This is a map showing the location of the Yerba Buena Cemetery which was located on the site of the present day Main Public Library and was also where City Hall was before the 1906 Eathquake. This cemetery covered a triangular area bounded by Larkin, McAllister and Market Streets.

I plan to add more about this cemetery but suffice it to say there were 5,000 to 9,000 graves here that were supposedly all moved to the Golden Gate Cemetery in 1866. The construction workers were still pulling out body parts when they built the New Main Library in the mid 1990's. More recently, they have found more bones while digging in the back of the Old Main Library which is being converted now into the New Asian Art Museum. humm...?

I will leave you with this tidbit fact to chew on. As the archaeologists recently removed some complete bodies (mostly just framgments), they documented how they found what. They found a rash of headless bodies besides various degrees of scattered bones that were once "properly buried".

There is speculation as to how come the numbers don't add up since less than 2,000 can actually be documented as moving to the Golden Gate Cemetery out of the reported 5,000 to 9,000 supposedly buried there. Besides the possibility of Medical Students helping themselves to cadavers or a few skulls for studies, there could of been other forms of grave robbers afoot at that time.

An article in the 1853 Chambers' Edinburg Journal, reprinting an article from the Panama Herald, mentions a curious and unusual California Industrial practise for making soap:

"Owing to the spongy, springy nature of the soil in the burying-ground of San Francisco, many of the corpses there interred, instead of decaying, have been converted into a substance well known to chemists by the name of adipocere - a substance analogous to, and intermediate between, stearine and spermaceti. In passing the ground this morning to my place of employment, I saw a person busily engaged in collecting the adipocere from exposed bodies. Struck by the singularity of his employment, I interrogated him as to its object, when he cooly replied, that he was gathering it to make soap!" ++

Bodies turned into soap. Now that is recycling with a vengeance!! Perhaps this practise, and others we don't yet know about, accounts for the many missing pioneers' dead bodies or remains.


San Francisco Cemeteries Page Maps Articles

++ "Chambers' Edinburg Journal", No. 479, March 5, 1853; p. 160, 'California Industry'.