Class Helps Resurrect Historical Site

Class Helps Resurrect Historical Site
Service-learning students helped clean up the cemetery. (Photo Courtesy of Dennis Quinn.)
Headstones at Spadra Cemetery date back to the mid-1800s.
A Phillips headstone lies on its side at the Spadra Cemetery.

Dozens of undergrads breathed new life into a historic cemetery long abused by vandals and trampled on by trespassers.  

Professor Dennis Quinn arranged the creative service-learning project for his IGE 121: Rationalism, Revelation, and Enlightenment in the Ancient World class. In the class, students learned about ancient religions and their respect for the dead in comparison to today's treatment of the deceased.

“As a whole, the students found it to be a valuable experience going out there and helping the Pomona community with its history and to learn something about understanding the dead,” said Quinn.

More than 80 students from two of Quinn's IGE 121 sections and one of Dr. Helen Hye-Sook Hwang's sections spent three weeks in February removing weeds and trash from Spadra Cemetery.

The cemetery, which is not far from campus, is the burial site for many residents of Spadra, a small settlement town that is now part of Pomona. After the cemetery closed in the late 1950's, it fell victim to trespassing vandals and neglect.  

Most of the residents in the cemetery are from the late 19th century including Louis Phillips, the former owner of Phillips Ranch and the Phillips Mansion, whose tombstone now lies on its side after being pushed over by vandals.

“It represented for me this kind of disrespect we have for the dead,” said Quinn.

The Historical Society of Pomona Valley took over ownership of the cemetery after acquiring it from the Founders Cemetery Association in 1972. Jim Gallivan, a member of the board of directors of the historical society, is the primary caretaker of the cemetery. However, he has had difficulty keeping up with the constant vandalism.

Quinn visited the cemetery after speaking with Gallivan about his experiences maintaining the graveyard. After hearing Gallivan's stories of picking up glass from the “beer parties” and such, Quinn wanted to help with a service-learning project.  

“When I visited the cemetery, my service-learning project came together for me as I took in the power the space has over its visitors,” said Quinn. “Spadra Cemetery needed some serious TLC and the historical society needed some help to provide it.”

At the end of the quarter, students presented their final projects, which incorporated their experiences cleaning the cemetery with what they learned in the course.   

The historical society welcomes extra help and may receive it this coming year from Landscape Architecture Professor Jerry Taylor, who plans to involve his advanced landscape design students. The class will most likely research the historical landscape of the cemetery and make design recommendations in restoring the landscape, said Taylor.