Our History

Save the Graves was conceived in 2019 by a partnership between the leadership of Arts & Culture El Dorado, Gold Bug Park, El Dorado County Cemetery Advisory Committee, El Dorado County Cemetery Administration and the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce.

Save the Graves events feature scripted theatrical portrayals of prominent but often little-known luminaries who shaped our community. Actors typically perform at-or-near their grave, reflecting on the events which shaped their life, and illuminating the era they lived in.

When possible, an actual descendant is on hand to introduce their ancestor, and share family history that didn’t make it into the script.

The Latrobe fund sponsored all four Save the Graves events.

Save the Graves 2019

The first Save the Graves event was held in October 2019 with generous startup support from the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce and the Latrobe Fund.

Despite a heat wave and a scheduled power outage, the inaugural event attracted more than 400 guests, including members of many long-standing local families, there to experience El Dorado County’s only Victorian Garden cemetery.

Proceeds from the 2019 event provided much-needed stairway handrails, landscape maintenance, terrain leveling, road repair and section/row signage throughout the cemetery.

Save the Graves 2021

In 2021 the Save the Graves organizing committee became “Buried History” and returned to Union Cemetery with exciting new characters including a famous suffragette, an African American woman brought to Coloma as a slave, and a deputy who died in a gunfight. Pandemic-weary guests wandered the cemetery reconnecting with old friends, making new ones and marveling at our brand of narrative nonfiction storytelling.

Pioneer families were again on hand turning some performances into a delightfully interactive experience for all involved.

Proceeds funded the repair of the oldest and most-notable headstones in Union Cemetery, most of which were lying broken on the ground. Other improvements included landscape maintenance, terrain leveling, graffiti removal, and mausoleum cleanup.

Save the Graves 2022

Honoring Main Street merchants was the theme for the 2022 Save the Graves event. A total of eight Main Street merchants were represented including pioneering downtown Placerville retailer William Hill Combellack, shoemaker and shopkeeper Henry Numbers Tracey and foundry operator H.S. Morey.

Over 300 people spent the day listening to what it was like to be a merchant in the early days of Placerville and learning more about the city’s history.

Funds raised from the 2022 event supported additional improvements in Union Cemetery.

Save the Graves 2023

The 2023 Save the Graves event focused on the legacy of the four Blair brothers who immigrated from Scotland in the mid 1800s. Over 500 guests enjoyed portrayals of the extended Blair family and spent the day getting a glimpse of what it was like to be an early influencer in El Dorado County.

Funds raised from the 2023 event continue to support improvements in Union Cemetery as well as headstone cleaning and repair projects in other El Dorado County cemeteries.