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Tracing Faught family history on tombstones

Sunday, May 29th, 2011 | Posted by


Hidden off a sharp bend in the road between Santa Rosa and Windsor lies the nearly forgotten Faught family cemetery, overgrown with weeds, many of its gravemarkers knocked down.

Steve Lehmann, with the Windsor Historical Society, stands near the tombstones of several Faught family members at the Faught Family Cemetery, near Windsor. (Christopher Chung / PD)

Walking up the hill through head-high Scotch broom, Windsor Historical Society President Steve Lehmann pondered the burials of a century ago.

“They brought a wagon up this hill with a coffin,” he said as he trudged up the narrow, now partly obscured trail. “There’s close to 100 graves.”

The private, two-acre cemetery is named for the family of Jabez Faught, a pioneer who came to California by wagon train in 1854 and settled in the Windsor area. His more than 2,800-acre ranch occupied what is now Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, the Shiloh Ridge subdivision and Mayacama Golf Club.

Faught Road and the cemetery are the most tangible reminders of his life. The Kentucky-born Jabez (1811-1890) is buried there, along with his brothers William (1802-1879) and Willis (1819-1892).

Sonoma County history books tell how the oldest brother, William, came to California in search of gold in 1850.

A few years later, he returned east for his brothers. In the spring of 1854, they all set off from Iowa in oxen wagons with other families. It took them six months to reach Sonoma County.

Jabez Faught lived in Petaluma before finding his way a little farther north. Within a couple decades the Faughts had extensive holdings, including Willis’ property at Mark West Station.

“The Faughts are everywhere,” Lehmann said, referring to land maps in the 1877 Thompson Atlas.

Nowadays, their neglected family resting place shows the ravages of time, perhaps from earthquakes as well as vandals drawn to the secluded spot.

“Knocking headstones over, you just can’t figure it,” said Lehmann as he surveyed some of the toppled markers.

In the late 1990s, a Faught family member lived in a camper on the property to ward off intruders. She helped survey and restore many of the grave sites, but ran afoul of county officials, who said people aren’t allowed to live in a cemetery.

The graveyard is one of dozens of small family, ranch and town cemeteries in Sonoma County. It is owned by the Faught Family Cemetery Association, but has declined as family members died or moved away.

For historians, cemeteries like this one are roadmaps to the past that guide genealogists.

“It’s how you go backwards. A name and a date doesn’t do it as much,” Lehmann said.

Pointing to a headstone, he noted the detail: Order of the Eastern Star, Native of Kentucky and a parting “See you Heaven.”

“It brings that person to life a little bit,” said Lehmann, who noted that Windsor was the closest town and the Faughts probably belonged to fraternal lodges there.

There’s folksy wisdom to be found in the faded stone carvings, such as:

“Remember friends as you pass by, As you are now, so was I. As I am now, we all must be, Prepare for death and follow me.”

More poignant still is the epitaph for a one-year-old girl, Hattie Bell Shearer, who died in 1881: “Rest little one like a gentle bird that folds its wearied wing. Tomorrow at our fathers word, Thou shall ascend and sing.”

In the graveyard are members of the Van Winkle family, who were in the wagon train with the Faught brothers. Ranch workers ended up in the cemetery, too.

The Faughts and their children married into other seminal Windsor families, like the Hembrees and Laughlins.

The oldest burial is that of Peter Lee Price, son of William and Hannah Price, who died in 1859 at the age of two. The most recent was Howard Armstrong Faught, great-grandson of the patriarch Jabez who died in 2000, at the age of 89.

His step-daughter, Barbara Kron of Windsor, 83, was raised on the old Faught ranch and remembers herding stray cows, bailing hay and playing in the creek.”It was great. We all had chores to do,” she said.

Her husband, Delbert Kron, 87, said the last burial there wasn’t as strenuous as earlier ones, because it involved cremated remains. He last visited the cemetery a couple years ago and lamented the disrepair.

He’d like to see the cemetery cleaned by volunteers, but “up to a point. You want to leave things as natural as you can. It’d be nice to get rid of the weeds and brush, make it look decent, not downtown.”

