There’s a Bernal Buried in the Mission Dolores Cemetery



Neighbor Laurie made a historic discovery last weekend at Mission Dolores:

Sketching at Mission Dolores today, I was startled to see the headstone (and footstone, if there is such a word) for one of the original Bernal family that gave its name to our neighborhood.

It’s a good pilgrimage site for any fanatical Bernalwood patriots out there.

Amen. José Jesús Bernal was the son of José Cornelio Bernal, namesake of Bernal Heights and the original recipient of the land grant that included our present-day neighborhood. Wikipedia provides a handy thumbnail history:

José Cornelio Bernal (1796–1842), grandson of Juan Francisco Bernal, who was a Spanish soldier on the Anza Expedition, was also to become a soldier and married Maria Carmen Sibrian (1804–) in 1819. José Cornelio Bernal, was regidor (a member of the ayuntimiento, or town council) of San José starting in 1828. In 1834 as secularization of the Missions began, Bernal was granted 6 acres (24,000 m) at Mission Dolores by Governor José Figueroa. Rancho Rincon de las Salinas in was granted in 1839, and Rancho El Potrero Viejo in 1840. José Cornelio Bernal died in 1842, and the grant inherited by his widow, Carmen Sibrian de Bernal, and their son, José de Jesus Bernal (1829–1870).

With the cession of California to the United States following the Mexican-American War, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the land grants would be honored. As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho Rincon de las Salinas y Potrero Viejo was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852, and the grant was patented to Carmen Sibrian de Bernal and José Jesús Bernal in 1857.

The family gradually sold off the land. The first portion of the Bernal grant to pass to other hands occurred in 1859, when General William Tecumseh Sherman foreclosured on a mortgage. In the 1860s the rancho was subdivided into small lots, primarily populated by immigrants who farmed the land and ran dairy ranches.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Laurie

4 thoughts on “There’s a Bernal Buried in the Mission Dolores Cemetery

  1. Well, I’m aggrieved to learn that the scourge of the South (my ancestral homeland), one W.T. Sherman, also had his besmirched hands on a parcel of my adopted homeland, the former Bernal Rancho! I may have to burn some sage to excise his accursed ghost from my garden here in St. Mary’s Park…

    • In fact, it just occurred to me that I was prescient a couple of weeks ago when I began assembling a bottle tree at the bottom of the garden. It’s an ancient Southern tradition, a method of trapping haints rising from the ground in the night: They are attracted to the cobalt blue glass and get sequestered in the inverted bottles, being unable to move back downward and escape, and are annihilated by the rising sun. My ancestral bottle tree happens to be positioned in the southeast corner, pointing in the direction of the wicked man’s former holdings between Butchertown and the San Bruno road; so much for the odious remnants of W.T.S. in these parts!

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