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January 30, 2008 > The Quiet Neighbors on the Hill

The Quiet Neighbors on the Hill

By Marcess Owings, Hayward Historical Society and Museums

The original settlers of Hayward are still here. Often forgotten or passed over, but still here nonetheless. They reside atop a hill, tucked in a quiet residential neighborhood off D Street above Foothill. These folks are good neighbors, but there is something strange about them. See, there is one condition to be a part of this gated community. You have to be dead.

Lone Tree Cemetery is Hayward's first cemetery, purchased in 1868. To date, there are approximately 17,000 burials, which include some 4,000 veterans. The exceptionally well-kept grounds are still active, ever expanding to accommodate Hayward's diverse community. Each person has their own story and has made an impact on our city in their own way.

The cemetery even has its own mysterious legend. Around 1790, a young Spaniard and his female companion rode up to Don Guillermo Castro's hacienda to ask for food and lodging. Castro generously extended his hospitality to the couple. After a luncheon, the travelers inquired about points of interest and Castro pointed them to the lone oak tree atop a nearby hill that provided a beautiful view of the area. The couple rode off to explore.

A few hours later, an old Spanish man claiming to be the young woman's father arrived at the hacienda and asked about the pair. Castro pointed him in the same direction and the old man rode off. Several hours later, the old man returned to bid Castro farewell. Evening came and Castro's young guests had not returned. Night turned into day and the couple was still missing. Castro sent his vaqueros to search for the young lovers and found them lying side by side under the majestic oak. Not asleep, but shot dead. Castro's men buried the pair under that lone tree, which still stands at the center of the cemetery.

The story prompted a group of Hayward settlers to purchase the thirty-five acres surrounding the lone tree in 1869. The first recorded burial was the August 1877 funeral of Henry H. Bulmer. Bulmer was a Hayward businessman and retired sea captain from England. Over time, other Hayward pioneers would join Bulmer. William Hayward, J.H. Strobridge, George A. Oakes publisher of the first local newspaper the Hayward Journal, and Leander Linekin are just some of the famous residents. C.T. Ward, founder of the Hayward Fire Department and an original Lone Tree trustee, was brought back from Chile to be buried in the cemetery he helped establish. The famed canyon rancher families of Cull, Luce, and Jensen are all buried here. Even more recent locals have been placed alongside the founding fathers. Harry and Maggie Rowell, founders of the noted Rowell Ranch Rodeo, are located near the Strobridge crypt. Not far from William Hayward's grave is 1955 Indianapolis 500 winner Bob Sweikert.

Beyond the people buried in this cemetery, there are unique features that differentiate the separate plots. The Armed Forces Veterans Plot, now the final resting place for veterans of all wars, was originally a plot for Civil War veterans. Authentic cannon balls surround the plot, which also features two actual cannons. At the suggestion of William Hayward, who served as a volunteer fireman, the Hayward Fire Department bought a section in 1882 now called the Fireman's Plot. Today, the Fireman's Plot is dotted with red fire hydrants, commemorating these fallen heroes. Near the Fireman's Plot is a pair of enormous praying hands carved from a tree trunk.

Even the headstones and plot markers are unique, spanning more than a century of burials. William Hayward's tile covered memorial features a massive tribute to the city's namesake, but it is missing the heavy marble likeness of Hayward himself that once sat in the center of the headstone. The bust was removed for safety reasons and is currently on view at the Hayward Area Historical Society (HAHS) museum for our exhibition titled Dearly Departed, which explores the community's death traditions.

Lone Tree Cemetery is a lovely place to take a stroll and learn a bit about our city's history. It is always quiet, exceptionally well-maintained, and the view cannot be beat. Be a good neighbor and stop by for a visit. Have lunch with some of our famous former residents.

Marcess Owings is a curatorial assistant at the Hayward Area Historical Society and Museum (HAHS). To learn more about Hayward's pioneers please visit the HAHS museum and research library located at 22701 Main St. in Hayward. For more information on the current exhibit, Dearly Departed, and other exhibits and programs visit our web site at

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