A Bit of Santa Rita History
Jose Manuel Soto established a town [known as Penacart, New Republic,
Sotoville, and finally as Santa Rita] on part of Rancho Santa Rita in 1867.
As part of his overall plan, Soto set aside land for a Catholic Church. The
one-acre hilltop plot overlooking the original town was deeded to the
Diocese in 1872. By the late 1870s, a small church had been built and was
considered a mission chapel under the auspices of the Castroville parish.
The cemetery which surrounds the chapel on three sides was active from the
1890s to the 1960s. For over 100 years the small chapel was the center of
community life for many of the pioneer families who settled in the area.
Rita Chapel and Cemetery
Search Database for Ancestors
Santa Rita Chapel Renovation Fund
Santa Rita Chapel [known historically as Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic
Church] is the last remaining building of the original town. The surrounding
cemetery is the final resting place of many Salinas Valley pioneers and
their descendants. However, the lack of endowment care planning during the
active period of the cemetery has resulted in limited attention for this
special place. As a result, for the second time in its history, a renovation
effort is required to return the chapel and its grounds to their original
In 1972, a massive community effort successfully overhauled the little
chapel. Damage done by vandals was repaired, the chapel was re-painted, the
plumbing and electrical was brought up to code, sidewalks and steps were
constructed, and interior restoration work was accomplished.
Unfortunately, time has taken a toll on the little chapel and its
cemetery. A committee of concerned citizens, including many former
parishioners of the chapel, in collaboration with the Diocese of Monterey
has been established to focus community attention on the problem and to lay
the framework for current repair work and to establish an endowment fund to
maintain the site in the future.
If you have relatives or friends resting in Santa Rita Catholic
Cemetery, and would like to help in this effort, please contact Clancy
D'Angelo, Director of Cemeteries, Diocese of Monterey (831) 373-4345.
Remember, one measure of a community is the devotion it shows to those who
have preceded us and to whom we owe so much. Please join us in this