The Boulder Creek IOOF Cemetery
By Julie Horner, Lisa Robinson, and Nick Morris
Tucked quietly into Ben Lomond Mountain where few know to tread, the CZU Lightning Complex fire paid a visit to the Boulder Creek Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Cemetery. The lush woods behind the cemetery are burned to the gates, and the undergrowth of ivy, huckleberry, and fern that wend between the headstones have variously been scorched and spared, amber, char, and leafy green. Reverent footfalls made among the monuments to remember those who have fought wars, traveled across countries, brought justice, run town businesses, served the public, and loved their neighbors are made soft in places by blankets of ash. Stones and tilted wooden markers stand in testament, some singed up to their Victorian era pickets, but are otherwise intact. A child’s stuffed animal, bedraggled by time and weather left by an unknown family member upon a grave has been moved out of harm’s way by a firefighter whose name has yet to be discovered.
This was a place where the firefight stood its ground – by hand stone by stone.
The Boulder Creek IOOF Cemetery consists of three acres in the mountains just above Boulder Creek. Nick Morris’ family plot sits near the center just off the fireroad that cuts through. His family moved to Boulder Creek in 1885 when John “D” James Moody brought his family over from Santa Clara. This makes him a sixth generation Santa Cruzian. You can find Moody buried in the oldest part of the cemetery with Boulder Creek’s other founding families. “The family history gives me pride because it offers something greater than myself, a legacy of good work making communities better. Maintaining this little piece of sacred land remains important to me because it reminds me of those legacies of good deeds and gives me an opportunity to honor the people who carried out those acts of love.” A few stone steps made of granite boulders cobbled together provide a mossy stairway up to the plot.
One day in June while tidying up the site, Nick met I.O.O.F. member, Annette Camplair, who had a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and a massive pile of wood chips that she was distributing throughout the area to improve the trails. Camplair first discovered the cemetery in April 2019 when she volunteered with the Odd Fellows to clean up the area. “I originally thought only people who belonged to the Odd Fellows could be buried here, but it’s a community cemetery. Anybody can be buried here,” she said.
According to local historian, Lisa Robinson, the oldest known marker in the cemetery belongs to Albert Allen, buried in 1882. In 1909, the cemetery was offered as a free gift to Boulder Creek lodge of Odd Fellows along with adjoining lands gifted by J. W. Peery and Isaiah Hartman. The stipulation at the time was that the Odd Fellows would maintain the place as an up-to-date cemetery. In early 1910 ownership of the land was transferred to the trustees of the Boulder Creek Lodge No. 152 IOOF.
Before the fire, Camplair had been working to raise awareness that the cemetery grounds were a peaceful location for picnics, school excursions, and a place to find solace with a book to read. Thanks to local firefighters, the historical cemetery remains one of Boulder Creek’s cherished treasures.