Crime in the parks threatens the very fabric of California history. Take the case of the Volcano hearse.
The ornate horse-drawn hearse, built circa 1860, had a key role in one of the few Civil War conflicts in California. It was used to sneak a cannon into the Amador County Gold Rush town of Volcano, by Union sympathizers concerned about a Confederate uprising.
To fund their efforts, the Confederates marched down the street to heist a gold shipment. The outnumbered Union sympathizers stood against them, blocking the road. When told to move, they stepped aside to reveal the loaded cannon, sufficiently intimidating to send the Confederates packing. No shots were fired.
Much later, the hearse was donated to the state parks and ended up in a decrepit warehouse on the grounds of Fort Ord Dunes State Park.
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In September 2005, vandals jumped a fence around the building, which had no security system. They cut a padlock on the door, then used a piece of steel rebar to smash the oval windows on each side of the hearse.
Made of original hand-poured glass, the windows were three-fourths of an inch thick.
"This isn't an isolated event," said Kris Quist, curator for the state parks' Monterey District. "These sorts of things happen throughout the state park system."
The hearse incident, at least, has a happy ending. The damaged vehicle was moved to an artifact storage warehouse in West Sacramento where last year it was restored with reproduction glass at a cost of $85,000 from state grant funds.
It eventually will go on display at a state park.