Mare Island Naval Cemetery – Vallejo, California - Atlas Obscura

Mare Island Naval Cemetery

The oldest Naval cemetery on the West Coast. 


Hidden away on Mare Island in Vallejo is the Bay Area’s oldest Naval cemetery, the final resting place of sailors and soldiers and loved ones–and one convicted killer.

Burials began at this hillside cemetery in 1856 and continued until 1921. Although it’s not noted for big-name interments, there are some memorable stories among the headstones. Among the approximately 900 buried here are the daughter of Francis Scott Key, murderess Lucy Lawson, and six Russian sailors who were laid to rest near the middle during the Civil War era.

In 2010 the original headstones belonging to the Russian sailors were removed and replaced with conspicuous modern markers, causing some controversy. The sailors had served aboard the Bogatyr, the flagship of Admiral A.A. Popov’s Pacific Squadron that visited the Bay Area in 1863. It is thought that they may have lost their lives fighting a fire which had broken out during their San Francisco stay.

In 1975 the cemetery took its place in the National Register of Historic Places, as part of the Mare Island Naval Ammunition Depot Historic District. It is currently cared for by the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve.

Know Before You Go

Located at the southern end of Railroad Avenue on Mare Island. You can take the Vallejo Ferry route of the San Francisco Bay Ferry to easily get from Vallejo to Mare Island. The ferry ride takes about 15 minutes.

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