Spring Hill Cemetery

Spring Hill Cemetery

This nearly forgotten cemetery is located on a parcel carved out of Jasper O'Farrell's Spanish land grant, the Rancho Canada de Jonive land grant, and later developed by James Madison McReynolds as his Spring Hill Farm. McReynolds buried his first wife in an unused section of the farm and later allowed it to be used as a local cemetery by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The church disappeared quickly but the cemetery continued to be used since that time. McReynold's second wife, along with several other family members and neighbors have found their final rest there. Presently, its address is listed at 9380 Bodega Highway on the edge of the Analy Township between Freestone and Sebastopol. The most complete, known inventory of the cemetery was produced by Edith C. Merritt and Pauline Whitney Olson, who had done a walk through for the DAR some time between 1934 and 1941. As one can see from the 2005 "entrance" photo below, the site was in imminent danger of being completely overgrown by brush and had fallen into a disastrous state of repair. Like many old cemeteries, it has been the target of vandals, and many of its stones are knocked down, damaged, lost or "stolen to make fireplace hearths."

Susan Zeni, a McReynolds' Family researcher, has been attempting to find support to recover and preserve this small rural cemetery, before it is lost through the deterioration of time or declared an abandoned privately owned cemetery to be auctioned off to the highest bidder for back taxes. The following documentation and photos have been collected by Susan in her quest since 2004 to save this cemetery.


USGS Topo map


From Susan Zeni (email 17 Apr 2004):

I thought I would try to find the Spring Hill Cemetery.... It was quite an adventure. The address of the cemetery is 9380 Bodega Hwy, Sebastopol, CA. But it really seems to be on Spring Hill School Road. If it weren't for some neighbors outside that I stopped and asked, we never would have found the place. It is overgrown to the point of being unrecognizable from the road. Jacob and Anna as well as many other McReynolds and Finleys are all buried there. It is an unmarked and untended cemetery full of Eucalyptus, oak, and Redwood trees, Vinca vines (with the bluish-purple flowers) and poison oak. I took over 40 pictures of the cemetery and gravestones - I found it very atmospheric and peaceful.



Photo by Susan Zeni   Photo by Susan Zeni
Photo by Susan Zeni   Photo by Susan Zeni

From Susan (email 7 Aug 2005):

Its proper address is 9380 Bodega Hwy, Sebastopol. But to get to it, you turn RIGHT off of Bodega Hwy just west of Sebastopol on Spring Hill School Road. You wander up a bit, then take another right at an unmarked road that is posted 'private.' The cemetery is to the left off this road, but is so overgrown, that you really have to LOOK to realize it is a cemetery. I was amazed to have ever found it the first time I went!

In it are many of the old Sonoma Families who came from Missouri in the early 1850s. Two such families connected to me are the McReynolds family, and the Finley family. Jacob McReynolds and his wife, Anna Christina Miller were born in Washington Co, VA. They moved on to Missouri, and with 7 of their sons, came to the Green Valley area in 1852/3. A couple of their sons came first, in 1850, scouted around, and returned to Missouri to get the rest of the group. Jacob, Anna Christina, and several of their descendants are in Spring Hill.

John Finley came with wife Keziah Head to Sonoma County in 1852 from Missouri. John Finley's sister, Nancy J. Finley Braden, upon the death of her husband in Illinois, came in 1856 with 5 of her 6 children to join her brothers John and Samuel Finley in Sonoma. Nancy J. Finley Braden's daughter, Julia Ann, married Isaac McReynolds (son of Jacob McReynolds and Anna Christina Miller) in Sonoma County in 1864, connecting the two pioneering families. Isaac and Julia Ann left Sonoma County in 1880 taking their children with them, so are not buried in Spring Hill, although many of their family members are.

Other wagon train pioneer families at Spring Hill - The daughters of Wm. Zilhart are buried at Spring Hill, (William was on the 1853 Hagans-Cockrill wagon train and married Martha Ann Gaulden, who was also part of the 1853 party), Mary Frances Gaulden and her sister, Elizabeth Patience Gaulden both were on early wagon trains - Elizabeth Patience came with her husband James Madison McReynolds in 1852. Mary Frances Gaulden came to Sonoma on the 1853 Hagans-Cockrill wagon train with her widowed mother, Martha Ann Hendricks Gaulden, and Martha Ann Gaulden (later Zilhart) mentioned above. After Elizabeth Patience' death, her sister, Mary Frances, married James Madison McReynolds. James and both of his wives are at Spring Hill.



A detailed map and current survey has been created which includes all that has been discovered during the restoration work done in the cemetery since 2005. It is available here as a PDF file.


Individuals with the following surnames are believed to be buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery:



Determining who is presently responsible for the Spring Hill Cemetery proved to be a difficult challenge since ownership of the original site has been fragmented among various entities over time. From Susan (email 2 Oct 2005):

There is more research at the county offices to be done, but at the moment it looks as if James McReynolds rented the land for several years when he first arrived in Sonoma County. He buried his first wife, and others on the property, but didn't own it until an 1862 agreement with John B Thompson (Bond Book B page 30, Dec 24, 1862). The purchase was completed in 1865 ( Book of Deeds 16, pg 518-529, December 20, 1865). Then in 1868 he attempted to turn the cemetery portion of his property over to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in exchange for their agreement to maintain the cemetery in perpetuity (Book of Deeds 24, pg 266-267, July 22, 1868). The Church dissolved, and the county of Sonoma sold the property back to James McReynolds to collect back taxes (Book of Deeds 113, pg 269-272, 26 May 1888). February 23, 1901, Book of Deeds 194 page 60, James sold the southern part of the cemetery parcel to the Spring Hill School District. James McReynolds sold off, or transferred various bits of land around the cemetery (some of it in 1891 to his son, Samuel, some of it was transferred at James' death), but I can not find any more direct transfers of the cemetery parcel itself.



Further deeds concerning the Spring Hill Cemetery property (compiled by Susan Zeni):

Grantor Grantee Instrument/Date Book Page
Charles and William Hotle Trustees Spring Hill School District Deed 6 Feb 1901 191 628
  Note:This deed is referred to by other deeds/maps - land is south of cemetery parcel
Emma McReynolds Geo. P McNear, WM Hotle, CE Hotle Deed 20 Feb 1904 211 178-179
  Note:Transfers land around cemetery following death of S. W. McReynolds
Emma McReynolds Alexander T Crane Deed 23 Feb 1904 211 174-175
  Note:Concerns same land as the transaction above
James McReynolds Geo. P. Baxter Deed 4 Aug 1905 221 58-59
  Note:...son of original James McReynolds. Transfers part of original James McReynolds land, following his death in 1905
Veterans' Welfare Board Geo/Mary LeBallister Deed 31 Jan 1944 598 424-425
  Note:This deed is also referred to as Series B-73030 Mentions cemetery, and is connected to land parcel south of cemetery (A.P.# 077-150-051-000)
Serge/Natalie Canby Wilson Wm/Barbara Atkinson Deed 6 Feb 1962 1871 397
  Note:Refers to cemetery, deed book 191 pg 628, book 194 pg 60, and No. B-73030 (book 598 pg 424). Parcel south of cemetery
Affidavit - death of Trustee   Deed 6 Jun 2005 O.R. 2005079694
  Note:Upon death of Jack Hobbs, two sons become Successor Trustees - Exhibit B describes property, the parcel south of the cemetery AP 077=150=051=000


The details of the church's history appears to be a bit cloudy. Susan Zeni obtained this brief history from Evelyn McClure of the Western Sonoma County Historical Society (email 10 Aug 2005):

...The Cumberland Presbyterian church was organized there [James McReynold's property] in 1851 but a church was not built until 1860. In 1871 the building was moved into Sebastopol and used as city hall. The church built a new bldg. in Sebastopol and in 1876 was renamed the Sebastopol Cumberland Presbyterian Church. I don't know when it merged or went defunct. We do not have a Presbyterian church now. ...An aside: The first minister of the Cumb. Pres. Church was Rev. John Camron who actually knew Abraham Lincoln in Illinois.



In the West County section of Beth Winegarner's book Sacred Sonoma, it is mentioned that Sebastopol's Cumberland Presbyterian Church was built October 2, 1851, later named the Bodega Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and then moved into the town of Sebastopol in the 1860's.


Copy from Susan Zeni


Enlisting the aid of family history researchers, descendants of family members buried in the cemetery, the California Saving Graves organization, and others, Susan launched a concerted effort to protect Spring Hill. A group, appropriately known as the Friends of Spring Hill Cemetery, was formed in 2005 to save the cemetery from immanent loss and oblivion. Contact Sue Zeni at suezeni@gmail.com to be added to the Friends of Spring Hill Cemetery group.

As of September 12, 2006, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution directing staff to meet with the Friends of Spring Hill Cemetery to discuss a license agreement for the maintenance of Spring Hill Cemetery and to explore its future use. In light of this development, the Western Sonoma County Historical Society in Sebastopol has started administering a restoration fund for the cemetery and the Friends of Spring Hill Cemetery are organizing a group to perform the restoration and clean up. Interested parties can mail contributions to:

Spring Hill Cemetery Fund

C/O SCHS Treasurer

P.O. Box 1373

Santa Rosa, CA 95402

Checks can be made out to the Sonoma County Historical Society (memo Spring Hill Cemetery). The Sonoma County Historical Society is a non-profit organization whose tax ID number is: 94-2398443.

On October 14, 2006, The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, published an article about this effort to save the cemetery: Resting in peace, and obscurity: Pioneers' Spring Hill Cemetery to be preserved, by Guy Kovner.


The Friends of Spring Hill Cemetery continue their maintenance and rediscovery of the cemetery, returning it from its lost abandoned state of recent years, to a vital living link to our pioneer past. Susan's email summaries of the periodic Spring Hill Cemetery Work Days are valuable documents of discovery and continued successes.


Photo by Susan Zeni

Possible infant gravesite (#72 on the cemetery map) discovered during the February 8, 2008 cleanup.



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This page created on 11/06/05 17:42. Updated 08/14/16 15:58.