Crows, murder, and the Julian Cemetery

A damp and chilly fog had drifted in though the mountains and around our Airstream trailer as I took our dogs on an early morning walk and spotted what appeared to be the strange image of an approaching dementor,* which I had first encountered here two years ago.

DSC_0070 Dementor?

It turned out to be one of the many ghosts of trees burned in the 2003 Cedar Fire.  As the morning sun burned off the fog, we enjoyed working on projects and viewing the wildlife around our campsite.  Suddenly, our attention was captured by a murder of crows angrily cawing and swarming* from one tree canopy to another and then we saw it.  A beautiful gray fox walked by, just fifteen feet away.  The crows followed the fox to the Cedar Trail and I followed with camera in hand. As I turned a bend, the fox saw me and dropped a snake that it had just caught.  The crows attention now focused on their next meal, the snake!

DSC_0310 A murder of crows  DSC_0329 Crow with snake

I left the crows to enjoy their brunch, while I returned to camp to enjoy my coffee and read more about Julian’s pioneers as recorded in David Lewis‘s Last Known Address: The History of the Julian Cemetery, complete with maps and photographs.  The nearby town of Julian was once an area where Kumeyaay Native Americas lived as seasonal hunters and gatherers.  During the winter of 1869-70, Fred Coleman, a Black rancher living in the area with his Kumeyaay wife, Maria Jesusa Nejo, discovered gold, and former Confederate veteran, Drue Bailey, homesteaded 160 acres of the land and named it after his cousin, Mike Julian.1  After the gold rush, people found the soil productive and many families chose to stay in the area.2 (View Julian’s colorful history in the KPBS video, “The Town of Julian.”)

DSC_0230 "Last Known Address"

David Lewis’s grandfather, Floyd Erving Lewis, is also included in his book, along with the curious story of Leandro Woods, and both are buried in Julian’s Haven of Rest, Pioneer Cemetery.

DSC_0238 Julian Haven of Rest Cemetery

Robert Y. Allen is also buried here and, the day after Howdy Doody paid his respects, I returned to the Julian Cemetery to find the gravesite of Leandro Woods, with the help of David Lewis’s book.  The cemetery is on a hill overlooking the town and David’s map shows that Leandro Woods is on the NE edge of the new section first used in the 1950s.

DSC_0227 Pioneer Cemetery overlooks Julian  DSC_0387 Newest section, Pioneer CemeterySo I carefully and slowly walked up and down this hill several times without finding Woods’ grave marker.  I did find the grave marker of Susie Coleman Williams, the daughter of Fred Coleman, next to the grave marker of her daughter, Clara Angel.

DSC_0348 S Williams & daughter Clara

I finally did find Leandro Woods’ grave marker, hidden between the large cedar tree and the barbed wire fence on the edge of the cemetery.

DSC_0369 Leandro Woods & barbed wire

David Lewis wrote that Leandro Woods was a Native American ranch hand at the Banner Queen Ranch and taught his uncle, Mike Mushet, how “to be a cowboy”, along with “the ways of the local Indians.”  In 1885, Leandro discovered gold, mined it, and after accumulating several thousand dollars, would throw parties at the Hotel del Coronado.*In 1954, his body was found on the highway embankment, just west of Julian.  In his book, David wrote, “Those who knew Leandro well, knew in their hearts that he was murdered. Leandro was missing two things when they found his body: the money in his wallet and the one thing a cowboy like Leandro would never be without, his favorite cowboy hat.” (page 72)1

DSC_0374 Leandro Woods grave marker


DSC_0243 This cowboy's hat Howdy and I say, “Don’t take this cowboy’s hat!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

1.  David Lewis, Last Known Address: The History of the Julian Cemetery, Headstone Publishing, Julian, CA, 2008

2. Kathryn A. Jordan, Life Beyond Gold: A New Look at the History of Julian, California, The Journal of San Diego History, Spring 2008, Vol. 54, Number 2

3. Charles R. LeMenager, Julian City and Cuyamaca Country: A History and Guide to The Past and Present, Eagle Peak Publishing Company, Ramona, CA, 1992, page 88.



  1. says

    Have been reviewing with much pleasure some of your previous posts (yes, we have shared many wonderful times together) and also have read and reread your post on the Julian cemetery. Last time Janie and I were there we could not relocate the Marshall South marker, so that’s something you’ll have to show us again. Have been busy here at home catching up on chores neglected now for the past five years. Talk about you all much and believe we are overdue for a catch up call. Great posts augmented not only with words but wonderful photography.

  2. Bill D. says

    Thanks, Bev & George, for your comments. This colorful and historic town of Julian with its famed apple pie is part of the fun of camping at nearby William Heise County Park and is our camping alternative when it is too hot to camp in the desert!

  3. Bill D. says

    Thanks, Bert, for your comments and reminding me of our wonderful time visiting and photographing the remains of Yaquitepec, where poet, author and artist Marshal South and family built their adobe home on Ghost Mountain in an experiment of primitive living from 1930 to 1947 (“New Year’s Day at Yaquitipec“)… and photographing Marshal South’s grave marker in the Julian Cemetery and the frieze/mural that he painted on the upper walls of the former Julian Library next to the Julian Town Hall. Marshal wrote articles for Desert Magazine and monthly drove his 1929 Model A Ford 14 miles to the town of Julian to pick up mail and supplies. Some in Julian considered him an outcast because of his lifestyle (“Desert trails and mysteries, 1“, “Desert trails and mysteries, 2“, and “Desert trails and mysteries, 3“).

    When you return to the area, I’ll be glad to show you where Marshal South’s grave marker is located. In the meantime, for those wanting to find his grave, enter the Julian Cemetery from Farmer Road and walk up the stairs (Casket Walk). Once at the top of the stairs and before stepping onto the paved road, turn right and walk towards the north for about 10 – 20 feet and you will see his marker (as seen in “Return to Ghost Mountain“).