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


The in-ground setting can make finding a particular headstone challenging. One woman asked the caretaker for help after an unsuccessful hunt for her family marker. Perhaps the stone had been stolen? However, after one last careful search, the caretaker managed to locate the marker discreetly covered with grass clippings.


In 1885, there were at least a few hundred Swedes living in Seattle. By 1920, every 20th inhabitant of Seattle was Norwegian-born or the offspring of Norwegian parents. In Seattle, one could shop, work, worship, and socialize in the Norwegian language. Ballard became a Norwegian community where one could meet or perhaps marry a neighbor from home – or at least talk to someone who spoke the same dialect.**

Old-fashioned plots


Ballard became the integral focus, a home to mill workers, fishermen and boat builders . Prosperity came from the numerous lumber and shingle mills along the city’s industrial waterfront and by 1905, more red cedar shingles were being produced in the ten shingle mills here than in any other community nationwide.***

It’s an impressive statistic.

Dangerous sawmills

Emanuel Anderson: 1855-1907


Even more impressive was the blasé approach to the frequent sawmill accidents. When researching his book, More Deadly Than War: Pacific Coast Logging 1827 – 1981, Andrew Mason Prouty came across the following excerpt from The West Coast Lumberman:

Ballard will soon have to open a graveyard for fingers. A total of 13 were sawn off at the shingle mills recently…

Sawmills were dangerous places. The pounding of the machinery and the shrill whine of the saws were hypnotic. Edgers and planers could trim a board almost faster than the eye could follow. As a result, reflexes lost their timing and when that happened, the saws butchered the shingle weavers’ hands.

Olaf L. Rust: 1885-1917


The overall perspective on sawmill work wasn’t much better.

All machinery was dangerous, lumber machinery particularly so. Workmen engaged in hazardous trades should not have been surprised when saws cut them or emery wheels exploded in their faces. In a sense one might say that mechanics and journeymen were ‘guilty’ because they deliberately worked around machines and machines as such could not be trusted.” ****

Coming up next week – Part II: Disease, fire, and unsolved mysteries.


*Voices of Ballard: Immigrant Voices from a Vanishing Generation, Moen, Lynn, Seattle. © 2001. Pg VI

** Images of America: Norwegian Seattle: Leander, Kristine. © 2008, Arcadia Publishing, San Francisco. Pg 51.

***Ballard Historical Society

**** More Deadly Than War: Pacific Coast Logging 1827 – 1981: Prouty, Andrew Mason. © 1985, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York. Pages 113, 115, 117-118.


Filed under Commentary, Symbols, Travel

14 responses to “Crown Hill Cemetery: Part I

  1. Pingback: Crown Hill Cemetery, Part II « Beyond The Ghosts…A Cemetery Blog

  2. Thank you for this — very interesting. My great-grandfather is buried at this cemetery. It’s interesting how obscure the cemetery is — if you don’t know where to find it, you’d never know there’s a cemetery in the area.

  3. My husband and I had a chance to walk around this graveyard last night. Very cool place. The newer headstones with the ppls face etched into marble is quite interesting. I really love all the older ones though..such history. It’s always so amazing to me that these were real people with families that are still in ballard. Keep up the good work.

    • G.E. Anderson

      Thanks so much for stopping by the site. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and I must say, it was one of my favorites to research and write. Thank you for your kind comments!

  4. Ava Majors

    Is there a listing of individuals that are burried there?

    • G.E. Anderson

      Yes. You will need to check with the cemetery office and if they can’t find the name, the Seattle Public Library could help.

  5. Dear Ms. Majors and Mr. Anderson:

    There is an on-line accounting of the more than 3,000 internments of the Crown Hill Cemetery available on line at ‘Find a Grave’

    Because of the high incidence of ‘hauntings’ in my neighborhood to the east of Crown Hill (Greenwood, formerly Woodland) I decided to look into the land use of Osner’s Addition and Greenwood Park Addition and discovered that the graves of Woodland Cemetery (1890 1907) were moved to make way for residential zones. These two 1907 housing developments are sitting on cemetery land!

