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Rocks, Rails & Ranches

Joel Parker Whitney’s Pyramid Tomb

GPS coordinates: (N 38° 49.557', W 121° 14.799'
By: Gary Day, special to the Placer Herald
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Rocklin History Tour

This is the 18th installment of a 19-part series in which Gary Day takes readers on a tour of Rocklin’s historic sites. Find the sites yourself with a handy Rocklin History Tour booklet, available at the Rocklin History Museum, 3895 Rocklin Road. GPS coordinates were provided by Brian Ignaut. Short stories about Rocklin’s history are at www.rocklinhistory.org/history_series.asp.

 

This tomb is near the 11th green of Whitney Oaks Golf Course, to the north of Monument Park.

In January 1913, Joel Parker Whitney died at Del Monte after a long bout with kidney disease. He was 78. His cremated remains and those of at least 23 of his forebears and descendents are interred here. The pyramid shape probably resulted from Whitney’s belief in Pyramidology, the belief that pyramids hold magical powers, including the power to bestow reincarnation.

The tomb is about 15 feet high and constructed of granite blocks with a white marble-lined interior.

By family tradition, Whitney created this tomb for himself in his declining years; however, a note in Whitney’s diary by his son Vincent indicates that Vincent ordered it built after his father’s death. Curiously, there are three interments of people who died more than 20 years before Whitney: his mother and father and one of his sisters.

Several family members reunite at the tomb each year in May and about once every five years they open the tomb for new interments. At least one interment has been removed for fear of vandalism. Recently, vandals left graffiti on the entry door and on the granite lintel above.

The tomb is centered in an enclosure of piled rocks and native granite boulders, a structure Whitney called “The Fort.” The boulders show bedrock mortars where Nisenan women and children ground acorns into mush until the early 19th century.

Support your Rocklin Historical Society: Wine and Jazz on the patio of Old Saint Mary’s Chapel at 5251 Front St. on May 11 at 7:30 p.m. Call Gay Morgan at (916) 624-2355 to reserve.