Tracing Faught family history on tombstones
By CLARK MASON / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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.
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.”