A forgotten cemetery

The memorial structure stands in the fairway on Hole 1

Back in October 2018, I featured an episode of California’s Gold titled San Francisco Cemeteries. In that episode, Huell Howser visited the city’s three remaining cemeteries and told the story of how most of the remains were relocated south to the town of Colma starting in the early 1900s — but there was a big part of the story that he missed, and it has to do with the present site of Lincoln Park Golf Club.

Yellow flag on the first hole’s green in the background

According to the National Park Service’s Vestiges of Lincoln Park, the area now known as Lincoln Park was originally the Golden Gate Cemetery (scroll down past the “El Camino del MarIn [sic]” section). A wide variety of people were interred here, including those with nowhere else to go.

By 1887, there were over 11,000 interments including more than 4,000 Chinese. By 1893, the total number of interments had grown to 18,000 which included over 11,000 poor and indigent burials in Potter’s Field.

By 1909, all human remains in the city (with the exception of those at Mission Dolores, the Presidio’s National Cemetery, and the Columbarium) were ordered  relocated — creating what must have been a truly enormous and difficult task. In that same year, a nine-hole golf course was already operating in the park (named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln). So perhaps it’s not surprising that, in the rush to further develop the space into a full course, some “minor” details were overlooked.

In May 2021, Amber Lee from local TV station KTVU wrote that there may be as many as 10,000 remains still buried beneath the park’s golf course; and two months later the nonprofit San Francisco Heritage estimated the number at 20,000 — including a large number of Chinese who had certainly played a role in the building (and the re-building) of San Francisco. After so many years of being forgotten, this piece of city history is finally being addressed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who voted in July 2021 to initiate a landmark designation for the park. I hope to see more action on this plan in the near future.

A view of the Sea Cliff section of the city

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