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Exploring history chiseled in stone
Communications Coordinator, Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley
From hallowed ground as Sequim’s first cemetery to long-abandoned graveyard and serene roadside park, Pioneer Memorial Park is as hardy and resilient as those whose lives it honors.
What began as a cemetery in 1888 along Bell Creek on the outskirts of town had, in the span of about 20 years, been abandoned due to continual flooding problems. While the remains and headstones of some were transferred to family homesteads and other local cemeteries for reburial until about 1920, many remain buried in their final resting places throughout the park.
“The headstones that are in the park represent only a small fraction of the people once buried there, not to mention those whose names may have been lost to history because their graves were never marked,” Pioneer Memorial Park historian Priscilla Hudson said. “The park remains a community place to honor them all.”
The 125-year history of the park grounds will be recounted on a Cemetery Tour at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18 at the park, 387 E. Washington St. in Sequim. The tour, presented by the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley (MAC), is an official Sequim Centennial event.
Prior to touring the grounds, which includes a tour inside the fenced area that surrounds the remaining headstones, the event will begin in the park clubhouse with short presentations highlighting the park’s history as a cemetery and its transformation into flourishing community grounds, as well as some of the North Olympic Peninsula cultural artifacts residing there.
Guest speakers include members of the Clallam C’lectors Chapter No. 1409 of Questers, who with local genealogists and history researchers will discuss several of the individuals whose headstones remain in the former cemetery, and members of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club, who will tell of the group’s 60-plus years of preserving the historical park. Sandra Johnson, a niece of late Jamestown S’Klallam tribal elder Harris “Brick” Johnson, will also be on-hand with information about the latter’s totem pole that he gifted to the park during the 1969 Sequim Irrigation Festival.
A hand-stitched quilt made by Questers members featuring the names of those buried in the park will also be on display along with several handmade American heritage flags made by Sequim Prairie Garden Club members that were once displayed on park grounds, plus club scrapbooks that chronicle its history.
Admission is $15 per person and can be paid in advance at the MAC Exhibit Center, 175 W. Cedar St. in Sequim, or at the park on tour day. Light refreshments are provided, and attendees will receive a commemorative brochure about the park as part of the tour.
“Pioneer Memorial Park, having been a cemetery along with all of its other cultural features, remains one of the relatively few visible links to the past that we have left in our community,” MAC Executive Director DJ Bassett said. “Because of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club’s hard work and ongoing dedication to help preserve this historical record of some of our earliest local settlers, our heritage and sense of community is enriched.”
For more information about the tour, call 683-8110 or visit www.macsequim.org.