Ventura St. Mary’s / Cemetery Memorial Park

Ventura St. Mary’s Cemetery, aka Cemetery Memorial Park
E. Main Street
Ventura, California 93001
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St. Mary’s Cemetery / Ventura City Cemetery was established in 1862 and the last known burial was in 1944. The City of San Buenaventura converted the cemetery to a City Park in the late 1960s. Some burials were moved, but many were left in place. Most headstones were removed, although there are a few headstones remaining; these are all flush to the ground. The site is now known as Cemetery Memorial Park. It is located on East Main Street, and is bounded by Main Street to the south, Poli Street to the north, Aliso Lane to the east, and a parking lot to the west.

The VCGS database contains about 2,650 entries for this cemetery. Researchers should also search Find A Grave for this location, and the Restore St. Mary’s website.

More Detail about Cemetery Memorial Park

St. Mary’s Cemetery opened in 1862 when friars at San Buenaventura Mission were looking for more spacious burial grounds. For years, it was owned and operated by the Catholic Church. By 1943, the cemetery was nearly full and had fallen into disrepair. Weeds overtook family plots that once had been carefully tended, and vandals carried off old grave markers. This cemetery holds many of the cities founders and there are over 60 Union Veterans buried there. Also, Medal of Honor winner Private James Sumner, Company G, 1st US Cavalry rests in this ‘park’. He received a Medal of Honor for “gallantry-in-a-charge” on Oct. 20, 1869 in the Chiricahua Mts, Arizona. In the 1960’s the Ventura City Council began conversion to a city park and many remains were moved to Ivy Lawn. The marble headstones were removed and taken to Hall Canyon. Unclaimed markers stayed in Hall Canyon for seven years. In 1972, about 500 that remained were hauled to Olivas Park Golf Course, where they were broken up and used as rubble for a levee. There were occasional reports of errant tombstones found in creeks and canyons downstream of the city yard. The oddest came in 1993, when a smooth granite stone bearing the name of “Mother Ida May Shively” emerged from the rocky shore off Surfers Point in Ventura. Shively was buried at St. Mary’s in 1901, a week after giving birth to a daughter. The heavy stone was retrieved by that daughter, then 91. 

The Restore St Marys web site has a plot map of the original cemetery and early photographs.