Adventuring in California – Of Cemeteries and Abbey’s

This adventure began with a map; this map to be specific.










It is a map of Modesto, CA circa 1939.  As I looked over the map I noticed a lot of place names that have vanished from modern maps especially school names. This reminded me of an abandoned school I had passed on an earlier adventure near Lockeford.


Then I recalled I have seen a few such structures in various rural places and wondered if I went to the school locations on my map would I find abandoned schools there as well.  This caused a memory to surface that I had seen a mission style building such as the one above near Modesto so I hopped in the truck and headed out to locate that building and see if I could match it to my map.

After driving for almost an hour I finally came across the place I had thought was a former school, which turned out to be someones house. It still strongly resembles other rural schools I’ve seen but no one was home to help me confirm or deny that the house was once a school.  Temporarily disappointed I recalled I was near an old cemetery for a place named Collegeville; so I hopped back in the truck and ventured out.

Collegeville is one of any number of forgotten or nearly forgotten places located a the intersection of locally important roads.  Specifically, Collegeville is here









I’m sure it’s name would’ve disappeared from maps if it were not too far from  Stockton at the intersection of two important secondary roads.  There is an elementary school here, a rural fire department, fruit stand and convenience store all relatively near the intersection.  I think the fact that Collegeville still has these services is why the cemetery has not completely disappeared.

Though this cemetery is obviously not in the best shape, it at least remains and fairly recently people have begun slowing it’s decay by adding the fence and periodically cleaning it up.  Visiting this place reminded me of a paper I wrote in college about the Germantown Cemetery located in Artois, CA, which is near Chico.  Since I was going to be in Chico in a few days I decided I’d revisit that cemetery.

Cemeteries are good places to learn about the history of a community.  From 1875 to about 1915 Artois was called Germantown.  The community decided to change it’s name after trains carrying troops from Northern California south to camp Pendleton stopped at the station and the troops would hop off and vandalize the station.  The name Artois was chosen because there were artesian wells, natural springs, in the area which reminded people of the province in France named Artois for the artesian wells there. The only place to get a clue to this places past is the cemetery.


From here I headed toward the New Clairvaux Vineyeard on the grounds of the Abbey of New Clairvaux.  I had been wanting to visit this place because I had heard the monks living there had used stones from a 13th century church in Spain to construct a building.  A long the way I saw these random cool things:


Near and dear to my heart as a geographer:









The New Clairvaux Vineyeard and Abbey of New Clairvaux are located about 20 miles north of Chico near a disappearing town named Vina.  The stones the monks are using to construct a chapter house have an interesting story.  They were brought to California by William Randolph Hearst to use in the construction of a house near Mt. Shasta but were never used.  He donated the stones to San Francisco for the construction of a building that never was.  In 1994 after years of neglect the stones were donated to the Abbey of New Clairvaux and in 2004 construction of the chapter house began. Not all of the stones survived or were intact, something like 80% were usable, so new stones needed to be chiseled for the construction.  The chapter house is nearly complete and is a seamless mix of old and new.

The adjacent winery provided a nice opportunity for a photo shoot as well.




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