Village Cemetery hosts several oldest graves

June 09, 2007 12:00 am

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

A poignant record of early northern Del Norte County lies in the old Village Cemetery in Smith River.

Containing some of the oldest pioneer graves in the county, the marking stones date back as early as 1863. It is that headstone that identifies the grave of Hulda Tryon.

According to Smith River historian Grace Hight, the oldest person buried in the cemetery was laid to rest in the Tryon family plot.

She is Laura Tryon, who was born in 1797. Laura Tryon was mother-in-law to Hulda Tryon.

Mary and Henry Blake's graves are also part of the Village Cemetery. Henry was born in 1833, his wife in 1843.

Mary Blake was 13 when her father and three of her brothers were killed by Indians. Mary, her mother and a baby sister were taken prisoner. Their home was destroyed.

Although Mary's mother was sure her baby was dead, an Indian woman sent word to her that she was caring for the baby. Through negotiations of a white and Indian couple, the white prisoners were returned.

James Brooking, born in 1828, and Benjamin Lane, born in 1805 were business partners during the early days of Smith River Valley. Lane had left his four motherless daughters in New York, and come west seeking his fortune.

Missing the girls, he told Brooking about his family. As lonely as his partner, Brooking began writing to the girls in New York. After the girls decided to travel west and join their father, Brooking and Susan Lane married at the old Esswine house on Second Street in Crescent City.

Sisters Mary and Lizzie married brothers John and Billie.

Hight explained in her "Early Days of Smith River" article, now filed at Del Norte County Historical Museum, that the Village Cemetery comprises three parts: the old, new and a recently acquired acre.

"The Part still called New – altho it has been in use for nearly forty years, used to be the school yard," she wrote.

The School House that once occupied the land was moved and eventually became the Cooper Apartments.

About Grace Hight

Hight, the author of the thin pamphlet donated to Del Norte County Historical Society, wrote down her memories during the late 1940s.

She shared with her audience her own arrive, 46 years before her writings.

Grace and her mother traveled north of the lumber schooner "The Del Norte," a vessel that traveled regularly between San Francisco and Crescent City.

She described the voyage as taking "thirty-six long sea sick hours." The pair sea was rough when they arrived, and no jetties existed onto which the women could debark.

"We were told by the Purser to dress and be ready to be taken off in the lifeboats that were stationed on deck," Hight wrote.

She and her mother did not board the first boat that went to shore, but when it returned for "the slow ones," the trip became more interesting for her.

"We had to climb over the rail ... we had to go down a ladder – down the side of the schooner, until we reached the little lifeboat that was bobbing around in the rough sea," Hight wrote.

They were instructed to wait for a swell to raise the craft, then let go and drop into it.

That accomplished, crew rowed them to the old Crescent City wharf where Hight wondered how they would get up to their waiting party.

She was told to sit on a half barrel that contained a seat across it and hold onto the ropes attached to it as a mule pulled the barrel up to her father and sister.

"Up I went – round and round, until I reached the floor of the wharf," Hight wrote.

The old-time procedure was her welcome to Del Norte County.