Following are a few biographies of some of the California monumental dealers and individuals who signed the marble cemetery stones that I have found in California cemeteries so far. Most of these stones date from the late 1800’s through the very early 1900’s.
If you are interested in information on the California companies and carvers that I have found, please visit the “Historical Stone Cutters, Stone Carvers, & Monument Dealers” section of this web site.
(* Please note that only portions of Andrew Aitken’s story will be presented here. For the full story, visit the “Andrew M. Aitken” section our web site.)
The following information is taken from Leeanna Rossi’s notes on the Gold Rush Carvers. She wrote Headstones of the Gold Rush Era: Sculpting Masterpieces in Marble. Golden Notes, vol. 43, number 3, Fall 1997, Sacramento Co. Historical Society, Sacramento, CA, 1997, available at the Old Sacramento City Cemetery.
Andrew Aitken was born in Fifeshire, Scotland, in 1824. In 1832 he immigrated to Canada, then on to Massachusetts where he worked as a stone cutter. He then migrated to California where he worked in and for the gold mines on the American River for about 3 years prior to moving to Sacramento.
From late 1852 until about some time in the late 1870s, Andrew Aitken was in partnership with Israel Luce in a monument business in Sacramento. The address was Seventh and L Streets. About 1853/1854, Israel Luce discovered the Indian Diggings marble in El Dorado near Placerville. They began quarrying the Indian Diggings marble some time between 1857 and 1860. In 1861 a steam mill with three gangs of saws was erected at the Indian Diggings quarry. In an 1860 ad, the company advertised that Aitken and Luce’s company used “marble and Benicia Freestone* for gravestones and monuments. The ad also stated that they used “native California marble.” (* This mention of Benicia Freestone - sandstone - is interesting because there is one sandstone cemetery stone in the Woodland Cemetery that is not signed and the origin of the sandstone is unknown so far. An earlier 1855 advertisement of theirs stated they dealt in “Freestone,” but no quarry location was given.)
In the early 1870s, Andrew Aitken and Israel Luce’s company name was “Aitken & Luce Premium Pioneer Marble Works.” Their works was located at 177 K Street. At that time Israel Luce was also the Superintendent of the City Cemetery. Some time prior to or during 1869, William (?) Boyne became one of the partners in Aitken & Luce’s monumental business, although no further information on Boyne is given in the notes.
According to one of their ads published in November, 1872, Aitken and Luce stated that they created cemetery stones and monuments from “Indian Diggings, Italian and Vermont marble.” According to historical records, their company contracted for stone work for the California state capitol for many years.
In 1879, Aitken was no longer working with Israel Luce but had gone into business with Frank, Morris, and Anthony Fish under the company name of “Aitken & Fish Pioneer Marble Works.” Their works was located at 617 K Street. By 1896, the company name had changed to “A. Aitken Granite & Marble Monuments and Statuary,” and they were located at 216 J Street. At that time Andrew Aitken was in business with Andre Aitken, Jr., and Anthony Fish. From 1897, there was no company name listed for Andrew Aitken.
According to records, Andrew Aitken was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons, Sacramento Lodge #40. He married Jessie Davidson of Scotland in 1860. She died a few years after their marriage; whereas Aitken married his second wife Hattie A. Marsh of New Jersey in Sept. 1869. Leeanna Rossi does not list any children for Andrew Aitken, although in later years he was in business with an “Andrew Aitken, Jr.”
Andrew Aitken died of “apoplexy and heart disease” on Sept. 20, 1904, in Sacramento at the age of 80. He was buried in the Sacramento City Cemetery.
A description of Andrew Aitken was given as follows: “Height: 5 feet, 8 inches tall; complexion, light; eyes, blue; hair, gray.” Leeanna Rossi notes that he had an “Extra thumb on his right hand.”