Old Russian Cemetery


Across the gulch to the east, one-quarter mile above the cove, a large Russian Orthodox cross marks the site of the settlement’s cemetery. One hundred thirty-one people were buried in the cemetery during the Russian-American Company’s thirty-year settlement here." To the northeast at a cannon shot’s distance they have their cemetery, although unfenced. In it there is a noteworthy distinction... [a] mausoleum atop a sepulcher of three square steps, from larger to smaller. Above these was a pyramid two yards high, and over it a ball topped off by a cross, all painted white and black, which is what most attracts one’s attention when you descend from the mountain. Over another burial… they placed only something like a box, and over the Kodiaks a cross...

All of the crosses we saw are patriarchal; a small cross above and a larger cross nearby like arms, and below, a diagonally placed stick...” Payeras, 1822.

In 1990 the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee assisted the California State Parks in a project intended to better understand the boundaries and composition of the historic Russian cemetery. Excavations to locate and identify the individual Orthodox burials were conducted. The names of individuals associated with specific burials are not known, although researchers have identified a lengthy list of people who died at Fort Ross and were most likely buried here. The Ross settlement was a mercantile village with many families, and there are a large number of women and children buried in the cemetery. Remains have been re- interred and given last rites by priests of the Russian Orthodox Church. Artifacts, such as beads, buttons, cloth fragments, crosses and religious medals found in the cemetery restoration project, will help researchers better understand the Russian settlement’s culture.




Fort Ross Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) and California State Park cooperating association, connects people to the history and beauty of Fort Ross and Salt Point State Parks. 

© Fort Ross Conservancy, 19005 Coast Highway One, Jenner, CA 95450, 707-847-3437