Coloma State Park Pioneer Cemetery Vandalized

by Placerville Newswire / Jan 17, 2021 / comments

[Weekly Digest of California State Parks]

Vandalism is a constant problem that plagues historic cemeteries. The two fallen headstones in Coloma’s Pioneer Cemetery belong to Henry Mahler Sr. and his daughter, Matilda. The Mahlers were a prominent family in Coloma and El Dorado County for more than half a century, from the early days of the California Gold Rush to the turn of the 20th century, culminating with the election of Henry Mahler Jr. to the State Senate in the 1880s. These toppled headstones mark two of approximately 500 burials in Coloma’s Pioneer Cemetery that memorialize the lives of those who traveled here beginning in 1848 from all over the country and the world in search of gold and a better life.

Gold Fields District, with the support of the State Parks cultural resources program, took drastic measures in the early 2000s to restore the cemetery and prepare for future vandalism. During the course of the project, damaged grave plots were rehabilitated and many broken headstones were restored and placed within a sandy soil matrix. When kicked or pushed, these stones often crack or separate from their base; however, the addition of the sandy mixture provides some flexibility, enabling them to fall without breaking. This sandy base likely saved these most recently vandalized headstones, allowing the two marble headstones to tip on their concrete bases without breaking.

The two vandalized headstones have now been uprighted and reset. Over the past few weeks, district cultural staff worked with the maintenance team at Marshall Gold Discovery SHP to devise a plan to reset the headstones that followed guidelines prepared by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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