Climbing My Family Tree, Part 11 B

Immigrant Rev. John McLeish

Last week I highlighted my ancestor, Reverend John McLeish (my three times great-grandfather), who was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1809, and who immigrated to Massachusetts in 1832. Some of his children and grandchildren settled in northern California.

This week I have been in San Francisco, and I made some wonderful discoveries!

As I took I-280 south of San Francisco and headed toward Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, I was anxious with anticipation. I turned left a little too soon and accidentally entered Cypress Lawn, another cemetery, right next door. I passed through the imposing stone gate and came across monuments more magnificent than many people’s homes. I was anxious to find the headstone of my cousin, Mrs. California Nevada McLeish Gudden.


I navigated my way to the correct cemetery and oriented myself with the directory map. I was on the southern end of the property, outside the office on Old Mission Road. I knew California was buried in Section A. Section A is at the far north corner near Hillside Boulevard. I made my way through the cemetery, passing acres of land and thousands of graves.

Some headstones are very old, others very new. I passed an assemblage respectfully interring a fallen sailor.

Some headstones were large and impressive, others were but small stones recessed into the soil. I passed an enormous mausoleum.

Some of the sections were clearly marked, others were more difficult to identify. I arrived at Sections 2 and 5, which border Section A on two sides, but the area I thought most likely to be Section A was nothing other than a large open field.


Confused, I drove back to the cemetery office. A very kind lady tapped my cousin’s name into her computer and jotted notes on a cemetery map. She handed me the page and told me my cousin was indeed buried in Section A, “a beautiful open field with no markers.” She was able to give me the grave identification number of 2090, but since there are no headstones in that section, it would be impossible to pinpoint where, in the large field, she is buried.


Somberly, I drove past the thousands upon thousands of grave markers, back to Section A. I parked my car and walked across the field wondering if I was crossing the resting place of my cousin and wondering how many others were buried there, unidentified and forgotten alongside her.


The lady in the office told me Section A was land donated by the cemetery for the city to bury the indigent poor. She also said there were a large number of people in that section who had died of illness in 1909.

Further research shows a ship from Hong Kong arrived in San Francisco in the summer of 1899 carrying rats infected with the bubonic plague. The 1906 earthquake left, not only humans homeless, but also rats. The refugee camps for earthquake survivors provided the perfect conditions for the rodent and flea population to soar in the years following the quake. It is possible California McLeish may have been a victim of the plague.

California’s husband lived many years beyond his wife’s death. I find no record he remarried. I wonder if he ever traveled the 10 miles out of the city to visit her unmarked grave. It may have been an extravagance he could not afford as a blue collar worker with a never-ending string of temporary jobs and limited options for transportation at the time.

California was not an immigrant herself, but her life was forever changed because her grandfather, Reverend John McLeish, boarded a ship in Scotland and never looked back.


Has your family benefited from immigration to America? Do you believe our diverse population makes us stronger? Do you want to be part of the solution? Consider the following:

What can you do to help? You might not be able to fly to foreign countries and work directly the field. You may not be able to write a big fat check. But certainly, there is something you can do to support our fellow humans who are in crisis due to natural or human-caused crisis.

A small donation to a charity of your choice can make a big difference. There may be 20 people thinking, “My $10 won’t put a dent in the need,” but 20 times $10 can change the lives of many, especially if that means having access to vaccinations and medical care people would otherwise go without.

There are non-monetary ways to support our fellow humans who are suffering as well. Most communities in the United States have newly arrived refugees who have fled war, poverty, and religious or political persecution. There are children in the United States whose only home, until immigrating to our great nation, was a refugee tent in a desert.

These children deserve more than what our world has provided them thus far. I have two refugee students in my school. These children did not make the decisions leading to the life of war and poverty they were born into. They did not choose to be refugees. They don’t deserve to suffer the hardships they have experienced or to see the atrocities they have witnessed.

Refugee children are also children of God. They deserve love and safety.

What can you do to provide these children with the love and safety they need? Can you volunteer with an organization that sponsors refugee children? Can you drop off food, clothing, and school supplies to a family in need?

Every act of kindness makes a difference in our world. Don’t miss your opportunity to make life better.

Did you enjoy this post? Please like and share. I would love to hear from you! Thanks for reading!



My Family Tree:

  1. John McLeish


  1. William McLeish


  1. John McLeish (Grandfather of California Nevada McLeish Gudden)


  1. Minerva McLeish


  1. Mabel Edna Sacues


  1. Paul de Meurers


  1. Weldon Paul deMeurers


  1. Me (Alan deMeurers)

Running count of my direct immigrants from Europe to North America = 32


Reference Links:



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