Monthly Archives: September 2009

Weathering, vandalism & maintenance: Part V

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Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Weather, vandalism and maintenance are the three biggest challenges facing old Pacific Northwest cemeteries. Unlike the granite headstones that are seemingly impervious to practically anything except an earthquake, sandstone carvings do not endure rainy winter seasons very well. In many cases, intricate carvings are melting away while marble is only slightly better at handling industrious molds and lichens.

Black Diamond Coal Miners' Cemetery

Fall City Cemetery

Black Diamond Coal Miners' Cemetery

Black Diamond Coal Miners' Cemetery

Naturally, the original wooden markers stood little chance of enduring the local climate. Most rotted away after only a few years’ time, leaving little trace of the burial site while ground heave from occasional frosts, have left their mark on the later plots. Continue reading

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Carvings and symbols: Part IV

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Names and dates are important facts for any researcher but on a headstone, the variety of carvings and symbols can build out a more complete story.

Double-headed eagles…

32 Degree Mason, Lakeview Cemetery

32 Degree Mason, Lakeview Cemetery

Knights in weathered armor…

Knights of Pythias, Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Knights of Pythias, Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

…olive branches and oak leaves, scallops and axes. All of these are mysterious symbols to visitors unfamiliar with the metaphors.

During the late 1800s, the Pacific Northwest offered a unique opportunity to start fresh in one of the last frontiers. Civil War veterans, Scandinavian fishermen and loggers, Welsh miners, Japanese farmers and others, placed their bets and came west.

Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Yet while this was their chance to start over for something better, it did not mean the traditions or familiar language of one’s homeland were forgotten. Continue reading

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The stones share a few secrets – Part III

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A visitor pays respects

A visitor pays respects

Cemeteries attract all sorts of visitors, although some are more surprising than others. The same can be said about old tombstones. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, something new comes along.  In King County, it’s common to see a nod to both the rustic pioneer and classic Victorian. (See The Secret Garden  for a traditional English Victorian  cemetery).

One of the more striking sights are the tree stump monuments, courtesy of the fraternal organization called Woodmen of the World. Joseph Cullen Root started the group in 1890 after he was inspired by the idea of woodsmen clearing the forest for their families.

Comet Lodge Cemetery

Comet Lodge Cemetery

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Six cemeteries in the spotlight – Part II

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Any cemetery enthusiast will readily agree that highlighting just a few cemeteries out of so many can be an almost impossible task. And while only six King County cemeteries could be chosen for the indepth Stones & Bones articles, several other fascinating places will be highlighted when symbols, inscriptions and unique stones are discussed.
 

#1: Woodinville Mead Memorial Cemetery

Annie's Rose

Annie's Rose

At one time, this area of King County was so heavily forested that tree stumps could be used as shelters or temporary housing. When logging was in full swing, the summer skies were overcast with a pall of smoke from the many forest fires and land clearings.(1) However, as the land was gradually cleared, news of the rich soil spread and farmers began moving into the area, soon outnumbering the original loggers.

In 1871, Ira Woodin and his wife Susan, settled down in this northern part of King County to pursue their logging and farming interests. In 1878 and in 1910, the Woodins deeded land from their homestead to the Woodinville Cemetery Association. Today, the cemetery quietly stands next to a busy road leading out to State Route 522, lovingly overseen by devoted volunteers.

#2: Lakeview Cemetery

Denny family grandeur

Denny family grandeur

Home to almost virtually all the original Seattle pioneers, Lakeview Cemetery exudes a Victorian aura few would expect from a Pacific Northwest cemetery. Continue reading

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Discovering secrets in King County’s old cemeteries

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Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Newcastle Coal Miners'

Cemetery issues shot to the forefront of American consciousness when headlines broke the Burr Oaks scandal this past summer. Body dumping and plot re-sales for extra cash shocked locals and veteran police officials alike who were at a loss to fathom how all this could have happened without anyone noticing.

More shocking was the glaring realization that the vital links to a community’s past had disappeared into a back lot pile of broken stones and bones.

Tolt Cemetery

Tolt Cemetery

Families typically assume that a loved one’s interment spot is a given for time eternal – or for at least as long as the endowment funds last. But the reality is that families die out, move on, or simply lose interest in visiting the grave of a relative no one can now remember. Aside from intrepid genealogists or local historical societies, headstones are lost, become overgrown or fade away into the dirt.

Out of sight, out of mind. Continue reading

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Vandalism…

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The Pacific Northwest is not known for its kind winter weather and cemetery headstones are all too familiar with its vagaries. Weeks of rain, floods, high winds reaching up to 90 mph in some years, even snow. Any headstone not made out of granite can expect to be worn down rather quickly and certainly the original wooden crosses would not have lasted much more than a few seasons.

But sometimes, we give nature a helping hand. Below are a few of the sights that are all too common these days.

It ranges from spray paint…

Auburn Pioneer Cemetery

Auburn Pioneer Cemetery

To the broken, in-ground stones….
Newcastle Cemetery

Newcastle Cemetery

To those missing for decades…
Saar Pioneer Cemetery

Saar Pioneer Cemetery

 

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Wash a stone, restore some history

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Steven Willis (before cleaning)

Steven Willis (before cleaning)

One of the biggest challenges facing cemeteries today is how to properly clean and restore old headstones to their original beauty. Recommendations can run the gamut from, “Give them a good bleaching,” to wire brushing.

Others simply aren’t sure, preferring to leave the stones as they are rather than run the risk of further damage.

However, Karen Bouton, Saar Cemetery Project Coordinator and member of the South King County Genealogical Society, has spent many hours successfully restoring headstones in Saar Pioneer Cemetery with a simple, yet effective method that’s explained in her guest post below. (All photos were provided by Ms. Bouton).

Steven Willis (after cleaning)

Steven Willis (after cleaning)

Thinking about cleaning an old headstone?

I thought about it too and was scared to death that I would ruin the delicate sandstone material but since so many headstones in the Saar Pioneer Cemetery were quite unreadable, I had to do something. Continue reading

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