Hello folks who wonder if future wars will only be fought with artillery that is made from conflict-free and fair-trade certified minerals,

What lengths will humans go to avoid the simple fact that they are going to die?

Earn a lot of money, buy a lot of "stuff" with that money, get a face lift, use antioxidant face creams, buy expensive cars and big houses to store the same "stuff" they purchased earlier, date someone who is much younger, eat only organic foods, take antibiotics with their breakfast and then some.

Oh screw you, Karan! Stop bringing our spirits down, just as we are heading into the festive holiday season. It is Santa Claus or bust this season.

I just meant that there is so much universal stigma attached to this topic that people will go to great lengths to steer clear of this conversation altogether.

Last weekend, I was scheduled to meet a friend who is one of the indecisive types. You know the same ones when you ask them "What would you'd like to eat?" and they respond with "I donno, what do you want to eat?". This time I had enough of this nonsense, so when my friend couldn't decide where we were meeting in San Jose, I took the reins and decided we are meeting at Oak Hill Memorial Park which despite its fancy name is a cemetery. Not some bottom of the shelf cemetery, this one is the oldest one in California, established in 1847. 
That's cool and all, Karan, I don't mean to be rude, but the readers are wondering - how does this tie into your blog theme? Many feel impatient, as they are busy while aggressively tracking their Black Friday order shipments. 

I usually cover natural history in my blog posts, but today's post is going to be more of history with some natural history interspersed. If you are in for the ride, then buckle up buttercup, we have a wild ride ahead. And, thank my friend for being indecisive since I wouldn't have stumbled upon this otherwise.

Most, if not all people in California are aware of the tragedy of the Donner Party which were a group of families that travelled from the Midwest to California in 1846 and then got stuck in the snow,  ran out of food and resorted to eating the bodies of the deceased in order to survive. This is what most people are familiar with. 

One thing that one does not remember is that there were 2 prominent families who led this expedition. George Donner and James Frazier Reed were the original pioneers who intended to take their families across the west to the land of $22 free-range Avocado toast. 

The Donner party gets its name from George Donner who along with his wife and several family members who perished (and probably got munched on) in this ill-fated expedition.

James Frazier Reed was expelled from the group when he stabbed one of the members of this expedition who was disagreeing that a Chicago style pizza is not a pizza. Too extreme if you ask me, but I would have DMed him saying that he did the right thing. Stop judging me. I do not discriminate between my pizzas. Period.

Although he redeemed himself by rescuing this group later in the story. Some say since his family did not suffer any tragedy, it would not seem fitting to make it sound like the Donner-Reed party, hence you only hear it as the Donner party. I don't care, don't have a horse in this race, if I did, pretty sure these travelers would have eaten it at the first opportunity.

Ultimately, James Reed and his entire family survived this ordeal and settled in San Jose. When he passed away he was buried in this cemetery. Below is him buried alongside his wife.

It is hard to keep kids entertained these days, especially when the iPhone battery has run out. So imagine, what parents would have done to keep the spirits high of their kids when they were doing a road trip on a wagon as part of the Donner Party expedition.

Not much as we will find out, one of the daughters of James Reed, 8 year old Martha Jane “Patty” Reed Lewis sought solace in her doll called "Patty Reed's doll" and carried it everywhere she travelled during this expedition. This doll is one of the few artifacts left of the Donner Party expedition. Below is how the doll looks like. Good luck gifting this to any kid today and watch them hurl this back at you at light speed.

Patty Reed's doll

And below is the grave of that daughter who owned that doll.

The cemetery had placed vases beside each headstone to hold plastic flowers in remembrance of the dead. However, management also put up signs requesting that vases be kept upside down when not holding flowers. This prevents water from going stagnant inside them. Stagnant water allows mosquito larvae to breed, spreading dangerous illnesses like West Nile Virus.

Some graves had food items left by family members, such as fruits placed near the headstones. This fed the local wildlife like Eastern Gray squirrels and Fox squirrels that call the cemetery home. In the photo below, you can see an Eastern Fox squirrel nibbling on an offering it pulled from one of the grave vases. One wonders if the cemetery ghosts, should they exist, would take offense at this furry graverobber.

Nom nom nom squirrel

A couple of squirrels demonstrated what it feels like to sit across the thanksgiving dinner table when you both support different political parties.

When is the football game starting?

We all get nostalgic for the past. From fantasizing about the price of gas 20 years ago to the price of real estate 200 years ago, we fondly look back at the past wishing it will come back in present day. That said, one incident that you wouldn't want emerging from the past is the one that happened at this innocent park in Downtown San Jose and the courthouse in front of it in 1933.

St. James Park and courthouse in San Jose

In the midst of the great depression, anyone who is prospering might've been the envy of the town. Hart's department stores was doing brisk business even though other businesses had folded. The owner of that store had two kids 9 years apart. The older one was 22 year old Brooke Hart who was poised to take over the family business once his dad retired. 

One fateful evening in 1933, Brooke Hart was kidnapped. The captors demanded $40,000 in ransom - over $1 million today. They later agreed to drop the amount to $20,000. But unbeknownst to them, the police had already picked up their trail. While negotiating the ransom calls, authorities traced the kidnappers to a public telephone booth. Soon after, they arrested the suspects.

Brooke Hart

The two suspects - Harold Thurmon and John Holmes - confessed to killing Brooke Hart early in his kidnapping. They tied his hands and legs then threw him over the San Mateo Bridge during low tide. Brooke was weighed down by a heavy, 22 pound concrete block attached to his bonds. 

As the tide rose, Brooke likely struggled desperately to break free or keep his head above the waves. His body was found days later by duck hunters.

I walked up to the hill within the cemetery where this Great Mausoleum stood tall.

Great Mausoleum on top of Oak Hill

After the suspects were nabbed and charged with the crime, they were put in the jail in San Jose Courthouse. The local newspaper and radio encouraged the public to deliver "mob justice". Even the governor of California at that time, showed his support saying that anyone who would participate would not be charged with any charges and encouraged the public to deliver swift justice.

A spark is all it takes to light a fire (or a wildfire in CA) and soon enough a mob of angry citizens (think 5,000 to 10,000) stormed through the courthouse at night and dragged the 2 accused to the park opposite it. There, they tore off their clothes and publicly hanged both the accused. Once both suspects were killed the crowds cheered just like the crazy 49ers fans after their team scores a touchdown. The only thing missing was a side of buffalo wings and 32oz soda cup that night.

When the newspapers printed photos of the night of terror, they sided with the mob and blurred the photos of people who were involved in this mob justice scheme.
No one was sentenced for this mob justice and this lynching is one of the last documented ones in California History.

Inside the mausoleum, I came across the crypt that houses Brooke's body.

Family members may pay for a fountain to be installed in memory of a loved one. At first glance it simply looks like a nice antique but if you look closer, you might find a honey bee filling its water bottle.

Look at this man deep in thought, sitting pensive. Maybe he is reminiscing about the good moments he shared with his loved one. I know you can be overwhelmed with emotions when you think about those beautiful moments.
Just kidding, he is on his phone. Lol.

Do the ghosts of this cemetery ever host welcome parties when someone newly deceased arrives?

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