15 June 2011

Ghost Busting

Yorba Linda cemetery was founded in 1858 by Bernardo Yorba. He received the grant to 13,000 acres of Rancho Cañón de Santa Ana from the Mexican governor in 1834. I can see the small cemetery, now surrounded by housing tracks, from my back yard on the other side of Santa Ana Canyon.

I have never seen a ghost there.

Alvina de los Reyes is said to be the "Pink Lady," a ghost who haunts the graveyard on June 15th of even years. The story is that she was killed in 1910 when she fell from a wagon on the way home from a high school dance.

Nobody knows how this particular story got started -- it was likely made up to entertain and excite adolescents -- but I can help solve parts of the mystery.

At the Family History Center in Orange -- on a street named for Bernardo Yorba's father -- is a book that lists payments for cemetery plots in the Yorba Linda Cemetery. Frank Reyes bought two plots there in 1910. One for Alvina de los Reyes who was 31 when she died on Dec 2, 1910. The other payment was for Alavina de los Reyes who was born on Nov 25, 1910 and died 28 days later.

Dying when her baby was just a week old, was Alvina's death the result of childbirth? Not according to the Orange County death records on microfilm at the Orange FHC. There it states that she died of pneumonia and her infant died of athrepsia infantum or failure to thrive. In any case, Alvina was not on her way home from a dance.

Another mystery concerns Alvina's origins. According to the Yorba Linda History website, nobody knows who Alvina de los Reyes was. One relative, a grand nephew, believes her maiden name was Entrada. A cousin thinks it may have been Estrada. Fortunately, her children knew her maiden name.

In the 1910 census for Yorba township in Orange County (found on Ancestry.com), Alvina is the wife of Francisco Reyes and the mother of seven children.

The index to California Death Records lists some of her children, including Isadore and twins Frank and Rosa. Their mother's maiden name is listed as Bustamante.

Further poking around in census and death records shows that Alvina's father died when she was young and her mother, whose maiden name was Estrada, remarried a man named Andrade. Andrade and Estrada are close to the names remembered by Alvina's living cousins, showing there is often a grain of truth in many of those stories handed down through the generations.

Except, for me at least and espicially in this case, ghost stories.

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