November 12, 2012
Notes on the Dennis Martin Cemetery
These notes are part of a long term project by the Menlo Park Historical Association to identify and document the history of all the plaques in Menlo Park.
To see the photos discussed below, click HERE.
Maps: 1877 (img156e); 1899 (img222); and composite (img211) consisting of a modern Google map overlaying Dorothy Regnery’s map (drawn in 1970) of Searsville and Dennis Martin’s North Ranch.
Oblisks: Dennis Martin’s house (IMG7914, 16, 18, 20); St. Dennis Church (IMG 7908, 10, 12) and St. Dennis Cemetery (IMG7900, 02, 04, 06). These obelisks ARE NOT within the City Limits of Menlo Park (but the area of Dennis Martin’s North Ranch is within the “Sphere of Influence” of Menlo Park).
Plaques: Holy Cross Cemetery (IMG_2793); Sand Hill Road (IMG_0217). These plaques ARE within the City Limits of Menlo Park.
img211 is a Google Map of the area south of SLAC overlayed with the map of Searsville from Drothy F. Regnery, The History of Jasper Ridge (c. 1991), p. 97. The scaling is dominated by matching the Mayfield-Searsville Road on Regnery’s map to Sand Hill Road on the Google map. Dennis Martin’s Lane (or Dennis Martin Lane, and sometimes called Church Lane), which is seen to cut through SLAC at Sector 16, conforms to today’s Ansel Lane. The now unused Stanford Primate Facility, used by Jane Goodall between 1971 and 1975 is on Ansel Lane near what is marked on the composite map as House 2. There is still a gate at the SLAC perimeter fence where Ansel Lane meets the SLAC Klystron Gallery south road. Nothing remains of Dennis Martin’s Lane north of SLAC.
Stanford University erected at least 3 concrete obelisks marking the locations of House 1, the St. Dennis Church and the St. Dennis Cemetery. Dave Daly, Archaeology Survey Technician, Department of Land Use and Environmental Planning, Stanford University, has provided photographs of the obelisks discussed below. IMG_7914, 16, 18, 20 show the four sides of the obelisk locating House 1, which is at the bottom of the hill that descends from SLAC past the Primate Facility to San Francisquito Creek. It is actually on the property now controlled by Jasper Ridge. The four sides read:
7914 “SITE OF”
7916 “DENNIS MARTIN”
7920 “1846 TO 1864”
1864 is the year Dennis Martin was evicted from what was called the North Ranch. The Martins then moved to land they had on the south side of the Creek. Others presumably continued to occupy the North Ranch house.
IMG_7908, 10, 12 show three sides of the obelisk locating the St. Dennis Church. Note the spelling of the name of the church. The three sides (the 4th side is presumably blank) read:
7908 “SITE OF”
7910 “ST DENNIS CHURCH”
7912 “1855 TO 1899”
The last mass at the church was in 1871. Originally an “out mission” of Mission Santa Clara, it became a mission of the Church of the Nativity in Menlo Park (est. 1872) after the latter was made a parish church in 1877, and was finally razed in 1899.
IMB_7900, 02, 04, 06 show the four sides of the obelisk locating the St. Dennis Cemetery. Note the spelling of the name of the cemetery. The four sides read:
7900 “SITE OF”
7902 “ST DENNIS”
7906 “1856 TO 1953”
Early burials in the cemetery included Californios, a few native Americans, and presumably some Protestants. Burials in the cemetery continued into the 1890s.
There is probably not an obelisk for House 2, which presumably is Dennis Martin’s “unfinished residence” (which reportedly was actually never completed), shown in a photo of the church on the cover and on p. 54 of Regnery’s book. Regnery states the Martin “home” (implying a finished residence) was about 300 ft south of the church, which fits with House 1 on the composite map. The photo appears to have been taken looking east toward the front of the church. Regnery also states that the front of the church faced west. The house shown in the photo behind the church would thus be just south of the church, not north as House 2 shown on the composite map. Dennis Martin’s Lane probably ran in front of the church. The cemetery was behind the church (as is normal), further up the hill and toward the east. There is a sizeable hill northeast of the church site that could be the one shown in the photo.
