30 Years Touring Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Community on the Hill, “Staying on Queen Anne Forever”

It comes as no surprise to the residents of Upper Uptown (a recently-coined term designed by me to placate Uptowners who want to strip city maps, newspaper articles and the Queen Anne Historical Society of our historic name) that local historians revel in all the secrets buried at the Mount Pleasant Cemetery (700 W. Raye Street).  The first tour’s organizers included Bob Frazier, Isabel Egglin, Del Loder, John Hennes and Kim Turner —  all but Isabel, a Holocaust survivor, are Queen Anne High School graduates and members of the Queen Anne Historical Society.  In 1997, the cemetery guides focused on “few good gravesites,” but they quickly escalated from visits to the gravesites of early Seattle movers and shakers like the Blaines, Clises, Bells, or Clarence Bagley to those of ‘ordinary’ citizens, none of whom, according to this year’s tour leader Kim Turner, “is or was truly ordinary!”

Mt Pleasant Office, 1900. Destroyed

Among them the cemetery holds the remains of Filipino poet and labor organizer Carlos Bulosan, the unclaimed bodies of folks killed in the 1910 Wellington avalanche, the victims of the 1906 wreck of the S.S. Valencia; and Felix Buran, John Looney and Hugo Gerlot — the three Wobblies (International Workers of the World or the I.W.W.) killed in the Everett Massacre of November 5, 1916 who share their site with the ashes of Joe Hill.

Joe, a Swedish laborer, poet and songwriter, was executed by the State of Utah on November 19, 1915, for a murder he didn’t commit.  Lobbying by President Woodrow Wilson and the celebrated Helen Keller to spare Joe did no good.  Among his last wishes was a fervent desire not to be buried in Utah.  Following his cremation, the Wobblies divided his ashes up and sent little packets to I.W.W chapters everywhere except in Utah, where Joe didn’t want to be caught dead.  Before he died he wrote “Joe’s Last Will:”

My Will is easy to decide
For there is nothing to divide
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan
“Moss does not cling to rolling stone”

My body? Oh. If I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again
This is my Last and Final Will
Good Luck to All of you.

Seattle’s packet of Joe’s ashes was scatted by our Wobblies on May 1, 1917, a day celebrated the world over as Labor Day except in the United States.

For at least the last ten years, the Queen Anne Historical Society tours have been the work of Kim Turner, a mid-century resident of the east side of the hill and a graduate of Warren Elementary School (demolished) and a 1962 alum of Queen Anne High School (decommissioned).  For most tours Kim picks a theme.  Suffragettes, educators, cemetery owners, and rabble-rousers are among the more memorable themes.  Kim, Del, and Bruce Jones — who was also instrumental in organizing our tours — are religious about calling resting places in the cemetery “gravesites.”

Kim Turner, right in cap, leading a tour.  The Clise and Edwards families figure large in cemetery  history — primarily because they actually owned or own the place, a departure from traditional community or church ownership prevalent elsewhere in the United States.  James W. Clise, an important Seattle realtor (for example, he corralled L. C. Smith on a trip to the East Coast and sold him the land for our Smith Tower) bought the place in 1895.  The Clises held on to Mount Pleasant until 1957, when Neil Edwards bought it.  The Edwards family still owns and manages Mount Pleasant.   Equally important in the story is the family of Nils Peterson, Free Methodists who homesteaded 80 acres on the north slope of the hill and who, in addition to donating the land for Seattle Pacific University, eventually turned their farm into the 40-acre cemetery we know today.

Respecting the wishes of the people who manage the Chinese, Muslim and Jewish portions of the cemetery, this year’s tour probably won’t include any gravesites there.  Like the 1910 funeral home on Raye Street and the A. A. Wright Columbarium, they too are privately held.

Free and open to the public, the 30th annual tour starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday,  August 19 just inside the main gate at 700 W. Raye Street.  Kim always warns tour takers that good shoes are a must and that they will walk uneven ground.  He hopes you join him.

Click HERE to take Kim Turner’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery tour virtually.