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

Share 

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. 

Closeup

Leave a comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG

Woodinville Mead: A ‘proper’ cemetery with a touch of mystery

Share 

Entrance to Woodinville Memorial Mead

 

“First used for burials in the late 1870s, it was officially deeded to the citizens of Woodinville on April 4, 1898 by Ira and Susan Woodin.” 

While some historical cemeteries might have a tumultuous history, many are still fortunate to play a quiet, yet well-loved part in their local communities. Woodinville Mead is one such place (or so it might seem). Loggers were the first to call this spot home but it was the farmers who helped turn a meandering bog into today’s award-winning wineries and microbreweries

At one time, this area of King County (approximately 20 miles northeast of Seattle) was so heavily forested that tree stumps were used as shelters and even temporary housing. Sawmills sprouted at various sites throughout what was to become Washington Territory so that by 1889, the year of statehood, 310 mills from the Columbia to the Canadian line, were cutting 1.06 million board feet of lumber. * 

However, loggers had little use for the cleared land and as they moved deeper into the vast forests, farmers discovered the rich soil, spreading the news to family and friends seeking a respite from the urban rush of late 19th century Seattle. Soon, farmers quickly outstripped the number of remaining loggers. 

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG

Snapshots: The Presidio’s book of life

Share

Situated in the middle of the San Francisco National Cemetery is a magnificent example of a Book of Life. According to Douglas Keister’s, Stories in Stone, “An open book is a favorite device for registering the names of the deceased, in its purest form, an open book can be compared to the human heart, its thoughts and feelings open to the world and to God.”

This one is so realistically carved that it’s almost possible to imagine turning the pages.

1 Comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG

Comet Lodge Cemetery: Limbo Part II

 Share  

Part II: From 1938 to present day  

Woodmen of the World memorial

In 1938, Odd Fellow members still owning cemetery land parcels fell behind in property tax payments. The county foreclosed and became, whether through design or accident, the new owner of Comet Lodge Cemetery. For the next fifteen years, questions over what was purchased, restoration permissions, and street widening ordinances, drifted back and forth between the city treasurer, council, and local improvement societies.  

Eventually, official non-action moved the questions to the back burner and the county seemingly forgot that it ever owned a cemetery. Comet Lodge Cemetery became both a home for transients and a byword for ‘eyesore’ for several more decades.  

A circle of headstone bases

 

Almost 100 years after its official Odd Fellows designation, new attempts to build on cemetery grounds ignited a public fury. Preservation Seattle noted that in 1987, a local resident began clearing the site in what appeared to be a simple restoration effort. That illusion quickly vanished.  

“When he began bulldozing the property, and the graves of the 200 or so individuals buried there, the real plans became vividly clear [and] quirkier than anyone realized. What initially looked like restoration activity was really part of the man’s life-long dream to live on a cemetery. He intended to build his house there.”  

Another report offers more details.  

A group called Elysian Fields claiming ownership of Comet Lodge Cemetery, decided to build a “caretakers cottage” on the site and plant foodstuffs for the local community. By the time the Washington State Cemetery Board brought in an order to cease and desist, the majority of headstones had been bulldozed to the south end of the property.”  

Since that time, twenty restoration attempts for Comet Lodge have been made. All have failed. Even HistoryLink’s 2009 work only managed to relocate twelve headstones while the remaining markers are little more than broken bits and pieces. Out of the hundreds of missing headstones, only six remain in their original plots.  

A serene view

 

Today, King County and the Washington State Cemetery Association retain custodial responsibility of the site. Only a few aesthetically placed headstones remain to tell passers-by of its original purpose and Comet Lodge now seems more a park than a cemetery. However, for one resident living near the old Baby Land portion, the calm appearance will never deceive. The decades-old scandal, plus certain inexplicable activities within her house, have rendered the property un-saleable.  

Online sources:  

City and County records of Comet Lodge destruction  

These are matters of grave importance. PDF, pp, 4, 16  

No stone unturned: One man’s lonely battle to save the graveyard City Hall would rather forget  

Washington State law concerning abandoned cemeteries  

Interment.net: Cemetery records for Comet Lodge  

Newspapers:  

• Seattle Post Intelligencer: “A grave commentary on an old cemetery.” October 16, 1997.  

• Seattle Times: “New life for an old cemetery: Project organizers want to turn it into an horticultural park.” September 25, 1985.  

• Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Cemetery slated to make a resurrection: Comet Lodge site will be turned into a memorial park.” June 17, 1999.  

2 Comments

Filed under Static Category - BTG

Comet Lodge Cemetery: A century in limbo

Share 

Part I: From the beginning to 1931 

An inscrutable reminder

 

Maybe it was the greed or a need to sweep political embarrassment under the proverbial rug. Perhaps it’s simply an old Indian curse on those foolish enough to disturb a sacred burial site. Whatever the reason, this cemetery has suffered a century’s worth of indignities including abandonment, foreclosure, bulldozing, and housing development. And what began as a five acre cemetery plot, now remains a mere 2.3 acre knoll languishing between a multitude of single family homes. 

It’s a story almost too strange to be true. 

Comet Lodge Cemetery was a Duwamish Indian burial site long before actual land ownership passed to the International Order of Odd Fellows in 1895. Offering fine hilltop views of south Seattle, it seemed a pleasant resting place for those early settlers such as Emma Rigby, one of area’s first female doctors. 

But peace reigned for only twelve years. 

An early German settler

 

In 1905, a booming population, plus a need for more residential housing tract land, caused the City of Seattle to move 700+ bodies from the county pauper’s cemetery to an undisclosed location in south Seattle. No transfer records seem to exist but it’s generally assumed the new burial location was the Odd Fellows Cemetery as the site became known as the Georgetown Potters’ Field. 

Over the next two decades, the Odd Fellows Council began selling off specific parcels to individual members who then re-sold the plots, regardless of whether they were occupied. One local enthusiast told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that his master’s thesis research had revealed the cemetery had even been split in half in 1908 to accommodate the building of eleven new homes. 

In 1927, land records show the City of Seattle purchasing portions of “Baby Land”, a section of the cemetery devoted specifically to young children and infants. No records of disinterment can be found but this portion was later zoned and developed for residential housing. 

The Odd Fellows Council finally dissolved in 1931, abandoning cemetery upkeep responsibilities to the families of those buried at the site. Initial attempts were made to keep the cemetery cleared but sheer size proved overwhelming. The cemetery fell into disrepair and headstones became trapped in a mass of blackberry bramble overgrowth. 

Coming up next. Part II: 1938 to present day

7 Comments

Filed under Static Category - BTG

Snapshots: Before the Air Force…

Share

…there was the Army Air Service.

James L. Claghorn

The United States Army Air Service was the forerunner of the Air Force and established in May, 1918 after the United States entered World War I.

The first U.S. aviation squadron to reach France was the 1st Aero Squadron, an observation unit, which arrived in France in September, 1917. After other squadrons were organized at home, they were also sent to France to continue training. It was February 18, 1918, before any U.S. squadron entered combat (the 103rd Aero Squadron, a pursuit unit flying with French forces and composed largely of former members of the Lafayette Escadrille).

Flyboys, a 2006 film, follows the enlistment, training and combat experiences of Americans who volunteered to become fighter pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille, the 124th air squadron formed by the French in 1916. The squadron consisted entirely of American volunteers who wanted to fly and fight in World War I during the main years of the conflict, 1914-1917, before the United States later joined the war.

1 Comment

Filed under Static Category - BTG