(Flash! EUREKA!)...Recently I was contacted and provided with this wonderful map of where the United States Marine Hospital, in San Francisco, was actually located. Notice the u-shaped building with an "H" by its side. This map also shows the possible location of the cemetery at the back area just north of the hospital. *

The hospital was built in 1853 on the north side of Harrison Street between Main and Spear Streets. It was badly damaged in the 1868 Earthquake and was closed and rebuilt in 1875 in the Presidio next to Mountain Lake. In 2005 they unearthed an 1825 Whaler ship's remains where I use to think the cemetery may of been located. With a little "help from your friends", the picture is coming closer into view.

This was a Federal Facility created by the United States Goverment to tend to the medical needs of merchant seaman from around the world free of charge. The Marine Hospital Service was created under the Treasury Department in 1798. The San Francisco U.S. Marine Hospital was built after the California Legistature requested help with dealing with the crush of sailors during the Gold Rush. These men were in need of basic health care as well as suffering from the current cholera and yellow fever epidemics at that time. It was hoped this could also help to combat unsanitary conditions existing for the Gold Rush Era Merchant Seaman.

There are no San Francisco city records of a cemetery here, but I have heard about one from numerous oral sources. Recently there has been extensive verification of this possibility. It made sense to me that they had one since they added one to the new Presidio location. I believe the cemetery was eventually moved to the new Presidio location for the U. S. Marine Hospital.

The Ladies Seaman's Friend Society relocated and rebuilt a Sailor's Home here after their first Sailor's Home on Vallejo and Battery Streets, which was on ground next to the sailors' graves of the Telegraph Hill Cemetery, at the time of its construction. Mrs. Rebecca H. Lambert and her ladies educated and organized the sailors to be aware of the prevalant shady practise of the day for ship conscription, namely the recruitment process to Shanghai seaman.


"When the horrid scheme was in process to "shanghai" the sailors, and sell them to the shipping monopoly in the Port of San Francisco, Mrs. Rebecca Lambert, a sea captain's widow, came to the protection of the sailors. She gathered together a band of women to go into that building on Rincon Hill, and to get the men away from the "sharks", as they called the water front creatures". (From Life and Letters of a Forty-Niners Daughter by Aurora Esmeralda.)

I use to think it was possible the Ladies Seaman's Friend Society moved some of these graves to their wonderful Seamans' Cemetery at the city's Golden Gate Cemetery, perhaps starting in the late 1860's or early 1870's, if they weren't already moved to the Presidio by the U. S. Marine Hospital staff.

Recently the Federal Historians have completed the most extensive research on this topic, finally. The seamen were probally not buried with the Ladies Seaman's Friend Society cemetery, but, were a continuing part of the new Marine Hospital's mission.


"It appears that the Marine Hospital performed most of its own funerary services. A faintly dated letter - it could be 1882 or 1892 - states that the hospital purchased lumber for the purpose of making coffins (Vansant n.d.), and excavations in the cemetery have recovered nails and chunks of redwood coffins (Woodward-Clyde 1990)." **



Here is a brief excerpt from a description of the original hospital found in an old San Francisco Directory;

"United States Marine Hospital, Rincon Point between Main and Spear. Organized 16th March, 1852. Building erected Nov. 1853. This is one of the most splendid public edifices in the State. It is four stories high besides an excellent basement, and is capable of accommodating five hundred patients. It occupies one of the most conspicous positions in San Francisco, and from its windows can be seen the entire city on the North, the beautiful town of Oakland on the East, in the distance the Mission Dolores, and on the North, embraced by waters of the Bay, Goat and Alcatraz Islands. Daily admissions, 6; deaths per month, 4; average number of patients, 150."




* Maps and charts of the United States Coast Survey. A.D. Bache, Superintendent. To July, 1854.
www.davidrumsey.com

**The Marine Hospital Cemetery, Presidio of San Francisco, California,
by Jennifer McCann of The Presidio Archaeology Center, p. 10

Woodward-Clyde Consultants 1990 Draft Cultural Resources Report for Presidio of San Francisco Base Closure Remedial Investigations. Woodward-Clyde Consultants, Oakland, CA.

1995 Letter to Sannie Kenton Osborn, US Army Corps of Engineers, January 1995. Draft Report on Archaeological Monitoring During Test Pit Trenching and Monitoring Well Installation at Landfill 8, Presidio of San Francisco, California.

Vansant, Jno. n.d. Letter to Supervising Surgeon General of the United States Marine Hospital Service, 11 February. Correspondence of the San Francisco Marine Hospital, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD.




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