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Once a year, West Adams' Angelus Rosedale Cemetery comes to life

A mausoleum at the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery
A mausoleum at the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery
Daniel Teoli Jr/Wikimedia Commons

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The Angelus Rosedale cemetery in West Adams has buried more history buried underground than probably any place in Los Angeles. Some of Southern California's founding fathers are buried there. Movie stars. Tycoons. Civil War veterans. This year it celebrates its 130th birthday.

On Saturday, Sept. 27 the West Adams Heritage Association will host its annual Living History Tour of the cemetery. 

When Angelus Rosedale was founded in 1884, it was home to Los Angeles' early mayors, business people and even a former governor. As time went on actors and film industry professionals made Angelus Rosedale their final resting place – though it wasn't often by choice.

"One of the things they seemed to have in common – those who landed here – they were very famous. They made a lot of money, and they spent their money on alcohol," said Meyers. "Eventually, they landed here."

One of the cemetery's most famous residents is Hattie McDaniel. McDaniel played Mammy in "Gone With the Wind" – a role which made her the first African-American to win an Academy Award.

"When she died, she had asked to be buried at a different cemetery, but because she's African-American they had discriminatory rules at the time, and she wasn't welcome," said Meyers. "Instead, she's buried here."

Angelus Rosedale is also home to dozens of bodies who were buried decades before the cemetery's 1884 founding – transported to West Adams after Los Angeles' original graveyards had been neglected and stood in the way of a quickly developing downtown. 

For their tour this year, the West Adams Heritage Association plans to highlight Angelus Rosedale's connection to the Civil War. The bodies of dozens of union and confederate soldiers rest inside the cemetery's walls, along with the cousins of Abraham Lincoln and Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

For Meyers, one of the most notable residents of Angelus Rosedale is Allen Allensworth – the first African-American to reach the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. Allensworth was born into slavery in Louisville, Kentucky and escaped during the civil war to fight for the Union.

After the war ended, Allensworth became a Baptist minister. He kept close to the military and was appointed chaplain to the Buffalo Soldier regiment in the late 1800s. Allensworth also founded a city: Allensworth, California was a planned community for African-Americans started in the early 20th century. 

Allensworth retired in Southern California and died in Monrovia on Sept. 14, 1914 after being hit by a motorcycle. He's buried at Angelus Rosedale among dozens of other Union soldiers.

Spots for the Angelus Rosedale Living History Tour on Sept. 27 are available at this link.