    The bodies may have been moved, but I know four households that would attest that the spirits stayed behind. Check out Find A Grave, you may find what you are looking for there.

    Emily Hill, author, ‘Ghost Stories From Beyond The Grave’

  6. Rev. John McGee Leggett, Jr.

    William ‘Billy’ Redner Leggett (1920-1935), my half-brother, who died on my seventh birthday, is buried in the eastern part of this cemetery. He was an early (maybe original) member of the Seattle Junior Safety Patrol as noted on his grave marker. His funeral was attended by a number of JSP members in uniform who lined the route from the hearse to the gravesite. During my growing up years, my father, sister, and I walked from our Ballard home on 21 NW near NW 73 every Memorial Day to place flowers on Billy’s grave.

    My father purchased three cemetery lots adjacent to each other at the time of Billy’s death: one for Billy, one for himself and one for my mother. Apparently, over the years cemetery records were not kept very carefully and the two extra lots Dad owned were resold and used. Dad was rather surprised when he discovered this, but decided not to seek removal of the burials. The cemetery offered to deed to my parents any two other unused lots in the cemetery. They settled on two lots across the road to the west of Billy’s grave and to the north near where the road curves to the west. Dad died in 1960 and he is buried in one of them. My mother died in 1987 and is buried in the other.

    I’ve lived in the midwest for most of my adult life and none of our children live in the Seattle area now although three of the six were born in Seattle. I was the first pastor of the Haller Lake Baptist Church in the 1950’s. But my sister has lived in Snohomish County for many years. Her husband continued decorating all three graves each Memorial Day until he died in 2007. Crown Hill Cemetery has a significant place in all our hearts. Thank you for this great website!

    • G.E. Anderson

      What a great story! Thank you for stopping by to share it with me and the other readers. Crown Hill is such an overlooked place yet it has such an unusual history and so many stories–no wonder it’s one of the most popular posts here.

      • My January 9, 2013 story relates to Crown Hill Cemetery, not Comet Lodge. Unfortunately some genealogist mistakenly listed my father’s burial place as Comet Lodge apparently based on the fact that I failed to state Crown Hill Cemetery in my story and your reply mentions Comet Lodge. —
        Rev. John McGee Leggett, Jr. (son of the John McGee Leggett buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Seattle, WA).

      • G.E. Anderson

        Thanks for letting me know. Correction has been made in the earlier comment.

  7. Kevin Giraldo

    My friend & I graduated from Ballard High in 1995. That summer my friends mom mentioned how her and her friends used to walk the Crown Hill cemetery when she was in high school. So on a summers night, my friend and I decided to walk the cemetery, which we would’ve never thought of doing. I have a lot of respect for the afterlife, so I wasn’t sure we should be there. But since we made the decision to explore the cemetery, we agreed to walk behind, and in between, the tombstones. I would’ve thought it would be creepy to walk a cemetery at night, but we found it serene and beautiful. Just when we were half way through the cemetery, we were surprised by a lady in a long white dress, running very fast (possibly floating), and she was being followed by a small dog, which was running fast behind her. Not only did the lady run fast, but she was singing opera perfectly without sounding winded. Her voice was majestic & glorious. She past eight feet in front of us from South to North, then North to South. Surprisingly, we weren’t scared but frozen with disbelief. As she passed us the second time, a bright light shined to our right, which is where we last saw the lady. But the lady and the dog were gone. The light was from a police car cruising the street. As soon as the cop passed, my friend and I ran and scaled the tall gate at the far end of the cemetery. Even though we didn’t have a frightening experience, we decided to respect the dead and never return at night. I don’t believe the lady and her dog wanted to scare us, but rather save us the time running in with the law. How that cop didn’t see us baffles us. This is the only time I’ve ever witnessed, what I believe to be, a paranormal experience. But it’s what my parents always say, “respect the dead, and they will always watch over you”.

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