Tag Archive for: Odd Fellows

Victorian coffin with the body of a young girl inside found beneath San Francisco home

Identity of Young Victorian Girl Found Beneath San Francisco Home Revealed

After a year of research, the true identity of “Miranda Eve,” a 19th-century girl found buried beneath a San Francisco home, has been revealed.

The remarkably well-preserved remains of a young 19th-century girl were found during renovations beneath a San Francisco home in May of 2016. The neighborhood occupies what used to be a massive Odd Fellows cemetery, where some 26,000 were interred before the city starting relocating its dead in order to free up valuable real estate. The unidentified girl was buried 140 years ago, but while most of the cemetery’s residents were relocated to the necropolis of nearby Colma, she was somehow left behind.

Through the lead glass windows of the bronze coffin, the girl’s golden locks could be seen woven with small purple flowers. She was buried in an elaborately laced christening dress with roses, eucalyptus leaves and baby’s breath placed around her body. In her right hand she held a single purple Nightshade flower. Aside from some mold on her face, the air tight casket kept her pretty well intact.

Edith's burial dress and flowers
The girl’s burial dress and flowers (Garden of Innocence)

A cross of purple flowers buried with Edith Cook
A cross of purple flowers on the girl’s chest (Garden of Innocence)

Since she was found on private property, the city said it was not in their jurisdiction. The responsibility of dealing with the coffin and its delicate remains fell on the homeowner, Ericka Karner. Karner could return the coffin to its grave, or pay a hefty sum to have it buried elsewhere. She decided to turn it over to the Garden of Innocence, a nonprofit group that provides burials for abandoned or unidentified children.

Volunteers for Garden of Innocence named the girl Miranda Eve, built a new violet-lined wooden case to hold her and her original casket, took a few strands of hair for DNA analysis, and gave her a second burial in Colma. The group spent the last year researching, digging through burial records, plot maps, surveyors maps, cemetery maps, county records, and old photos to identify the forgotten child.

The coffin turned out to be an important clue. The Barstow Metallic Burial Case, touted to be the “perfect protection from water and vermin,” was only sold in California by one company, Nathaniel Gray & Co. Undertakers. In September of 2016 a match was found for Miranda in the burial records of the N. Gray funeral home. The child matched Miranda’s approximate age of 2-3.5 years, and was buried in the same style of coffin. She died of marasmus, a form of severe undernourishment which may have been caused by an infectious disease.

N. Gray & Co. Undertakers San Francisco vintage advertisement
1880 advertisement for N. Gray & Co. Undertakers in San Francisco

Researchers laid an 1870 map of the Odd Fellows Cemetery over current maps of the city, and compared known locations of cemetery landmarks to the place where the child was found beneath the house.

“The map pointed to the Yerba Buena section of the cemetery as being under the house at 26 Rossi,” Garden of Innocence wrote. “We searched the plot maps, we positioned the old crematory in place as it would have been in front of that house. The plot #2 of Yerba Buena was under the back yard of 26 Rossi. Plot #2 belonged to M. M. Cook.”

According to the family tree assembled by Garden of Innocence, the name on the plot map was the girl’s grandfather, Matthew M. Cook, who died in 1869. Using genealogy records, investigators identified a living descendant, 82-year-old Peter Cook of Napa, California who knew nothing of his father’s side of the family. Cook agreed to a DNA test, which positively identified him as the grand nephew of the girl in the coffin.

Edith Howard Cook was born on November 28, 1873 to Horatio and Edith Cook, the report released Tuesday revealed. Her mother was the daughter of Peter Scoofy, an original member of the Society of California Pioneers. Her father tanned hides, manufactured leather belts, and served as Consul for Greece. They were married in 1870.

Edith died just short of her third birthday on October 13, 1876. The Cooks later had a second daughter named Ethel who, as the report notes, was at one time declared the most beautiful woman in America by a Russian nobleman.

Edith Howard Cook in her coffin 140 years after burial
A retouched photo of Edith in her coffin when she was found 140 years after burial (Garden of Innocence)

A public memorial service for Edith will be held at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Colma on Saturday, June 10th at 10am.

Belvoir Winery Odd Fellows skeleton

The Skeletal Legacy of Odd Fellows Lurks in Closets and Attics Across America

The decline of Odd Fellows membership throughout much of the 20th century led to abandoned ceremonial coffins and unidentified human remains.

