Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana proves that a grave hunter doesn't have to go to LA to find buried treasure. Fewer pastimes are more suitable for a summer afternoon than traipsing across green lawns sprouting gorgeous rows of palm and pine trees emitting a cacophony of bird chatter, including the squawks of the occasional low-flying feral parrot. This boneyard shares a plot of land with one of the county's earliest body repositories, Santa Ana Cemetery. Between the two, you'll find such notables as Leo Fender, Pamela Courson (gal pal of Jim Morrison), drag-racing pioneer C.J. Pappy Hart (who organized races at John Wayne Airport), as well as Clyde Bruckman. Don't know him? A silent-film writer best known for his work with legendary deadpan comic Buster Keaton, Bruckman wrote the seminal movie The General but struggled with heavy demons until 1955, when he borrowed a pistol from Keaton and permanently joined the gun club. The cemetery's charm is enhanced by a forest of ancient headstones, some marking the final resting spot of Civil War soldiers, both Union and Rebel, weathered to the point of being illegible. Others are adorned with elaborate statues of angels and crosses heralding the familiar names of early Orange County: McFadden, Ball and Kraemer.
Surrounded by groves of trees is a massive, ornate mausoleum built in 1916 with seemingly endless labyrinths of marble; it's rumored Charlton Heston did some voice recording for the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments from here. You'll find there are fewer places better suited to a sweltering afternoon than a stone building. Of course, no trip to this spot would be complete without visiting the Civil War monument, perhaps the marker most telling of the county's history. The large marble monolith, located on the Santa Ana side, honors those Confederate separatists who "built" Orange County after fighting so valiantly for the cause of slavery. If you go to check this one out on a crowded day, be mindful: It's not uncommon to see Latino families grieving for the cemetery's newer arrivals. It's perhaps one of the few places where you can hear banda music competing with Dixie.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!