  • http://www.snegwebdesign.com Nick Roth

    I was born in Windsor, traveled the world in the military, and am back in Windsor where my kids are being raised. We are all natives of this great town, and would love to volunteer some time to help clean up the site.

    • Steve Lehmann

      Thanks for the interest Nick,
      I think it might be a good idea to have a meeting and talk about a volunteer plan. You can reach me at my email address and I can schedule a meeting at the Windsor Histrorical Society Museum located in the Hembree House at 9225 Foxwood Drive.
      Steve Lehmann, President
      Windsor Historical Society

  • CarolEber

    I loved reading about the Faught cemetery, as I find the Faught name in some of the documents of my family history. Mark West was my great, great grandfather. I remember my the stories of my great grandmother Maria about the West family cemetery. She had shown our family where the cemetery had been up on a hillside near Mark West Lodge, under someone’s backyard lawn. The residents told her they just tipped over the headstones to plant their yard.

    • Steve Lehmann

      Thanks for the interest Carol, I am planning to schedule a meeting with other folks interested in the Faught Cemetery in the near future. If you are interested, contact me via email and I’ll let you know when. We will meet at the Windsor Historical Society’s Museum located in the Hembree House at 9225 Foxwood Drive in Windsor.
      Thanks again
      Steve Lehmann, President
      Windsor Historical Society

  • Carolyn Knecht Prader

    I was also raised in the general area…the first turn on Windsor Rd. south of town. I grew up hearing all about the Faught, Slusser and Chisholm families from my dad and the Van Winkles and Hembrees from my grandmother Ida Cain. I also would like to volunteer to help restore the cemetery area. My mom at age 101 lives with me. My life has taken me full circle to almost being back in Windsor. The property I was raised on was recently “destroyed” to make way for the expanding airport run ways. Now it sits idle with a cyclone fence around it. I would hate to see a family cemetery forgotten as well. Please contact me.

    • Steve Lehmann

      Thanks for the interst Carolyn,
      We plan to have a meeting of the folks interested in the Faught Family Cemetery. If you would like to be involved at any level contact me at the email address or leave a phone message. The meeting will be at the Windsor Historical Society Museum located at the Hembree House at 9225 Foxwood Drive.
      Thanks again,
      Steve Lehmann, President
      Windsor Historical Society

      • Deb

        My name is Deb Faught. I am a descendant of the Faught’s in the Faught Family Cemetery. I have some questions for you concerning those Faught’s, along with other questions, and would appreciate it if you would respond to this post. I would love to see that cemetery, but I live in Ohio, so I doubt seeing it will ever happen. If I lived there, though, I would certainly volunteer to help with the cemetery. Again, please respond to this post so I can ask you some questions.
        Deb Faught

  • Larry Stevenson

    Steve, can you let me know when the meeting will be held about the Faught Family Cemetery. I left you a voice-message the day after the article came out, but you did not return it.

    Larry Stevenson
    Windsor, CA
    415.531.8564 (cell)

  • Diana Holmes

    I have Van Winkles buried in Faught Cemetary. I have no pictures of them. I was wondering if anyone out there has any old pictures they are willing to share. My phone # is 916-863-0428. Please call.

    • Phyllis High

      May have pictures for you. My grandmother was Lettie Van Winkle High.

      • lcastrone

        I have forwarded your email to Stephen Lehmann and Clark Mason. Someone should be back to you soon.
        Linda Castrone, Towns Editor

  • Gladys Faught

    My name is also Faught. I am 38 and I live in Ohio, there arent many of us Faught’s left, but I have heard so much of my ancestors from Windsor, so finding this website and reading about the cemetery was just wonderful. I plan on visiting it next year.

  • http://n/a Emmett Lambert Faught

    We are from Webber’s Falls OK in Muskogee County. We are now living in Rancho Cordova, CA

  • Brenda Podskalan

    I see my previous comment is now gone due to me asking the question above, so I will try this once again. My birth name was Faught , my biological father was Theodor Jack Faught, he , and my mom were married in So. Calif, she was born in 1936, and I believe she had said he was 10 years older than her, they divorced when I was 3. I’m curious if this is my lineage, any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,

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James Lanaras is our Windsor correspondent.
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