Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Hi, thank you for checking out our new blog, Folsom Unveiled. My name is Kaitlyn Scott and I’m Folsom Historical Society’s historian. Each week I will be highlighting a different topic related to Folsom’s history that not everyone knows about by diving deeper into a place, event, person or piece in our collection.
I cannot believe that we are almost halfway through October! October is one of my favorite months because of the weather changing, pumpkin spice everything and of course, Halloween! Spooky season is looking a little different this year for me, no haunted corn mazes, amusement parks and pumpkin carving parties, etc. However, I have still been enjoying spooky season at home by watching movies, reading, decorating my house and of course researching blog topics that fit the month of October.
This week, I want to introduce you to Lakeside Memorial Cemetery and the Miller family, Folsom’s undertakers. Cemeteries have the reputation of being haunted, creepy places. In reality, they are beautifully laid out, peaceful places that can teach you a lot about a town’s past and were made to be visited by the living. That being said, I still let my imagination run wild and avoid them at night.
Before we dig into Lakeside Cemetery (pun most definitely intended), let’s meet the Miller family.
Jacob Miller was a German immigrant who opened a furniture and casket shop at 709 Sutter street (today, Snyder’s House of Jade is at this location) in 1869. Not surprisingly, the death business proved to be more lucrative and Miller turned his business into just caskets and undertaking by the early 1880s.
Miller passed away after a brief case of pneumonia in February of 1905 and his business passed to his sons. In 1920, his son Oscar moved the business from its location on Sutter street to Scott street and in the 1940s, Oscar’s son Leland took over the business and then sold it to Robert Claney, a longtime employee in 1962. Today, it still remains in the Claney family who now also operate Lakeside Cemetery.
Now that we have some background on the Millers we can get into the history of Lakeside.
The cemetery itself is “new” in that it is merely a combination of several old Folsom cemeteries which were the Masonic, Odd Fellows, Jewish, Citizen’s, and Cook’s.
Cook’s Cemetery was known by several different names throughout the years, changing with who owned the land or which great family was recently buried there at the time. It was first known by Murray’s Cemetery, followed by Meredith’s after James Meredith, a central figure at Negro Bar. It then changed to Blower’s after David Blower, a stone cutter and finally Cook, after Frank Cook and obviously this name stuck. It stayed under Frank Cook’s ownership until 1939 when Frank deeded it to the American Legion Post.
The Granite Lodge No. 62 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) and the Natoma Lodge No. 64 of the Free and Accepted Masons, co-jointly purchased lots 9 through 13 of block 44 in 1862 for their cemeteries. The lots were divided between the two and not merged. IOOF sold their cemetery to Lakeside first in 1969 and the Masons followed in 1970.
The Hebrew Benevolent Society Jeshuath Israel originally established the Jewish cemetery in Folsom and takes up about one-third of Lakeside. It was held in the name of Joseph Fiel but after his death in 1876, it went to cigar shop owner Edward R. Levy, Fiel’s cousin by marriage. Two years later it went to businessman Simon Cohn. It stayed within Folsom’s Jewish families until the 1950s, when it was sold to Leland Miller who needed more land for burials and was part of the property sold to the Claney family when they purchased the Miller business.
(Edit. I would like to make an edit to the above paragraph! New information provided by Jewish Historian Victoria Fisch shows us that the property for the Jewish cemetery was not sold to Leland Miller. Family members who cared for the property passed away and Miller took ownership over it without first finding the actual proprietors. Thank you Victoria for this information!)
The oldest section of Lakeside Memorial Cemetery is the Citizen’s Cemetery, which evolved from the Negro Bar mining camp internments. The first internment was in 1849 or shortly after. The Citizen’s Cemetery was originally lots 4-8 of block 44 of the Folsom townsite and was purchased from Joseph Folsom’s estate in 1856 by Elisha D. Hoskins. In 1872, the cemetery became public and was cared for by Folsom residents who added additional lots to the cemetery which included lots 1-3 of block 44, property belonging to a man who died in a railroad accident with nobody to claim the land. Several years later, Sacramento County put a lien on the lots and took ownership but later sold it to Lakeside Memorial, during the time lots 1-3 were owned by the county, they continued to be used as burial land.
Lakeside is located at 1201 Forrest Street which is across from Folsom’s historic district. The next time you are in town I highly suggest you take a visit to the cemetery; the older burial sites are beautiful, and its quiet location makes a perfect Fall afternoon walk.