MUKILTEO — Many people come to Pioneer Cemetery simply to take in the view from its bluff — ferries crisscrossing Puget Sound, bald eagles sometimes perching in nearby trees, and views of Whidbey Island.
“It’s a very tranquil, peaceful spot. People just sit on the benches and enjoy the serene surroundings,” said Peter Anderson, a director of the Mukilteo Historical Society.
The surrounding three-quarters of an acre at 513 Webster St. also is home to key parts of the city’s past — the graves of the city’s founders, Morris H. Frost and J.D. Fowler, as well as Japanese immigrants who once inhabited the local community known as Japanese Gulch.
Lately there has been an effort to preserve and share some of the cemetery’s history through the combined work of Everett genealogist Margaret Robe Summitt, the city’s historical society and the city of Mukilteo.
Each of the 43 gravestones is now mapped in a new booklet, “Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery: Honoring Our History.” It contains as many details as Robe Summitt could gather on the people buried there. The 44-page Pioneer Cemetery booklet was published by Sisters Press in Mukilteo.
The information also is available online on the city’s website.
Robe Summitt began her research in 2012 with a list of the names of those interred in the cemetery.
Then she began genealogical research to find out more of the stories behind the names.
Mortimer Fasset, for example, is one of three military veterans buried in the cemetery.
Originally from Vermont, he arrived in California too late to cash in on the heady days of the Gold Rush. He enlisted in the U.S Army during the Civil War.
Many of those in the West who signed up expected to be shipped to battlefields. Instead they were assigned to forts near the Pacific Coast.
A drill instructor gave them such repetitive and ludicrous drill duties that Fasset and others rebelled, Robe Summitt said.
They refused to drill and instead demanded a court martial.
A total of 17 men were sent to a blockhouse at Fort Yamhill in Oregon. “They wanted their grievances to be heard,” she said. But Fasset simply deserted in 1862.
The next trace she could find of him was in 1870, living with a Canadian woman, Philula Bradley, in Coupeville.
Both are believed to be buried in the cemetery. No one knows exactly where. A handwritten undated historic document with the names of those buried there simply says “Bradley.”
Captain Nathan Fowler, interred in 1873, was a Civil War veteran and brother of J.D. Fowler. Captain Fowler drowned in a storm and may have been the first person to be buried in the cemetery, Robe Summitt said.
Four people of Japanese heritage are buried on the site. The youngest, Kaijo Tamai, died of crib death on April 21, 1918. She was just a little more than a month old.
The other three worked at Mukilteo’s Crown Lumber mill: Tokumatsu Shirai, who was killed by a rolling log on April 30, 1908; Gordo Wadatani, who died on Dec. 24, 1908, of unknown causes; and Rikimatsu Okamura, who died on June 18, 1913, seven years after immigrating.
The locations of the known graves have been determined with mapping technology with help from the city.
“Margaret did some amazing and interesting research. Our staff were excited about it,” said Mayor Jennifer Gregerson.
Jacob Milner and Matt Entinger, two of the city’s planning and community development employees, were at the site on two very rainy days in February, Robe Summitt said. “They did all the marking of the graves to within four inches of accuracy.”
One grave marker is made of concrete. The parents of 5-year-old Elsie Dudder couldn’t afford a marker following her death on June 12, 1907. So her brother constructed it in shop class several years after her death, Robe Summitt said.
Many of the early grave markers were made of wood and have since disappeared from age and weather.
Due to the cemetery’s location near the edge of the bluff, other markers are believed to have been lost as the land around them crumbled down the hillside.
Although the project is finished, Robe Summitt said she is still seeking information on the people buried there, especially those with little known information other than their name.
“There are gaps in the city’s history beyond living memory,” Robe Summitt said. The project fills in some of those gaps that can’t be traced because no documents exist, she said.
A lot is known about the city’s founders, and that story is often repeated, she said. But much is missing from the 1890s to the 1930s.
Robe Summitt said she sometimes hears people say they remember their parents talking about that time.
“Occasionally they’ll drop a name and I want to run to them and say, ‘What did your mom say about that person?’ ”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 44-page Pioneer Cemetery booklet will be available for purchase for $12.95 in the Lighthouse gift shop, 608 Front St., on the city’s waterfront
Anyone with information on the people buried at Pioneer Cemetery may contact genealogist Margaret Robe Summitt at email@example.com.