Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery; Not Just For The Powerful

The Mountain View Cemetery is the park-like cemetery overlooking Oakland. It was established in 1863 and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The cemetery is the burial site of numerous powerful businessmen, politicians, capitalists, and military leaders. Many of the large mausoleums are a testament to the wealth of those buried inside.

While the most spectacular graves have been built for the rich, there are many other individuals buried in the Mountain View who spent their lives fighting for social justice. These are some of the figures buried there who were not men of power.

About Mountain View Cemetery

The cemetery is located at the end of Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. It holds 226 acres of rolling hills, the tallest of which overlook Oakland, the Bay, and San Francisco. The cemetery is a popular place to take walks or view sunsets.

The cemetery was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted is considered the father of American landscape architecture. His designs include Central Park in New York City, and the campuses of the University of California in Berkeley, and Stanford University. Olmsted was also a known conservationist, working to help create national parks, including Niagara Falls.

Because of Olmsted's fame, many of the most powerful Bay Area locals had a desire to be buried in the Mountain View Cemetery. This includes governors, senators, mayors of Oakland, the owners of international corporations, newspaper owners, military generals, etc.

Along with these powerful individuals are individuals who fought for the dignity and rights of the rest of society.

Henderson W. Luelling, 1810-1879

Henderson Luelling (sometimes spelled Lewellyn) was a quaker abolitionist and the "Father of the Pacific Fruit Industry". His house in Salem, Iowa was a part of the Underground Railroad used by slaves to escape to the North.

He moved to Oakland in 1853 and founded a fruit orchard, which be called Fruit Vale. He successfully brought the first fruit trees to Oakland, which brought him a small fortune. In 1859 he sold his orchard and joined the Harmonial Brotherhood. This was a group who had a utopian, free-love vision. The Harmonial Brotherhood set off on a ship to Honduras to create their utopian society, however, as soon as the ship set sail personal convicts began to emerge between members of the brotherhood. The utopian society failed, and Luelling returned to the Bay Area, living the rest of his life in the city of Mountain View.

Upon his death, he was buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in a plot shared with members of his family. The Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland gets its name from his fruit orchard.

Joseph LeConte, 1823-1901

Joseph LeConte was one of the founders of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is one of the oldest and most respected environmental organizations in the United States.

LeConte worked as a geologist and professor at UC Berkeley.

Charles Lee Tilden, 1857-1950

Charles Lee Tilden was a businessman and lawyer who led the effort to create the East Bay Regional Park District.

William Thomas Shorey 1859-1919

Known as "the Black Ahab", William Thomas Shorey was the only African American ship captain of his time. Most of his time at sea was spent whaling. His crew included men from all over the world and he was known to create a relatively good work experience for his men. After his whaling career ended he retired in Oakland.

Colonel W.S. Paisley, 1860-1894

In 1893, the United States was in the worst economic depression until that point. This depression lasted four years. In 1894 the unemployed of the country began to organize a march on Washington DC. These men came from all over the country, riding freight trains to descend on the capital and demand something be done about the widespread poverty being experienced.

This was the first popular protest march on Washington. The men taking part in this march were called Coxey's Army or The Industrial Army Movement.

Colonel Paisley was a mechanic from San Francisco and one of the 700 men in Coxey's Army who seized a train headed for Rocklin, California. In Rocklin the local constable attempted to seize back the train and arrest the leader of the 700 men. The constable brought out his gun, and while the men on the train attempted to wrestle it away from him, he shot and killed Colonel Paisley.

Paisley's killer was found to have acted in self defense.

Charlotte Anita Whitney, 1867-1955

Anita Whitney was a social worker, suffragist and a political organizer.

Whitney stated her career as a social worker, helping those less fortunate than herself. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake she became known for helping those who lost their homes. By 1911 she realized that the best way to help society was through political action. She joined the woman's suffrage movement and the Socialist Party.

