Monthly Archives: April 2010

Auburn Pioneer Cemetery: A tiny cemetery with many stories

Auburn Pioneer entry way

 

“One of these days, I’m going to check that place out.”     

Everyone has an Auburn Pioneer Cemetery in their life. It’s that one place we see every day that piques our interest as we drive to and from work. Sometimes the traffic or red light gives us a chance to look more closely as we pass by. We take a moment to admire the archway’s elegant carving and idly survey the rows of moss-covered stones. Then we wonder how a cemetery ever got sandwiched between a boat seller and a major thoroughfare.     

The boat seller's shop

 

But then traffic speeds up or the light turns green and suddenly, the day’s demands crowd everything else out. Work, grocery runs, children, or upcoming project presentations block out everything but the daily necessities. The idea of visiting a non-descript cemetery disappears until the next time we’re held up and need to kill two minutes worth of time before moving on.     

And once again, the intriguing entry way beckons.     

The demarcation line     

For those who do manage to finally get to Auburn Pioneer, a number of intriguing perspectives compete for the visitor’s attention almost immediately upon entering the site. Continue reading

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Lakeview Cemetery Part II: Elegant memorials to an eccentric past

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Part II: The travels of Nora Johns Hill

        

In The Pioneers of Lakeview, Robert Ferguson details one such cemetery relocation story, proving that just because you’re dead and buried, doesn’t mean you won’t be moving.           

A Tree of Life carving

 

 Nora Johns Hill may have been the first recorded death of a white American in Seattle, but her real notoriety began only after she passed away. For 31 years after her death, her body meandered from one cemetery site to another, until finally finding peace in Lakeview Cemetery.            

A Woodworker's memorial

 

Nora was first laid to rest in 1855 on the east side of Maynard’s Point next to a tidal lagoon and now, present-day Occidental Avenue, South. Then a real estate boom happened and Nora’s grave was removed to The White Church on the corner of Second Ave and Columbia.           

Up until that time, Nora had managed 10 years worth of peace and quiet.           

Woodmen of the World

 

  Continue reading

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Lakeview Cemetery Part I: Elegant memorials to an eccentric past

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The treats     

The Denny family plot

 

Scattered throughout the immaculate grounds of Lakeview Cemetery, classic Victorian sculptures pay homage to Seattle’s pioneer fortitude and frontier savvy. Most of Seattle’s founding families (Denny, Renton, Mercer, Boren, Yesler, and others) are buried in the western hill section, offering a ‘one-stop shopping’ approach for local history buffs.          

Capt. William Renton

 

The stylish memorials act as a seemingly prim contradiction to neighboring Capitol Hill’s stated irreverence.          

Austin Bell's mausoleum

 

The tricks     

However, the founding families’ elegance smoothly glosses over the scruffy reality of a frontier town’s robust approach to living. With few niceties available to soften the harsher edges, unconventional allowances were sometimes made in Seattle that might not have been tolerated in other, more established cities.         Continue reading

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April 15: The Titanic’s night to remember

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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.    

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The Titanic’s real J. Dawson

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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.

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