Dying to know more about Lone Pine’s cemeteries?
The Town of Lone Pine is a small place. When Mount Whitney Cemetery District Director Linda Haun moved there from Orange County in the early 2000s, a neighbor offered a few pithy words of advice: “Don’t even kick a dog,” it could belong to someone you know.
According to the 2015 census, Lone Pine has a population of 1,923 people. Since being hired as the Manager of the Mount Whitney Cemetery District ten years ago, Haun has partnered with staff, local businesses, visitors and historians to catalogue and computerize information about the more than 2,000 people interred in Lone Pine’s four cemeteries. It’s more laborious than collecting census data about the existing population—there’s more information to catalogue.
Haun is a published author of five novels of historical non-fiction, all based in the Eastern Sierra. She is also a photographer, and used to travel to the Owens Valley for work before relocating to Lone Pine. She became fascinated with the local cemeteries while doing research for her first book, “Dear Carrie: Letters from the Eastern Sierra 1878-1899.”
“Back in about 2003, I was using names of people in the Pioneer Cemetery in my book. I couldn’t get any records,” said Haun.
At that time, the Mount Whitney Cemetery District, a public entity, was being managed by the local mortuary, a private business. In 2005, Inyo County resumed management of all cemeteries and their records. After serving on the newly-established Board of Directors for a few years, Haun was hired as the Cemetery Manager. When she finally gained access to the Mount Whitney Cemetery District Records, she found them to be in disarray. “Let’s just say, it appeared the cemeteries had taken short shrift over the mortuary business,” said Haun.
The District was running out of burial plots, and what records they had were incomplete and disorganized. Additionally, the funeral home that had previously kept the records on behalf of Inyo County was sold, and the County was unable to get all the files from the previous owners. To make matters worse, many of the records on file were hand-written documents, some dating back to the 1800s. “Back in the good old days, there was a lot of not charging for things,” said Haun of the Cemetery Records of Sales, which go back to the 1860s. “You can only imagine the inconsistencies in name spellings and flowery handwriting.”