Unlocking History

Cemetery Tales: Preston holds remains of 18

Preston School of Industry cemetery with images of two boys overlaying it.
John Miller, left, and James Lopez were buried in the cemetery at Preston School of Industry in Ione.

While Folsom and San Quentin’s cemeteries are most well-known, Preston School of Industry cemetery also serves as the final resting places of former residents.

(Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a five-part series looking closer at those buried in California prison cemeteries. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, or part 5.)

Preston School of Industry has 18 graves

Activated in the early 1890s and running until closure in 2011, Preston School of Industry has been a landmark for those traveling through the foothills in Ione. Near the shuttered school and “castle” is a cemetery with 18 grave markers for the young men and boys laid to rest there.

Causes of death are difficult to find, but a 1916 report describes the deaths of four youth during the previous two years.

“One (death) from spinal meningitis following erysipelas (a skin infection), one from pneumonia and septicemia and two from exploded appendix. Both of the last two cases were boys who showed positive (for syphilis),” according to the 1916 Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees for Preston.

The case of James Lopez

James Lopez first appeared in a court when he was 12 years old. His mother was deathly ill while his father was “intemperate,” meaning he was a heavy drinker. In April 1914, the young Lopez was removed from his home due to neglect and placed in the Home of the Guardian Angel. Three months later, his mother passed away.

Records indicate he “selected bad companions,” was ill-tempered, stubborn and untruthful. In December, he was brought before the court for violating probation. Considering the earlier reference to his circle of friends, it probably had something to do with law-breaking activity.

A year later, he was committed to St. Francis Orphanage where he remained until September 1916. Tired of Lopez’s shenanigans, such as a runaway attempt with a group of other boys, the orphanage priest returned him to authorities. In October, the court committed him to Whittier State School. He was later transferred to Preston.

Lopez died in 1919 at 16 years old.

John Miller, attempted jail breaker, ends up in Preston cemetery

While awaiting trial on burglary charges, John Miller, 15, decided to make a break for freedom. At the Oakland jail, he and a few cellmates used a spoon to pry away mortar from the bars of their window.

With a loud clatter and thud, a loosened brick fell to the garden three stories below. Drawing the gardener’s attention, who quickly alerted jail custody staff, the jail break was averted.

To give Miller another chance, he was sent to Preston in late January 1913. The young man soon proved he could not be trusted as an honor ward, becoming unruly and disrespectful seemingly without provocation. He was moved to Company G, made up of youth who had difficulty following rules. In March, while Company G was digging ditches, Miller refused to work.

Relief Officer Elbert Smith ordered Miller to help the rest of his Company. Instead, Miller swung a pick, striking Smith in the shoulder. The two-inch deep wound was not fatal but Miller now faced additional charges.

On June 14, 1913, having been at the institution for six month, Miller died at 15 years old. He was buried at the school cemetery.

Joseph Howe buried at Preston

According to the Chico Record of Dec. 14, 1913, “Jo Howe, the 17-year-old Chico boy who died at the Preston School of Industry at lone was buried there yesterday. Probation Officer C.S. Cline was here yesterday and informed the boy’s grandmother, Mrs. M.J. Clinton, who lives on Cherry street, of his death.”

Hugh Simms succumbs to tuberculosis

“On Monday morning, February 5, 1912, cadet Hugh Simms passed away from tuberculosis. Simms, born in Bakersfield, came to the School of Industry on June 6, 1910. He was 18 years old at the time of his death. The funeral was held in the chapel at 2 pm, February 6, and was conducted by Father Greeley of Jackson, Hugh being a Catholic. The entire school was in attendance and followed the remains to the cemetery. Hugh belongs to Company C, and the pallbearers were selected from that company. After the services at the grave had been conducted by Father Greeley, taps were sounded by cadet Biggins of Company A,” according to the Preston Review, Feb. 10, 1912.

Young people buried at Preston cemetery

Name, age, year of death:

  • Frank Aljers, 17, 1922
  • Adolph Antron, 18, 1895
  • Samuel Goins, 19, 1919
  • Nicholas Hamilton, 20, 1898
  • Eddie Heath, 18, 1913
  • Raydell Holliday, 20, 1929
  • Joseph Howe, 16, 1913
  • Benjamin Kamakee Kealohi, 18, 1915
  • James Lopez, 16, 1919
  • John Miller, 15, 1913
  • Peter Miller, 16, 1914
  • Roy Scoville, 17, 1913
  • Hugh Simms, 18, 1912
  • Tehama Vann, 15, 1914
  • Grant Walker, 8, 1895
  • Frank Ward, 13, 1898
  • William C. Williams, 17, 1897
  • W.L. Woolridge, 19, 1889

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