Strong winds and shifting sands have uncovered an eerie reminder of San Francisco’s past: discarded gravestones and broken tomb markers used decades ago to shore up the Ocean Beach seawall. The tombstones became visible this week, including bits and pieces of marble and granite that once marked the final resting places of citizens long dead. One of them is the nearly intact marble tombstone of Delia Presby Oliver, who died at the age of 26 on Apr. 9, 1890.
Her remains were removed and reburied when San Francisco authorities closed nearly all the city cemeteries and moved the bodies to Colma in the early 20th century – part of a move to make space for the growing city. Oliver’s original tombstone and thousands like it were used as landfill or in other ways throughout San Francisco. Some were used as breakwaters. Pieces of others were used to line the gutters of Haight-Ashbury’s Buena Vista Park. Some gravestones were used to build the seawall along the Great Highway. Large tombs and crypts were dumped into San Francisco Bay.