Rand District Cemetery

Survey Number:      Owner:      Date of Discovery:


Among the treasures within the scope of the museum’s interest is our community cemetery, located in Johannesburg, with a post-card view of the township and the worldly remains of many illustrious mines.  We maintain a monument at the NE corner, commemorating the many anonymous graves present and listing the names (known to us) of those present.

Collected here are the  final resting places of some five generations of dream chasers, miners, merchants, ranchers, freighters, madams, promoters, vigilantes, teachers, movers & shakers, loafers & busy bodies; most from somewhere else, from all over the world, all brought here by the winds of fortune, and caught, like nuggets, in holes in the ground. (Mark Twain’s definition of a ‘Mine’ was: “A hole in the ground owned by a liar.”  We have our share of those, too.)


Ananoymous Grave Monument, a Shovel, Pick, Horse Shoe & Railroad Spike, the Tools of His Trades. – William J. Warren © 2011

While we have a share of fancy monuments and famous pioneers, many paupers lie in unmarked graves, along with all-too-common childrens’ graves, where marked, often given the universal first name of ‘Baby’, so high was the infant mortality under the rough conditions of the period.

The Photo on the upper right shows the “Pioneer Monument” This Monument contains the names of “Old Timers” whose obituaries, which we have found listed in the newspapers, indicate that they were buried in our cemetery, but for which no headstone has been found.

Below is a list of the “Pioneers” we have listed on the monument:

December 10, 1896:  “RANDSBURG—A Cemetery Started There on the 4th of December – RANDSBURG—December 5—On Friday morning the first grave was dug for Martin Gunning, who died from natural causes. The second was for William Davis, who lost his life in making a gun play.  The coffin for Gunning was not finished in time, so the gambler will go down in the town’s history as the first arrival in the “silent city” over the hill. At 3 o’clock this morning O. J. Klevan passed away and was also buried there.”  –Daily Californian


Picture of First Coffin Being Constructed For Use In the Rand District Cemetery. From S. F. Examiner, December 13, 1896. Collectin of the Rand Desert Museum

December 23, 1896:  “The new Randsburg cemetery was laid out and the first burial took place on the 4th inst. The remains of Wm. Davis, who was shot on the 1st and died on the 3d inst., were the first to be interred in the new cemetery, and Mr.McCormick lifted the first shovel full of earth in digging the grave. The second burial took place the same afternoon, when the remains of William Gunning, who died of bloody flux, were interred. The cemetery is in a sighty location, and those who are buried there sleep their last sleep in a veritable bed of gold. Randsburg Miner”  — Arizona Weekly Journal

January 20, 1897: “John Stone, formerly of Minnesota, but more recently of Marysville, Mont., died suddenly at the Delmonico Lodging House Thursday night, and will be buried tomorrow.  Mr. Stone came here with lung trouble some weeks ago, but for a time was able to work as a cook at the Quick Lunch stand.  About ten days ago he quit work and has been down since, the storm aggravating his disease.  He was only confined to bed about twenty-four hours.  He was about 30 or 35 years of age and single.  He gave the name of Frank Reneka of Duluth, Minn., as a half-brother, and that of Jacob Burkholz of Dakota, Winona County, Minn.., as an uncle.—Los Angeles Daily Times 1-2-97

Picture of the Rand District Cemetery As It Appeared In the San Francisco Examiner in December of 1896. Collection of the Rand Desert MuseumMay 26, 1897: ” RANDSBURG—The excitement incident to the killing of Mrs. Davidson (Emily) has in a great measure disappeared, yet beneath it all there is a very bitter feeling toward the murderer and not a little toward the persons who were instrumental in removing him from that swift and sure punishment which his crime merited, and which surely would have been meted to him by Judge Lynch, who in this case would have made no mistake. Mrs. Davidson was interred last Friday in the little graveyard on the schoolhouse section east of town. Being the first woman to occupy territory there.” – Los Angeles Daily Times

August 15, 1897: “RANDSBURG—On Wednesday morning last the wife of Mr. Wood, living on the road to Johannesburg, breathed her last. Mrs. Wood has been her only two months. She left a husband and two little children, the smaller one an infant in arms.” — Los Angeles Daily Times

October 22 1897: “RANDSBURG—The thirteenth interment in the cemetery east of town took place today, an infant child from Garlock being buried there this afternoon.” – Los Angeles Daily Times

November 17, 1897: “RANDSBURG—Daniel C. Daves died very suddenly here yesterday morning, and was buried this afternoon from the Episcopal Church.  Mr. Daves was a man of 77 years of age and the father of eighteen children. He came here in June, accompanied by one of his sons, and was at work helping to develop the Law Daves mine east of town by the Hard Cash.”  – Los Angeles Daily Times

December 6, 1897: “John Degan was stricken with heart disease on Tuesday and dropped dead near the baseball grounds.  He was laid to rest Wednesday in Mountain View cemetery.  Mr. Degan was one of the early settlers here, but was formerly of Bakersfield, where he followed the business of contractor and builder.”—The Los Angeles Herald

May 27, 1898: “RANDSBURG—Mrs. Nina Martin, wife of Harry J. Martin was buried Sunday afternoon.  The funeral was a very large one. This makes the twenty-sixth grave in the little burying ground over the hill.”  — Los Angeles Daily Times

June 16, 1898:  “RANDSBURG—George Sites, a young man, died of typhoid fever this forenoon.  He had been sick some days and was thought to be improving until this morning.  He will be buried in the little cemetery east of town sometime tomorrow.”  — Los Angeles Daily Times

October, 20, 1902: “DIED ON TRAIN WHEN HOMEWARD BOUND – Mrs. William Lechner, wife of a well-known resident of Randsburg, died on the Santa Fe train this morning just as it was approaching Bakersfield depot. The deceased had been ill for a long time with consumption and several months ago her mind gave way and she was sent to the insane asylum at Stockton. Her she recovered her reason, but was still a complete wreck.

She was discharged a few days ago at the request of her husband, who desired to take her home for her last moments. The trip however proved too much for her weakened constitution.

The remains will be embalmed and sent to Randsburg for internment there. The deceased was 26 years of age and a native of Sweden.” – Bakersfield Californian

November 2, 1907: “The infant son of Mr. and Mrs. William Houser died on Thursday evening the 31st,and was buried on Friday. The child had not been strong and in spite of every care and attention its life could not be saved.—Randsburg Miner”—Bakersfield Californian

What they all have is a story to tell, mixed mundane & epic, boring & fascinating, funny & tragic; worth remembering.  Alas, the record keeping over the years has been, in the best tradition of the camp, kind of up and down.


In the interest of preserving their legacy, the Rand Desert Museum will undertake a comprehensive mapping program in the spring of 2011, aiming to locate and identify as many graves as remain recognizable.  The names & particulars will be added to our knowledge base and searchable at this site, for the benefit of the ages.

Volunteers will survey the cemetery, divided into managable sections, a sector at a time, the whole displayed here and accessible to descendants & other genealogical researchers.

Rand District Cemetery, Aerial Photo w/ Ten Meter Grid Overlay, ca 2011. This image will be replaced with a higher resolution photo, as a pilot will kindly volunteer to fly the mission.  – Rand Desert Museum

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