While searching Google Maps for my next cemetery to visit I found an older one in Downey, just a few miles from my house. It’s a small, shady cemetery that has served the residents of Downey for over 200 years.

Founded in 1868 when W.A. Spurlock buried his young daughter on a piece of his land (and later donated an acre for cemetery use). This is the final resting place for many early settlers of the Southern California region including a native, Indian Joe who has a wooden headstone on the grounds.

Indian Joe was of the Cahuilla band and his name was actually Jose. According to the Downey Patriot Indian Joe’s parents are thought to have been among the Cahuillas that were located in the San Gabriel Mission area. In the 1880s, Jose told pioneer Downey farmer James Bangle that he was born in San Gabriel and that “the priest would not allow him to marry because he would not join the church”. His headstone has been stolen and replaced several times over the years and every time they choose to spell the name of his tribe incorrectly as “Kaweah”.

The Downey Cemetery has a very wide assortment of headstone styles made from all manner of materials; from black and white marble markers to concrete molded and even the wooden one for Indian Joe. It’s a shame, this little cemetery seems to get vandalized on the regular. So not only are some of these headstones extremely weather-worn, but a good deal of them are broken or damaged. All the ceramic portraits have been stolen as well as the bronze busts that once topped some of the more notable inhabitants. Makes me sick.

photography was banned without a permit in 2013, so be aware. If you plan to visit, some of the neighbors are a little more than nosey, even aggressive. I am usually trying to get away from the living when I visit cemeteries but a conversation can be had.