In 1989, at the rededication of the Liberty Cemetery, the following story of the “Liberty Rose” was included in the program. It was first printed in the Lodi News Sentinal in 1946. A cutting of this rose is planted at the Rae House Museum garden.
The legend of a cemetery rose has blossomed and flourished for 125 years in the confines of what is now known as the Liberty “Pioneer” Cemetery.
In 1961, Mrs. Freda Jahant Nesbit, granddaughter of Liberty pioneer, Peter Jahant, wrote an early history of this area which includes an interesting account dealing with Liberty Cemetery’s famous rose bush…
Freda Jahant Nesbit’s account follows: Jedediah Smith is the first known American citizen to come to this section. In 1825 he led a party of trappers here in search of beaver. They entered the valley over the mountains from the southeast and spent two profitable years here and left what is now California, passing out through the Sacramento Valley at its northern limits.
On this trip, one of the party, a Louis Andreis, from the Mississippi region, sickened and died. With him on the journey he brought a devoted Negro slave. The two had in their possession some rooted rose bushes which the slave carefully nurtured on the long hard trip and which were intended as gifts for some friends in the Northwest that he hoped to visit before returning East. Andreis was buried at the site of his passing, a spot that later became the pioneer cemetery called Liberty.
The slave marked the grave with a rude cross and over it planted one of his precious rose bushes. No better marker could he have found for it flourished there for about 125 years, or until 20th Century progress put a modern highway over the spot where it had grown. It was a large bush with a tree-like trunk that year after year bore faded pink roses though it was all uncared for. As children we played in and out of this old cemetery, for there was the best place to find Johnny jump-ups and it was our favorite picnic spot.
I never knew the story of the rose bush, however, until I learned of it from Judge Solkmore in 1941. My children were especially interested in this bush and when the highway cut through the cemetery, my daughter and her husband went out there and got slips and also dug up some of the bush’s roots. Surprisingly, the bush which grew from the roots that they planted in their yard has blossoms of the American Beauty shade. They are the old-fashioned double rose with small, tight petals.
At the time of Smith expeditions, thousands of wild horses ranged the valley, herds of elk and antelope covered the plains and bands of deer filled the bottom lands. The trappers reported having seen as many as 15 grizzly bears at one time. In the winter months the male elk congregated in herds of from 50 to 500 without a single doe.
An occurrence that these white men witnessed was a meteoric shower which covered the entire northern hemisphere. They did not at the time realize what they were seeing, believing it to be some kind of a phosphorescent display from the swamp lands, but they did refer to it as appalling. In Boston it was estimated that 240,000 meteors fell.
The Galt Area Historical Society offers a book of our local history called Tapestry. Click here for more information.
Last edited 27 February, 2005
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