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San Diego's second oldest cemetery, El Campo Santo, dates back to 1849 with the burial of Juan Adams. Burials continued through 1880, consisting of early San Diegans from varied backgrounds.
Antonio Garra, executed for murder in 1852, stated as he stood by his open grave in the cemetery, "Gentlemen, I ask your pardon for all my offenses and give mine in return," then kissed a crucifix, and met his fate.4
Other executed men buried at El Campo Santo include two men held responsible for an Indian raid on Warner's Ranch. One pleaded guilty. The other professed his innocence. Santiago "Yankee Jim" Robinson was executed after being tried for stealing a boat, but was convicted of stealing a horse, due to technicalities.
Distinguished members of Old San Diego rest in the Catholic Cemetery (as El Campo Santo also was known) as well. Among these were Don Miguel de Pedrorena, educated in Madrid and Oxford, and Juan Maria Osuna, the first alcalde of San Diego, as well as the Bandini family, the Estudillos, and the Aguierres.
The cemetery deteriorated over the years. In 1933, the San Diego Historical Society restored El Campo Santo as accurately as possible based on an early photograph and early descriptions. They built an adobe wall, reset markers, rebuilt paling enclosures, and placed a plain white cross in the center of the plot.5
What remains today? Important burials, but only one original marker (that of Edward L. Greene), broken iron and wooden paling enclosures, and six markers left from the restoration. However, huge olive trees with fingered bases, abundant cacti bordering the adobe wall, and old pregnant looking palms create a mood that overshadows the lack of grave markers.
Besides this Catholic Cemetery, early San Diegans buried their dead in individual plots on private land or in other cemeteries.