In 1919 she and others split from the Socialist Party to create the Communist Labor Party. She was later arrested for speaking on behalf of the Communist Labor Party. Her trial became the most famous of the California Criminal Syndicalism Act trials. She was found guilty and sentenced to prison, but was pardoned by the Governor of California.

She continued to campaign for the communist cause and was elected the national chairwoman of the Community Party in 1936.

Because she was such a controversial figure throughout her lifetime, when she died, no headstone was placed on her grave. Instead, she was buried with her parents, George E. Whitney and Mary L. Whitney.

Vincent Saint John, 1876-1929

Vincent Saint John was a union organizer and leader in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Saint John was a miner and organizer in the Western Federation of Miners' Union. He later became active in the IWW, serving as the union's General Secretary from 1908 to 1914. The union membership grew ten times in size during these years.

When he died he was buried without a marked headstone. In 1992 a group of Bay Area labor activists bought and laid a red-granite headstone at his grave.

Ida Louise Jackson, 1902-1996

Ida Louise Jackson was the first African-American hired to teach in the Oakland Public Schools.

In 1920, Jackson was told she was not qualified to be a teacher in Oakland. In response, she enrolled at UC Berkeley. Jackson graduated from Berkeley and Columbia University. While at UC Berkeley she cofounded the Rho chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first African-American sorority at the university. After receiving her degrees she went on to become the first African-American to be hired by the Oakland School District.

She was also the founder of the Mississippi Health Project, bringing healthcare to rural Mississippi residents.

Fred Korematsu, 1919-2005

Bay Area native, Fred Korematsu was a Japanese American civil rights activist.

During World War Two Japanese Americans were arrested and sent to internment camps. Korematsu went into hiding rather than surrendering to go to one of these camps. He was found and arrested about a month after going into hiding. He brought a lawsuit against the government, claiming that the internment was an illegal attack on his civil rights. The suit made it to the US Supreme Court, where Korematsu lost.

Though he lost the court case, Korematsu continued to fight for civil rights in the United States. He was especially active in the fight against racial profiling, including the racial profiling of those of Middle Eastern descent after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

In 2018, the Supreme Court rebuffed the original court ruling, stating that the court originally ruled incorrectly.

Marcus Foster, 1923-1973

Marcus Foster was an educator who served as first black Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District.

Foster began his career in Philadelphia, where he worked as a school principal and then as Associate Superintendent of Schools. He moved to Oakland in 1970. In 1973, he was shot be members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). The SLA mistook many of Foster's policies and were shunned by other Leftist groups for the killing.

Bobby Hutton, 1950-1968

"Lil' Bobby" Hutton was the first recruit of the Black Panther Party. He served as their treasurer.

He joined the panthers at age 16. Hutton was active in daily Panther life, including taking part in the well known Sacramento protest where armed Black Panthers entered the capitol building. He and four others were arrested at that time.

Hutton was shot and killed by Oakland police in 1968, two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King. He was shot while attempting to surrender after a shootout between Panthers and the police.

A park in Oakland is named after Bobby Hutton. A memorial is held there every year.

Glenn Burke, 1952-1995

Glenn Burke was the first openly gay professional baseball player. He is also credited as being one of the two men who invented the high five.

Burke grew up in Berkeley, playing baseball and basketball while attending Berkeley High School. Burke went on to become a professional baseball player in the MLB. He first played for the LA Dodgers and then the Oakland Athletics. Throughout this time he was openly gay. He played professional baseball from 1976 to 1979. His career ended due to a knee injury.

During his time as a baseball player he experienced prejudices from some of his teammates and managers, though others in the clubhouse were supportive.

While playing for the Dodgers in 1977, Burke and outfielder Dusty Baker slapped palms to celebrate a home run. This palm slap is credited as being the first high five. Burke continued to use the high five with friends.

Burke died in 1995 of AIDS. Though he faced prejudices from many of his Athletics team members in the 70s, in 1995 he was honored during the team's Pride Night celebration. His brother threw the first pitch of the game.

For more Bay Area history, check out the People's Guide To The Bay.