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Committed to the Earth: Jim Anderson and the Felton Cemetery

By Julie Horner

They dig everything by hand at the Felton Cemetery, according to groundskeeper, grave digger, and headstone setter Jim Anderson. Anderson is a member of the Felton Cemetery Association Board of Directors and has been the go-to for getting business done at this rustic memorial park at the corner of Felton Empire Road and Love Street since 2015. The “old side” of the cemetery was purchased from the Hihn Company back in the early 1900s by the Felton Cemetery District for just a few dollars. In the early 70s, the District purchased the “new side” from the Cowell Foundation for a few grand. Nothing above six inches is supposed to be installed on the new side, so monuments hug the soil. On the historic side, traditional granite and wooden markers tilt like crooked teeth, mottled and moss covered, beneath the oaks. “There are people buried from back in the 1800s here,” Anderson said. 

Jim Anderson Felton Cemetery Groundskeeper
Jim Anderson, Felton Cemetery’s Groundskeeper | Photo by Jaime Anderson

Anderson spent his formative years in Boulder Creek. He grew up at the Santa Cruz Lumber Company Mill 12 miles north of town. “My grandfather was a blacksmith back when the Ley brothers were partners in the lumber company.” Big property owners in the mountains, and after whom Ley Street off Felton Empire Road is named, the Ley family is buried at the Felton Cemetery. Dr. Farmer was one of the first doctors in Felton and was an impetus for getting the first community hall built, Anderson said. She is buried in the Felton Cemetery and has a street nearby named after her as well. A veteran of the American Civil War — Colby is the family name — and one of the area’s first constables, according to Anderson, is also buried at Felton. 

You must live in Felton, Ben Lomond, Zayante, or Mount Hermon to purchase a plot at the Felton Cemetery. Boulder Creek is excluded because they have their own cemetery. Standard sized coffins are acceptable, even burial shrouds, though Anderson has never encountered one. “The only coffins that give us pause are the handmade ones.” He said they had a handmade coffin once that came apart during interment. 

Anderson and childhood friend, fellow caretaker, and historian David Wildman take turns making the rounds minding the stones. “They say families stop visiting by the second generation,” he said. Footsteps crunch in the thick oak mulch. “It’s a labor of love for Dave and I.” 

Cemetery tombstones in Felton California
Felton Cemetery | Photo by Julie Horner

The Roaring Camp steam engine whistle blows, the sound haunting on the late afternoon breeze. In dappled sunlight, a pair of deer pick their way around the gravemarkers. Anderson knows the story of nearly everyone who has been laid to rest here, young and old, and has forged some lifelong connections with family members. “I just buried Mr. Ordway over there,” he said, “one of the original vaqueros.” The man’s family called during the CZU fire to see if Anderson was okay. “That’s the kind of thing that really touches me.”

Learn more about the Felton Cemetery: feltoncemetery.org

Featured photo of the Felton Cemetery by Julie Horner

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2 Thoughts to “Committed to the Earth: Jim Anderson and the Felton Cemetery”

  1. Wilcox Cynthia

    Lovely story. I worked with Jim’s mom years ago.

  2. Gonzalez Charlie

    Amazing story! Jim helped us when a family member passed away and his wish was to be by his Mom. Jim made sure that wish came true!

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