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The Orion

Take a walk through Chico Cemetery

Professor Sarah Gagnebin will lead a tour through the Chico Cemetery on Monday
Chico State professor Sarah Gagnebin kneels next to a grave marker in the Chico Cemetery. Taken by Chico State photographer Jason Halley.

The first Chico Cemetery tour of the semester, led by comparative religions and humanities professor Sarah Gagnebin, is Monday.

The first was supposed to be Oct. 2 but was canceled because Gagnebin said there wasn’t enough time to advertise it and they wanted to make sure students had enough time to sign up.

Those who are interested in attending must RSVP through CatsConnect, there are six spots available. All attendees are asked to meet at the roundabout near Celestino’s at 2:30 p.m. so everyone can walk to the cemetery with professor Laura Nice. 

The group will meet Gagnebin at the Chico Cemetery front gates to start the tour around 3 p.m. The tour is expected to last until around 4 p.m. Attendees are asked to come equipped with walking shoes and a water bottle.

Gagnebin poses near the “Weeping Angel” in the Chico Cemetery. Taken by Chico State photographer Jason Halley.

The tour will feature multiple historical and religious aspects of the Chico Cemetery, including  the graves of Chico’s founding couple John and Annie Bidwell, where alcohol may have been hidden during the prohibition, the white Italian marble “Weeping Angel” sculpture and more.

Despite it being October, the tour isn’t taking place due to “spooky month.” Gagnebin said she actually hopes those who go on the tour feel less “spooky” once they explore the cemetery.

Gagnebin leads the tour every semester for her RELS 264 — Death, Dying and Afterlife — class and once a year for the Comparative Religions and Humanities Student Society.

She also leads specialized tours. Any Chico State class can request a tour based around any specific subject matter.

Gagnebin has been leading these tours since 2015 when she started taking her RELS 264 class for a field trip to discuss various themes including different burial religious rites, segregation history and ecological issues with burial and cremation.

“The best way to really understand something is to walk around in it,” Gagnebin said. “We can learn something particular about history by ‘reading’ the cemetery and the tombstones therein.”

She also said she’s constantly learning new facts about the cemetery because she spends time digitizing old Chico Cemetery death records and newspaper clippings about burials.

Most tours usually have 12 to 15 participants, according to Gagnebin. She said she finds it interesting how many students and faculty members, from varying majors and departments, are interested in the cemetery and its history.

“I hope students continue to see what a great source of information it [the tour] is,” Gagnebin said.

The Chico Cemetery Association also hosts monthly tours, the next of which is on Oct. 14. These tours center around grave locations, historical stories and more. To go on one of these tours, call the Chico Cemetery at 530-214-0088.

The Chico Cemetery is around 58 acres in size, most of which was donated by John Bidwell. The very first burial took place in 1852, according to their website

Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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