a Sherriff’s Auction in 1854, which (coincidentally) is the first year recorded burials at the old cemetery are entered in the City of Martinez death register.

While Don Ygnacio Martinez remains in Alhambra, the rest of his family and almost all Catholics originally buried prior to 1882 have been reinterred across the street in the Saint Catherine of Siena Cemetery. According to an article published Feb 19, 1875 by Oroville’s The Weekly Mercury, “Three Acres have been purchased and inclosed for a Catholic Cemetery on the sharply-rising ground west of and overlooking the Alhambra Cemetery, near Martinez.”

It is not known how many plot deeds are still held as a cemetery overseer sold some plots to more than one person. He later ended up in San Quentin Prison.

Written by Joseph Palmer with special contribution by Richard Patchin

Alhambra Cemetery Photo Project

The Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA) is looking for any pictures (preferably prior to 2000) to aid in their restoration efforts of the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery. As they acquire photographic evidence, they will take a current picture from the same view point for comparison.

Looking For Someone?

If you are searching for the burial site of an individual buried in either the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery or the Saint Catherine of Siena Cemetery of Martinez, the Martinez Historical Society might be able to assist you. The Martinez Museum archive includes information about many Martinez families including burial records.

Museum Renovations Underway!

Other Good News… We anticipate opening our doors to the public soon!