The gravestone for two young boys who died in 1871 was returned to Gold Hill Cemetery Saturday.
It was stolen sometime after 1974, ending up in northern California. The marker was retrieved and restored, and is now back in its rightful place.
In the middle of a snowstorm on Christmas Eve in 1871, 14-year-old Henry Jones and his 9-year-old brother John were sent out by their father to move cattle.
They never returned home, and three days later, their frozen bodies were found. Since then, these boys have become famous in the community. We're told the Jones boys' story is based on some truth and some folklore.
"It has been a traditional story up here on the Comstock for decades," says Cindy Southerland, an archivist and cemetery historian.
Years of story-telling brought dozens of people out to see the brothers' tombstone put back where it belongs.
"We were able to bring it back, restore it, put it back together," says Steve Frady, chairman of the Comstock Cemetery Foundation. "Today, we placed it back in the ground."
Exactly how the tombstone made its way back to Gold Hill Cemetery after nearly four decades requires a little explaining. Originally taken around 1974, it reappeared in Petaluma, California four years later.
By the 1990s, it was broken in half, sitting outside a church. That is, until Ben Visser and his father-in-law stumbled across it.
"I came up to the back of the church one day, and I saw this headstone leaning up against the back of the church there, and I said, 'this doesn't fit here,'" says Visser.
They placed it in the church cemetery, where it was found by the Forestville Historical Society.
"From there on, everything just kind of fell together," says Visser.
The Jones' brothers tombstone was repaired and replaced, but much of the Gold Hill Cemetery still looks barren. Maintaining these old burial grounds is difficult, and theft is more common than you may think.
"People prefer to take these beautiful markers and use them on their patios, use them outside as landscapes," says Southerland.
A piece of history is finally back in an area still rich in its western ways. The Comstock Cemetery Foundation hopes the Jones' brothers tombstone will be the first of many.
"Perhaps this will be a catalyst for other work and other tombstones to return to the Comstock and other historical cemeteries throughout the west coast," says Frady.
Before the tombstone was returned, the Comstock Cemetery Foundation had only seen pictures of it.
It wasn't until recently, they saw the other side of the tombstone, learning four other Jones children were also buried in the same cemetery.