December 1885 marks the beginning of Ararat Armenian Cemetery. Moses J. Church (biography on findagrave.com), a local businessman, owned an 80 acre plot of land along Belmont Avenue. He was a deeply religious man, who believed strongly in the need for cemeteries. He vowed to sell this property, at minimal cost, to various ethnic, religious, and social groups. Fresno’s fledgling Armenian community, represented by K.P. Peters, M. Marcarian, and S. Keshishyan, purchased a small portion of Church’s property for the sum of one dollar in gold coins on December 2, 1885.
Many other groups also benefited from Church’s generosity. Over the ensuing decades, most of those groups gave up independent control of their own cemeteries and folded their land into Mountain View Cemetery. However, the Armenian community has maintained ownership and control of its cemetery property continuously for 130 years. And, as Fresno’s Armenian community grew, so did its need for burial space. The original 2.5 acre section has grown over the years to encompass approximately 16 acres, divided between Ararat Armenian Cemetery and Masis Ararat Armenian Cemetery.
Ararat and Masis Ararat Armenian Cemeteries are the only Armenian cemeteries in the United States and, for over 100 years, were the only Armenian cemeteries outside Armenia and the Middle East. These Cemeteries stand as a testament to the strength and will of the Armenian community in Fresno and as a solemn reminder of the valuable contribution Armenians have made to the development of Fresno and the surrounding area. Starting with the Seropian Brothers in Plot 1, you can trace the growth and history of the Armenian community in California’s Central Valley. From humble origins, the Armenian community prospered over time, giving rise to influential businessmen, politicians, soldiers, and more. We are proud to honor the memories of all who are buried at Ararat and Masis Ararat Armenian Cemeteries.
Our mission is to serve Armenian families with compassion at their time of need, while also keeping alive the memory of all who are buried here. We invite you to explore the history of Fresno’s Armenian community through the biographies of the many prominent people buried at Ararat and Masis Ararat Armenian Cemeteries. For more information or to arrange a tour, call (559) 292-2415.
We would like to thank Eugene Sibley for sharing his research on Moses J. Church and the history of Fresno’s cemeteries.