Union Cemetery was formed in 1871 by four Placerville fraternal orders. Masonic records reveal undertaker and prominent Mason John Roy as the first burial when Union Cemetery “broke ground” in 1871. Folklore tells us he was instrumental in forming the Union and the cemetery.
John Roy’s marble tablet, Masonic compass and square emblazoned at its crest, has not fared well. It was on the ground, subject to damaging moisture from above and below. The Roy headstone was one of 16 repairs sponsored by Save the Graves in 2022.
Roy came to his profession the way most small-town undertakers did back then, as a carpenter and furniture maker. Coffin-making started as a side hustle but evolved into a larger undertaking with the advent of embalming after the Civil War. That undertaking often included hosting a funeral after hours in the furniture store.
Prior to becoming an undertaker, Roy and a partner built a stationery store on Main Street. That store stands today as the Placerville News Company.