Rose Hill Historical Cemetery

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The doltish behavior of the living caused a total uproar from angry spirits!

Many are still restless and on guard, for a variety of reasons.



An Historic Welsh Protestant cemetery for coal mining towns, now included in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.




From around 1850 until the turn-of-the-century, this area was known as the Mount Diablo Coalfield, where a low grade of coal was dug out of the mines located in areas where people who were buried in the cemetery lived and worked, in the Nortonville-Somersville and Brentwood areas. These mines played out around the turn-of-the-century. Around 1920, the towns of Somerville, Nortonville and Brentwood got an economic boost when mining for silica sand used for glass making and metal casting began in earnest in the Hazel-Atlas Mine. This continued until the 1940s, when the mines were closed for good because it became cheaper to import the sand from foreign countries. When the mine owners sold the their holdings as range land for livestock, the people who lived in Somerville took down their redwood houses, board by board, and moved with their belongings to other areas, where they reassembled their houses and their lives.

This Protestant cemetery, located on prime real estate, with a glorious view, became the final resting place of these mostly Welsh people who died starting from around 1865, up until a little after the mines closed, in 1954. The graves here mark the deaths of human beings who died from mining accidents, black lung, dumb kid mishaps, accidents of life, small pox, typhus, scarlet fever, diphtheria outbreaks and from childbirth, which took the lives of many women. The cemetery received its name after the mines closed. The man who bought the land from the mining company gave the cemetery portion of it to his daughter, Emma Rose, who named it Rose Cemetery.

Unfortunately, the thickheaded living were unkind, disrespectful and destructive to Rose Cemetery throughout the ’50s-70s. They took headstones, and ran over the graves with their trucks, leaving the cemetery in terrible condition when it became part of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in the mid ’70s. By then, nearly half the headstones were missing, while nearly all of those that remained were knocked off their bases and broken.

How do professionals restore a cemetery? Unfortunately, the early cemetery records kept by the mining company were destroyed during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. However, the dedicated Black Diamond staff, led by Supervising Naturalist Traci Parent, through a slow but steady process, undertook to restore broken headstones, find out who was buried beneath them through cemetery lists put together from 1922-1954, interview former residents and descendants, and make good use of historical newspaper articles and historic photos.

In August 2001, the staff got a big break when the Community Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg, whose founding members had come from the Nortonville church, found burial records detailing the deaths of some of those folks buried in Rose Hill, dating back to 1882. This was a great help!

Another exciting development came during the summer of 2005, when the staff hoped to complete a survey using ground-penetrating radar to find unmarked burial sites, hoping to gain another important piece of the puzzle with either original stones or new markers.

The staff has an orphan headstone program (no questions asked), where old headstones can be turned in by police agencies, private land owners and even the Contra Costa County Historical Society. So far, 12 headstones have been found and replaced on the graves they were made for, bringing them home.

Anyone who finds a missing headstone, can contact:

Traci Parent/Supervising Naturalist
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
5175 Somersville Road
Antioch, California 94509

A recent find was a marble headstone retrieved from a homeowner’s backyard in Walnut Creek when a trench was being dug for a new sewer line. It belonged to a grave in Rose Hill Cemetery marking the death of 5 year old Walter E. Clare, who died from a horse kick to his head. When the exact location of his grave is found, Walter E. Clare’s headstone will be be put back in place.



Rose Hill Cemetery not only has ghosts who have personal issues/regrets, it has also had quite a few upset entities with bones to pick with the living for disturbing/destroying graves of the departed. To quiet the unhappy spirits, 119 exorcisms have been performed, but many spirits remain restless.



An Entity or Two with Personal Issues/Regrets…

Sarah Norton, who was the widow of Noah Norton, the founder of Nortonville, was the popular, skilled, dedicated midwife who delivered quite a few babies in the coal mining communities, in all kinds of weather, and at any hour of the day or night. She was described as being a gutsy, independent soul with a prickly personality, rumored to be an unbeliever because she wasn’t known to be “a very religious person.” On October 5th, 1879, while traveling to deliver a baby, she was thrown from her buggy and killed when her horses bolted and ran. When two different huge, violent storms interrupted two attempts to have a funeral for her, the people simply put her into her grave without a “Christian burial.” Uh Oh! This wasn’t good!

The entity of Sarah Norton has haunted the Rose Hill Cemetery and the surrounding hills for many years, perhaps upset because she wasn’t given a Christian burial. Or perhaps feels she died before she had a chance to finish her work on earth. Her apparition has been seen and described as “a glowing lady” OR “a gliding woman,” and has been given the name of “white witch.”

The ghostly apparition of a horse-drawn hearse has been seen and heard traveling up the road to this cemetery.

Restless Souls disturbed by the Past Cemetery Destruction…

A glowing, white entity likes to glide right above the grave headstones, occasionally getting chuckles in terrifying the living foolish enough to be there after dark. One couple who had planned to have a romantic make-out session there, hastily changed their plans when this entity appeared in front of them, floating above a nearby headstone.

Floating, glowing crosses and 13 apparitions of children dressed in black have been seen in the graveyard and surrounding areas.

Menacing, angry presences have been felt by the living.

Auditory manifestations include the sound of bells, ghostly cries and laughter, and the sound of wind without wind being present.


Yes indeed!

The hauntings are still present despite the many exorcism attempts. The dedicated work of the Black Diamond Staff will eventually replace all of the missing headstones and will mark all the graves, which will help the restless souls in this graveyard perhaps find some peace.



Pittsburg, California 94565
(888) 327-2757, option 3, extension 4506

Rose Hill Cemetery can be found in the 5,000 acre Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, near the Mount Diablo silica sand mine and the Hazel-Atlas Mine, located between two old mining town sites, Nortonville and Somersville, California, east of Concord and south of Antioch, California. Starting at the south end of Somersville Road, which runs through what was once the mining town of Somerville, one takes about a 3/4-mile hike up a dirt road which takes hiker(s) through flowery fields, turning up into a hilly area past friendly cows, which finally ends at the old Rose Hill Cemetery, where you will find a glorious view of what was the city of Somerville and the surrounding hills.


Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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