By Shirley Contreras, a Santa Maria Valley historian.
Located near the south end of Bradley Road almost to Stubblefield Road, the Pine Grove Cemetery is said to be oldest known public cemetery in the Santa Maria Valley.
Absalom Stubblefield, whose family had settled on the homesteaded property in 1868, discovered the burial grounds shortly after acquiring the property. With some of the burial sites being marked with crosses made from branches of an oak tree, it appeared that the Spanish and Indian families had long been using this open land as a place in which to bury their dead.
Stubblefield, in noting the pine trees growing in the area, named the burial grounds, the Pine Grove Cemetery and continued to allow people to lay their loved ones at rest there.
In 1888 Stubblefield deeded the Cemetery to the newly organized Pine Grove Cemetery Association. Officers of this group were elected and the property was divided into 40 lots, about 12 gravesites to the lot. The association served as an overseer of the cemetery, leaving the families of the deceased in charge of the burials.
As the area grew in population during the 1920s and 1930s, local families used the larger and better-maintained Santa Maria Cemetery as their burial places. After the Pine Grove Cemetery Association officially terminated in 1938 the cemetery fell into deep neglect.
In 1965, when Vernon Bettencourt, a descendant of Absalom Stubblefield, asked for better care of the cemetery, a cyclone fence was put up around the burial ground.
However, the damage had been done. In addition to the place having being over-run with weeds and trash, vandalism had caused almost complete destruction of the markers, with most of them having been used to fuel a bonfire.
In 1974, the Tres Condados Girl Scout Troop 187 took on the special project of cleaning up this run-down and long forgotten cemetery, and returning it to its position of historical importance.
The Scouts, helped by many commercial businesses as well as parents, friends and descendants of the early pioneers, put in more than 300 hours of hard work in cleaning up the grounds.
In addition to the group's hard work, research by Troop #187 showed that there were more than 40 known grave sites and perhaps 200 or more actual burials conducted there since 1868.
In 1976, the Pine Grove Cemetery was designated as Santa Barbara County's Historical Landmark No.9.
In 1980, when a fence was built around the property to separate it from adjoining land development, Bettencourt found that the fence fell short of the actual cemetery boundary and that some of the graves were outside the fence line and in the path of planned development.
During the late 1980's, after additional surveys were made, the boundary was redrawn and maintenance and ownership of the Pine Grove Cemetery passed to the Santa Maria Cemetery District, in a deed recorded January 29, 1987. The last burial took place in 1997 when Chester E. Norris, a descendant of the pioneer Norris family, was put to his final rest.
Those known to be buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery include an infant son of William and Ethel Bachman; an infant daughter of John and Ethel Blake; Laura Crabtree, who died in 1886;
two children of Irvin and Rosa Culp; Myrtle Dalley, who died in 1914 at Pinal Dome Oil Lease; six members of the Drumm family; three members of the Forbes family; four members of the Forbes family; two members of the Foster family; William Gann; two members of the Grossi family; Maggie Gwin; five members of the Harp family; Sarah Hazelrigg; Eddie Heacox; four members of the Heath family; nine members of the Hobbs family; five members of the Holloway family; Adelina Huffman; B. F. Hyder; Nancy Jenkins, who died in 1898; Melinda Kerr, who died in 1881; Louis Musser, who died in 1911; nine members of the Norris family; Violet Pierson, who died in 1910; the infant son of James L. and Jessie Robeson; three members of the Stubblefield family; three members of the Twitchell family; Mary Vaughn, who died in 1886; and two members of the Whitford family. The records also show that there were two Spanish children buried there as well as seven who are unidentified.
Other possible burials in the cemetery include Clarence Ball; Frank and James Bellew; two Burolas; the infant child of Jon and Emma Crosswhite; three members of the French family; a Heath infant; and Elias Sansome, who died in 1903.
Other possible burials, of which the first names are unknown, include Calvert; Evans;
Freeman; Huffman; Mitchell and Tavani.
Because no official markers were placed on some of the graves to commemorate the early settlers, and the actual property description was not clearly defined, a surveyor was called in. Even at that, it is felt that some of the area is not exactly as it should be.