April 15: The Titanic’s night to remember


The bow of the Titanic


Almost 100 years ago and in the early hours of April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank into the history books. Out of approximately 2,227 passengers plus crew, approximately 700 people survived. After the disaster, some 320 bodies were recovered for burial at Fairview Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, including a J. Dawson, the unanticipated hero of James Cameron’s movie, Titanic. The remaining 1,500 became an unwitting part of one of the most fascinating cemetery memorials of all time.    

The story is well known.    

A glorious passenger ship surpassing the scale of all those previously built. The RMS Titanic was a floating palace that included swimming pools, squash courts, elevators and steam baths. The First Class lounge was in the Louis XV style while the Smoking Room had mahogany paneling highlighted with mother-of-pearl. A verandah, complete with flower-packed trellises, allowed for post-prandial relaxation while the formal Reception Area anticipated the evening’s fine dining. However, the type of food served certainly differed according to class.    

Life was very good. At least until the iceberg showed up.    

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG

Crown Hill Cemetery, Part II


Disease, fire, and unsolved mysteries…          

 (this is a continuation from Crown Hill Cemetery Part I)         

The infant & children's section


Crown Hill denotes more than a risky sawmill legacy.         

The community’s early years were also difficult times for infants and children. The cemetery has at least two sections filled with closely placed rows of markers that poignantly testify to childhood disease and infections during those pre-vaccination times. Typhoid, cholera, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and even the 1918 influenza epidemic. All of these left their mark.            

Another view of the children's section


 Fire also left its mark.            

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG

The Titanic’s real J. Dawson


J. Dawson, Titanic victim


1997 marked the debut of Titanic, James Cameron’s $200 million dollar movie that profiled an early 20th century Romeo and Juliet attraction between an itinerant Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and high society girl, Rose DeWitt Bukater (played by Kate Winslet). It’s a fictionalized story set within an almost century-old tragedy. 

Or so it seems. Did you know that there was an actual J. Dawson as a registered crew member on the doomed R.M.S. Titanic? 

Who was this man? Was his story the impetus for Cameron’s blockbuster movie? Or is his life a simple footnote within the Titanic drama? 

Unfortunately, J. Dawson didn’t survive the icy Arctic waters on that April night. His body was recovered from the sea one month after the tragedy and buried in a Nova Scotia cemetery. He now rests under the occasional layer of flowers, photographs and movie ticket stubs. 

Senan Molony, a journalist and dedicated Titanic researcher, discovered that Joseph Dawson was the son of a failed Irish Catholic priest and worked on the ship as a trimmer. A trimmer is basically a stokehold slave designated to channel coal to the firemen at the furnaces. He was responsible for keeping the black mountains on a level plateau at all times so that no imbalances caused a threat to the trim, or even-keel, of the ship. Yet Joseph’s life leading up to that fateful night followed a series of ironic ups and down that are movie worthy in their own right. 

Read the whole story here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG

Crown Hill Cemetery: Part I

A sawmill heritage    

Crown Hill Cemetery, Seattle WA


It takes a little bit of effort to find Crown Hill Cemetery near Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Surrounded by hedgerows and with a sign half-swallowed by rhododendrons, the low profile is so effective, some local residents don’t even realize it’s there. And that’s how the old Scandinavians probably would have liked it.       

Acknowledged heritage


Ballard was a mill town in Seattle. It was made up of sawmills and ship chandleries and machine shops and fishing docks and dry docks. It was a place of working men, hardworking people, union men with big calloused hands, some of whom died young because they worked too hard. Ballard was not pretty…just a district of honest immigrant Swedes, Norwegians and Finns who sought to make their lives better, who sought dignity and decency without flair or fanfare.” *       



Pine, cedar, and fir trees are scattered throughout the site, offering both shade and a reminder of the area’s logging roots. Another surprising aspect is the amount of seemingly open, park-like space in the oldest sections. The unexpected, in-ground headstones can claim this credit. Discreetly receding into the lined distance, the markers are simply inscribed with such old-fashioned names like Hedwig, Torbjorg, Inga, and Lars.       

Hedwig Wicks: 1872-1943


   Continue reading


Filed under Static Category - BTG

Any volunteers?

Flickr photo: superhua


This week, some readers asked about specific cemetery volunteer work needs. After shooting out a few emails, I found some sites that would love extra help in surveying, research, maintenance, or even conservation skills. And while only a few sites have responded at this time, I do anticipate others coming forward. Once that happens, I’ll update this post. 

Saar Pioneer Cemetery, Kent, WA: Karen Bouton did a magnificent job in cleaning both the grounds and the stones on this site, but it’s tough handling this all by herself. If you are interested in helping, please send an email to: skcgswebmaster@yahoo.com

Fall City Cemetery, Fall City, WA: Ruth Pickering, President of the Fall City Historical Society, is looking for volunteers skilled in site surveys or historical research. There might even be some conservation needs. Her eventual goal is to plan a cemetery tour highlighting the interesting life stories of the early Fall City pioneers. Contact email: fallcityhistorical@juno.com 

Tolt Historical Cemetery, Carnation, WA: Isabel Jones, President and Director of the Tolt Historical Society, is looking for a few good volunteers that might be able to help with restoring/maintaining several of the broken and worn stones at the site. A previous post shows the need in more detail. Contact email: isabelj2@juno.com

Newcastle Coal Miners’ Cemetery, Newcastly, WA: Pam Lee, President of the Newcastle Historical Society, welcomes potential volunteer help – especially from those with grant writing, webmaster, record organizing skills! If interested, drop in to say hello at one of the Newcastle Historical Society monthly meetings. When?  The first Thursday of every month from 4.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. Where? The Newcastle City Hall Community Room. Note: April’s meeting will be Thursday, April 8

Washington State Paranormal Investigations & Research isn’t just about the extraordinary. They also take cemetery restoration seriously with their ‘adoption’ of a tiny, overgrown site called Hillgrove Cemetery. Located near Sea-Tac airport, this privately-owned cemetery is the final resting place of many Highline pioneer families. More than 350 people are buried at Hillgrove. Veterans interred there are from the Civil War (both North and South), the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and Korea. Enthusiastic volunteers willing to prune, weed, rake, and more.  Interested? Contact Patricia at Patricia@wspir.com to sign up for cleanup date announcements.

1 Comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG

4,000 year old cemetery in Northern China

Small River Cemetery #5


This morning, The New York Times reported that archeologists have re-discovered a unique cemetery, called Small River Cemetery #5,  located on the eastern edges of the fierce Taklimakan desert. The cemetery is unique for several reasons: 1. the desolate location; 2. distinct European features, plus DNA markers, of the preserved mummies; and 3. the apparent civilization’s focus on procreation for survival’s sake in a harsh land. 

Read the full story here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG

Snapshots: Sculpture in Barcelona’s Cementiri de l’Est


Established in 1773, this cemetery was originally placed outside the eastern city limits for hygiene reasons. Generations of interesting statues fill the various nooks and crannies here. 

At rest...


While many of the carvings (and mausoleums) are now vandalized and broken, a few statues remain intact. This is one of them. 


Leave a comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG