Rest in Peace

My great-plus uncles William H. V. Cronise, age 25 and Albert D. W. Cronise, age 23 left their family behind in Monrovia, Frederick County, Maryland and set out for a California adventure by way of the Isthmus of Panama in 1850. Soon after boarding the steamship Panama and departing the Isthmus, Albert became ill with a fever and died off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico. His last wishes were for his body to be returned to Monrovia and buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery. William preserved Albert’s body in a barrel full of alcohol collected from his ship mates. According to William’s reports back to family upon reaching San Francisco, Albert’s body was quickly decomposing due to the poor quality of the alcohol. So he buried Albert in San Francisco promising his parents he would return with Albert’s remains after they had completely decomposed. He fulfilled his brother’s last wish and his promise to his parents. Albert’s body traveled the 2,800 miles back to Monrovia where it was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

At the time of Albert’s death, William expressed his own wishes to be buried in Pleasant Hill with his family. He became a successful merchant and entrepreneur in San Francisco, married a beautiful widow and raised his stepdaughter and son. He died there in 1896 and was buried in his adopted home presumably in the Masonic Cemetery with his wife and in-laws. Unfortunately in the 1930’s, the graveyards of San Francisco had evolved into prime real estate. The cemeteries in San Francisco were closed to make room for the University of San Francisco and other more important endeavors. All of the graves were opened and the remains of thousands and thousands of bodies were removed to San Mateo County. The tombstones were used for filler to create the on and off ramps for the Golden Gate Bridge and for San Francisco Bay sea walls.

Albert’s body suffered the indignities of being stored in a barrel of alcohol, temporarily buried in a foreign land, dug up and shipped 2,800 miles until it finally reached his chosen and hopefully permanent destination—home surrounded by family. His older brother William was buried in his adopted home of San Francisco with his California family which turned out to be a temporary resting place. Forty years later William’s remains were removed from his favorite city and reinterred in San Mateo County. His tombstone is reportedly living amongst the fishes in San Francisco Bay. I’m horrified that William’s body was removed from his beloved San Francisco and permanently separated from his tombstone—his marker, the memorial to his life. I’m saddened by the disrespect shown to his remains and to his descendants. William made it his mission to return Albert home so he could rest in peace. Unfortunately William lacked such an advocate. I hope his soul has found peace after all this time. It certainly unsettles me.


About Cindy Jones Nicewarner

I’m on a personal mission to locate my kin, dead or alive—Whatever it takes, wherever it leads, I keep digging until I surface with those hidden golden genealogical gems. I get a thrill from busting through brick walls and mining mysteries. I live for this. Well that and documenting my sources, and keeping meticulous notes, and filing all of my discoveries. This is my thrilling exciting life of a professional genealogist--assembling clues in the never ending quest to discover the deeper profound meaning of our family relationships across the generations.
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3 Responses to Rest in Peace

  1. Barbara Cronise says:

    I am also a descendent of Sharpsburg minister Benjamin Franklin Cronise (second cousin to William H.V. and Albertus)d, who named one of his sons Albertus Brooks Cronise. The pickled-in-a-barrel story was been passed down to me by my aunt,whose husband’s family, the Earleys, lived in Shepherdstown. . I was very glad to find your blog, as I have been exploring the ancestral hallways and so many have closed doors. I’m sure you know of Titus F. Cronise, brother to William H.V. I have recently acquired his amazing book, “The Natural Wealth of California,” which he published in 1868. My father, Robert Owen Cronise, of Jefferson County (born in a house on the main street in Sharpsburg) was son of Hayes Rohrbach Cronise. My mother, from Wardensville, WV, went to Shepherd College in the mid-1930s. I’ve been in California most of my life, but have a strong bond to Jefferson County as well as to Hardy County, WV. We may have much to discuss. I hope to hear from you.

  2. Jaimie Stoddard says:

    Do you know if William H V Cronise had an earlier family in Maryland? I am researching the Stansbury family in Maryland and came across a record for William H V Cronise to Mary O. George on 20 Jan 1845 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was Mary Octavia George, daughter of Wilson George & Elizabeth B. Stansbury. They had a son named George Proctor Cronise, born about 1847 in Maryland. In the 1860 & 1870 census records Mary O. G. Cronise and her son George are living in Baltimore, Maryland with her mother. In the 1880 census, Mary Octavia is head-of-house. It is possible that they may belong to an earlier family of William H. V. Cronise before his move to California.

    • Jaimie yes I know about both of William H.V. Cronise’s two families. I have not been able to locate a divorce record for his marriage to Mary Octavia Abbott. William’s second marriage to Katie Clement in San Francisco was published in the Baltimore newspaper so I’m thinking he must have had a legal divorce from Mary. I know that Mary’s mother was a Stansbury. Do you by any chance know where Mary or her mother are buried? I set up a Findagrave memorial for George P. Cronise who is buried at Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore although he does not have a tombstone. I haven’t been able to find where George’s wife Juliette is buried and his daughter Octavia disappeared before George’s death. I haven’t located her either. Very mysterious family. Do you have any more information on Mary Octavia?

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