Odd Fellows Ceremonial Coffin

Antique Odd Fellows coffin used for initiation ceremonies for sale on ebay.
Odd Fellows ceremonial coffin for sale

I received my daily email update from ebay today featuring all the newly listed vintage Odd Fellows items. It contained the above ceremonial coffin recently pulled out of an old building. While the ghostly face inside this particular find is not real, it’s often genuine human remains left behind when local Odd Fellows chapters close their doors.

Here’s what the seller has to say about the piece:

For Sale: an early odd fellows coffin. Just removed it from an old building. I didn’t clean it up. The head inside is from shoulders to head. Not full body. Not sure what the material is that it’s made from. It’s hard like ceramic not paper mache.

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Odd Fellows coffin for sale on ebay

Check out coffin on ebay right here.

As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930
As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930

Victorian girl found beneath San Francisco home gets second burial

Girl Found in 145-Year-Old Grave Beneath San Francisco Home Gets 2nd Burial

A young girl who died 145 years ago, found beneath a home in San Francisco last month, received a proper reburial on Saturday.
The Knights of Columbus carry the coffin of a girl who died 145 years ago
The Knights of Columbus carry the coffin of the unidentified girl to her new grave in Colma, CA.

On Saturday, June 4th, a young girl who died 145 years ago received her second burial. The remarkably well-preserved remains of a 3-year-old girl were found last month beneath a San Francisco home in an area once occupied by the Odd Fellows Cemetery. The graves were moved in the 1920s and 30s to the nearby town of Colma, where all of the city’s dead now reside, but it seems the unidentified girl was left behind.

When the city refused to assist with the remains, the homeowners turned to the local Odd Fellows group, who agreed to fund her reburial in Colma’s Greenlawn Memorial Park, where the rest of the graves from the cemetery were relocated.

Her identity remains a mystery, but she has been nicknamed Miranda Eve, a name which appears on her new gravestone along with this inscription: “The child loved around the world. If no one grieves, no one will remember.”

the new coffin of Miranda Eve covered in rose petals

More than 100 people attended the ceremony on Saturday morning, in which Miranda’s original casket, sealed inside a new cherry wood coffin, was reunited in Colma with the 30,000 other burials moved from the historic cemetery.

UPDATE: Victorian girl buried beneath San Francisco home identified

Victorian coffin with body of a young girl inside found beneath San Francisco home

Coffin of Young Girl Found Beneath San Francisco Home

A coffin containing the body of a young girl who died 145 years ago was found beneath a San Francisco home where the Odd Fellows cemetery used to be.

The SFGate reports that on May 9, while renovating the garage of a San Francisco home, workers made a strange discovery beneath the concrete. In just about any other city, finding a coffin might have been startling. In San Francisco, the city that evicted it’s dead in the early 1900s to free up valuable real estate, finding bodies forgotten during the relocation probably isn’t all that uncommon.

The coffin, made of lead and bronze, contains the well-preserved but unidentified remains of a young girl estimated to be three years old. The house sits upon land once occupied by the Odd Fellows Cemetery, whose 30,000 inhabitants were moved to the nearby town of Colma in the 1920s and 30s. The cemetery was active between 1830 and 1860, placing the girl’s death at about 145 years ago.

The small coffin has two built-in windows, through which the girl’s long golden curls are still visible. She was buried in a white dress, and is holding a rose in her hand. Lavender flowers are weaved into her hair, and also into a cross placed over her heart. Eucalyptus leaves are placed by her side.

The remains of the girl are seen through windows in her coffin.

Coffin left behind when the Odd Fellows Cemetery was moved from San Francisco to Colma.

The city denied any responsibility, leaving the homeowners to deal with the remains, with quotes of $7,000-$22,000 for reburial. While many of us oddities enthusiasts no doubt think this would make a great centerpiece in our collections of artifacts from the country’s early fraternal societies, the homeowners aren’t nearly as demented. They wanted to do the right thing, but couldn’t afford the bill. They reached out to the Odd Fellows, who have agreed to provide funding for the girl to be reburied in Colma.

Odd Fellows Cemetery

Historical photo of the Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Francisco
San Francisco’s Odd Fellows Cemetery c.1900. The Columbarium (foreground) still stands today.

Workers exhuming graves in the Odd Fellows Cemetery
Workers exhuming graves in the Odd Fellows Cemetery, 1933.

Inhabitants of the original cemetery were interred in the private Greenlawn Memorial Park. According to their website, their office still has the interment records dating back to 1865, so hopefully the girl’s identity can be discovered.

Update: Unidentified girl dubbed ‘Miranda Eve’ gets proper reburial