Gov. Stanford had acquired the North Ranch in 1883, adding it to his “Palo Alto” farm. Thus it became part of Stanford University’s original land. In the early 1950s, the University was considering the construction of housing in the area of St. Dennis Cemetery, perhaps similar to the Stanford Hills project, which was built about this same time. In 1952, with the approval of Archbishop John J. Mitty and the civilian legal authority, the University abandoned the cemetery. Exhumation with hand shovels was concluded by early 1953. Found were 174 grave sites, 24 of which contained some remains. These remains were reburied in Holy Cross Cemetery on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park. According to local historian Michael Svanevik (in a talk on Nov. 13, 2011, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Menlo Park Historical Association), the land for Holy Cross Cemetery (established in 1876, many years after Dennis Martin himself had lost most of his fortune) was donated by Elizabeth Martin. The San Mateo County map of 1877 (see img156e) shows the land surrounding Holy Cross as registered to E. Martin. Dennis Martin’s daughter, Elizabeth (“Lizzie”), would have been 24 year old in 1876. In his land dealings, Dennis Martin often had land registered in the name of various members of his family. Apparently Holy Cross was originally used as a “community” cemetery. In 1883 it was consecrated.
A gravestone (IMG_2793) at Holy Cross Cemetery is inscribed as follows (note the spelling of the cemetery):
IN THIS PLOT IS BURIED ALL THAT WAS MORTAL FROM THE 174 GRAVES OF ST. DENIS’ CEMETERY 1853-1890 ON THE SANDHILL ROAD. REMAINS WERE FOUND ONLY IN 24 GRAVES. NEITHER THE CHURCH RECORDS NOR THE EXHUMATION REVEALED THE GRAVE OF DENIS MARTIN WHO BUILT THE CHURCH AND FOUNDED THE CEMETARY OF ST. DENIS A CENTURY AGO.
EXHUMATION AND REINTERMENT CAREFULLY AND REVERENTLY DONE UNDER THE AUSPICES OF STANFORD UNIVERSITY AND THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY FEBRUARY 12, 1953.
As part of the agreement between Stanford and the RC Church, on December 9, 1953, a bronze plaque (IMG_0217) was placed on the southern side of Sand Hill Road at the intersection with Dennis Martin’s Lane. The plaque reads as follows (note the spelling of the church and cemetery):
ST DENIS CHURCH AND CEMETERY
ONE HALF MILE SOUTH OF THIS SITE STOOD THE FIRST CHURCH IN SAN MATEO COUNTY, DEDICATED IN 1853 BY CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP JOSEPH S. ALEMANY. HE NAMED IT AFTER ST. DENIS TO HONOR THE FOUNDER, DENNIS MARTIN, PIONEER LUMBERMAN AND FARMER, WHO ALSO ESTABLISHED A CEMETERY NEARBY. WORSHIPERS KNELT HERE UNTIL THE 1870’S, WHEN A CHURCH WAS ERECTED IN MENLO PARK.
THIS MARKER WAS ERECTED BY STANFORD UNIVERSITY IN COOPERATION WITH THE SAN MATEO COUNTY HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION AND THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY, MENLO PARK.
Instead of housing, the Stanford 2-mile linear accelerator was built nearby beginning in 1962. The obelisks were probably installed in 1953 or shortly thereafter. In the late 1960s, when the interchange for U.S. 280 with Sand Hill Road was being constructed, the marker at the end of Dennis Martin’s Lane was moved east to its present location on the south side of a remaining remnant of the original Sand Hill Road, just where this access road turns north toward Sand Hill Circle—which before the golf course was built, connected to Walsh Rd in Atherton as shown in the 1877 map as well as the 1899 map (see below).
Finally, the Palo Alto Quadrangle topographic map produced by USGS in 1899 indicates several structures in the area of Dennis Martin’s home. Streets are not named, but the topo clearly shows Dennis Martin’s Lane running from the Searsville-Mayfield Rd (Sand Hill Rd today) south past Dennis Martin’s home area and then east along the Creek to Alpine Rd. The portion from Dennis Martin’s Lane to Alpine Road appears to be the same as today’s Ansel Lane. The relevant portion of the 1899 topo is reproduced in img222, which can be greatly enlarged to see details.
Regnery discusses in some detail the pros and cons of the spelling of the church and cemetery: St. Dennis vs. St. Denis.Frank Helfrich (b. 1929), secretary of the Menlo Park Historical Association (in 2012) and a resident of Menlo Park since he was 2, recalls that in about 1950, on a tour of the Dennis Martin site led by Drothy Regnery, a small (perhaps 6 inches in diameter) bronze plaque mounted on a low concrete post marked the location of the cemetery. At present, access to the cemetery area is extremely limited, so that it is not possible to make a personal search for this plaque.
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