Wearing a top hat and tails, city historian Steve Baker led visitors through the darkness of Thursday night while regaling them with tales of the tragic demise of some of Monrovia’s first residents and founders.
“Tonight we’re going to go through the oldest section of the cemetery where some of the burials date from 1887, and as we go I will stop at various interments and talk about the people buried there,” said Baker, who also serves as treasurer for the city of Monrovia. “I focus on people who were prominent in the community, but I will also tell the stories of people who died under tragic circumstances.”
So many people signed up for the second annual Cemetery Walk & Talk that some had to be turned away despite the addition of another tour to the schedule this year.
“Next year we plan to hold the tours over several days instead of just one so that we can fit more people in,” said Monroiva assistant recreation coordinator Rebecca Romero, who organized the event with specialist Michelle Nunez. “It’s a very popular event. We always have it close to Halloween and people seem to really enjoy it.”
As Baker leads the group, made up of people of all ages including families with children, through the dark cemetery, he tells stories like the tragic tale of young Vincent Applegate who decided to go for a hike in the mountain with a friend from school in December 1887.
“They didn’t realize a storm was coming and they got caught in a snow storm in the mountains,” Baker said. “People searched for them, but because of the storm they weren’t found until a week later and they had both frozen to death.”
Baker also tells the story of the Monroes, for whom Monrovia is named; General William Anderson Pike, a Civil War veteran who came to Monrovia in 1887 and was prominent in the community; and other merchants, bankers and residents who helped establish Monrovia.
“I think anyone who has lived in Monrovia for a while realizes the city has its own distinct history,” Baker said. “It’s the fourth oldest incorporated city in Los Angeles County and I think people are interested in the people who lived here long ago, what they were like and even how they died.”
Monrovia resident Michelle Carra tried to attend the Cemetery Walk & Talk last year but it was full, so she was happy to be able to participate in this year’s event.
“I thought it was fabulous. The docent is very informative and he even has his great, great grandparents buried here, which was quite interesting,” Carra said. “We went on the Mother’s Day tour of all the Victorian homes and tonight we learned more about many of the families whose homes we visited on that tour.”