Personal Histories

Bob Wills History

Roses and a Trolley in the Cemetery

In this article Bob tells us a little about the area surrounding the present-day Newburg Park. It is difficult to grasp today because so little of exists, but only a hundred years ago it was thought that the lumber mill and the settlement of Newburg (also Newburgh or Newberg) would thrive alongside Fortuna. Newburg even boasted train service, with its tracks following Newburg Road - something Rohnerville sorely lacked.

There was little activity in the rural community of Newburg which was still in a long slumber from its heyday of being a noted logging community. Only a few of the houses were occupied; the rest seemed to be abandoned and in disrepair. The cemetery to the left of the road, on the hillside and prior to the settlement had been acclaimed by "Ripley's Believe It or Not." I don't recall his exact words, but he may have written the trolley that transported coffins up the hillside was the only one in the world [see description in right column]. In 1941, it was in sad shape and falling apart. Of course, it was a conveyance that I, even as a kid, was not anxious to ride.

I have recollections of the barn and hayfield that were at the Northeast corner of Newburg Road and Rohnerville Road intersections; a ranch where I first learned about loading baled hay. I also recall (been there done that) prior to grabbing hold of a bale of hay one should examine it for snakes; both in it and under it. The pay was fifty cents a day and another instance where my brain was demanding more than my body could produce. Because of my lack of brawn, I received an on the spot hayfield promotion to my first professional driving job. However, driving the hay truck was kind of disappointing and not all that glamorous, it wasn't equipped with power steering and power brakes, and all day long people were continually hollering at me to “Stop” or “Go.”

Loop road was a scenic narrow two lane journey through huge redwood stumps and stands of new growth timber; evidence that redwoods do restore themselves. The stumps, leavings of early loggers, were several feet in height and many feet in circumference. The area was a lesson in early history to when the logging was done the hard - and only - way with axes and manually operated crosscut saws. In knowing a part of the history of logging it was easy to visualize the preparing that was required prior to the first swing of the ax. In some instances, the trees had been massive in circumference and platforms were needed for the loggers to stand on. The scaffolding placement was dictated by the circumference of the tree and the terrain where it was situated. In some instances a tree would be smaller in size only a few feet higher and the smaller size would require less work to fall a tree. This was a point of interest when you figure that some trees required days of chopping before the call of “Timber” could be announced.

Situated near the road, when I resided there in 1950, was a stump of extraordinary distinction. It was massive in size; its interior had been hollowed by burning and carving. A badly decaying board above the collapsing door identified it as “The Rose Room.” The door was replete with a half moon; an indication that the architect had been brilliant in the design. There also was evidence that the landscaper had created a professional work of art when a rose bush was chosen to highlight the scene. Not only did the bush produce large beautiful red roses; they were also scented.


NEXT: Marshal Tony




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A trolley in a cemetery? Yes, but it wasn't the kind of cable car ride you would find in San Francisco. The Fortuna Sunrise Cemetery (Newburg Cemetery, deeded to Onward Lodge #380 Independent Order of Odd Fellows by F. J. Rowlin in the early 1870's, with the deed recorded in April, 1895) fronted on Newburg Road with a steep rise to the flat burial section on top, making it difficult to negotiate the road on the east side. The Lodge built a double wooden stairway up the center of the cemetery from the road to the top of the hill. Steel trolley rails were placed in the center, and a trolley car was specially built so that the casket sat level. The car was operated by a two-man hand-operated winch located in a building on top of the hill. It hauled up the casket while pallbearers walked on each side.