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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

The Sloughhouse Graveyard

Jared Sheldon, a carpenter by trade, officially received a Mexican land grant of 22,130 acres along the Cosumnes River in 1844—in payment for work he had done earlier on the Mexican government’s customs house in Monterey—and divided the grant with his friend and partner William Daylor. The men married sisters Catherine and Sarah Rhoads in March 1847, and settled down as husbands, farmers and ranchers.

Unfortunately, they were among the first adults to be buried in the family graveyard situated between their respective homes. Daylor died of cholera in October 1850. The following year, Jared Sheldon erected a dam on his property near Clark’s Bar, to irrigate a vegetable garden. On July 11, 1851, a group of angry gold miners—whose upstream claim had been flooded by the dam—shot and killed him.

Sarah Rhoads Daylor married William Grimshaw in 1851 and the couple continued living on the Daylor Ranch, where they eventually had 12 children—8 of whom are buried in the Sloughhouse Cemetery. Catherine Rhoads Sheldon, the mother of three small children when she was widowed, wed John Mahone in 1852 and also remained on the property Jared had left her.

Over the ensuing decades deaths from disease, accidents, and childbirth filled the small graveyard with the remains of family members, neighbors, hired hands, and the occasional traveler. John Pierce Rhoads, brother of Catherine and Sarah, and the member of the February 1847 Donner Party First Relief who carried little Naomi Pike on his shoulders for 40 miles over the snow-packed Sierra Nevada, was buried there in December 1866.

Today the private Sloughhouse Cemetery contains more than 167 graves (some unmarked locations are unknown); a poignant reminder of pioneer life in early California. Today, the fenced Sloughhouse Pioneer Cemetery can only be visited by appointment.

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