YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollections

Jan. 15, 2001 PROBE

January 15, 2001

QUESTION: Do you have any information on the cemeteries in Niland? I live in Oklahoma now but I lived in Wister in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

I think Wister is gone now. At that time all there was to Wister were the railroad houses and the railroad telegraph station. — Long Gone, Oklahoma

You're right, Wister and the rest of the little communities built for railroad hands along the Southern Pacific railroad tracks are gone.

There's no dearth of old cemeteries in that area. Every section camp had its block houses and a little cemetery.

Stacy Vellas of Westmorland, who has been researching old cemeteries, lists three old ones in and around Niland: Flowing Wells, Flowing Wells Memorial and the old Niland Cemetery.


There's not much left of the old Niland Cemetery, said Manuel Chavez, who recalls burying an elderly aunt in the graveyard 50 years ago.

"I think that was the last funeral out there," he recalls.

"I have two aunts buried there. They were both old, old ladies. My four little brothers are buried out there.

"They were all stillborn. My mother was kind of sick for awhile but she had eight of us who lived.

"When you wanted to bury someone, you had to go talk to Mrs. Henking at the post office. She was the postmistress."

The cemetery lies on land elevated above the farm fields that encircle it. When the farmers irrigate, the water runs around the burial ground.

One there was a fence around the graves but decades of field burning finally burned the railroad ties used as fence posts, Chavez said.

All the wooden grave markers went up in smoke.

"Sometimes you'll find some glass from vases people took with flowers," he said.

Years ago a cattle company ran cattle out there. The cattle churned the ground until there's no indication of grave mounds or a clue where they might have been.

Somebody put up a fence, installed a piece of plywood and lettered the burial ground's name and a plea not to desecrate the graveyard.

The sign lasted until the next field-burning season, said Chavez.

"I used to think about cleaning it up but I'm too old now," he said,

"I don't know who owns the land. Does the railroad own it? Who lets people farm on it? I don't know," he said.

QUESTION: I swear I wasn't drinking or smoking anything but I saw the light at the old Imperial cemetery. It was dark green.

I wasn't sitting out there. I was just driving home from work to Brawley. — Passing By, Brawley

Why do we get the feeling PROBE readers have been watching too many episodes of "The Unexplained" on television?

QUESTION: I was watching the hearings on C-SPAN held by the Civil Rights Commission investigating voting irregularities in the Florida election. Was that Cruz Reynoso on the commission, the same Reynoso who used to be an El Centro lawyer? — Long Memory, El Centro

It was. You may recall Reynoso was appointed to the California Supreme Court by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Both became lightning rods for the Republican right wing, who claimed they were soft on crime. When Reynoso was among targeted judges who came up for voter confirmation, he and others were thrown off the court.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles