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Ingrained in SCV history

Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary watches community grow up around it

Posted: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Chapel of the Oaks, built in the 1960's, stands at the entrance to Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary.

 

At Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary, history is as ubiquitous as death, remembrance and peace.

Immediately to the right of the entrance stands a square, stone chapel with stained-glass windows and a feeling of calm that seems to emanate from the grounds.

Back in the 1850s, however, that same plot of land housed the Lyons Station, a bustling, all-purpose site for locals and pilgrims alike.

Many people passed through the area, as it was a common trek for those heading up and down California.

“The trail, at many times, was too much for some to take,” said Curtis Woods, general manager of the park. “Family members chose here as the place for their family to rest.”

“(Pilgrims) would have to pull horses and carriages over the mountain,” said Rick Payner, a funeral services coordinator and on-site history buff. “There were accidents — it was a tough operation.”

Eventually, Beale’s Cut, a passage cut into the mountainside, was completed about one mile south of the park, Payner said. At the time, many were heading South through the area to Los Angeles or in search of gold fields, and this passage made things much easier for travelers, Payner said.

To accommodate the passersby, Lyons Station served as a stagecoach shop, general store, post office, saloon, place of lodging and cemetery, Payner said.

“It was common then for one building to do a lot of things,” he said.

Still serving local residents, that same site is now a California registered historical landmark and a place for Santa Clarita Valley families to remember their loved ones, Woods said.

“We preserve the tradition that started with the pioneers of the Santa Clarita Valley,” he said. “The first burial in the Santa Clarita Valley took place here in our pioneer section. We try to pay tribute to their efforts by preserving the burial spaces and, now, by honoring local families in their time of need.”

Heading into the park, visitors are enveloped by rolling green hills spotted by stone graves that memorialize generations of local families. Residents who have changed this valley forever have walked through the same hills.

Through the course of its history, the cemetery has changed hands several times, Woods said. The Lyons family helped develop the small town, and members of the family are still buried at Eternal Valley.

The Needham family was the last to hold ownership, and Henry Clay Needham, a prohibitionist politician in the early 1900s, owned the land for more than 50 years, Woods said.

In 1986, Eternal Valley acquired the land, providing proper preservation for the rich history set into the hillsides.

“While we deal with death on a regular basis, the main purpose of our service is to support the living by helping them through the most difficult times of their lives – walking them through the process and helping them turn the page,” Woods said.

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