Note: Loder’s article reviews the early history of Seattle funeral practices before telling this story of Queen Anne’s majestic burial grounds.
Mount Pleasant Cemetery commands an outstanding view on the north side of Queen Anne Hill at 700 W. Raye Street. A walk through the cemetery is a pleasant experience at any time of the year. It is filled with large, mature maple and chestnut trees as well as beautiful yews, cedars and other evergreens. The grounds are well maintained by the current owners…. The northeastern slope affords a panoramic view stretching from Ballard past the George Washington Memorial Bridge, the University District and the Cascade Mountains. A study of the grave markers takes one back to the pioneers and leaders of early-day Seattle, as well as illustrating the ethnic and religious diversity of the city.
The property occupies 40 acres of the original 80 acres homesteaded by Nils B. Peterson in 1878. In 1879, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows purchased ten acres nearby for a cemetery. The boundaries were not clear and in error interment began on Peterson’s land. When he discovered this, Peterson filed protests both in Olympia and Washington, DC. State officials suggested he move his claim over to adjacent vacant land and Peterson asked his church, the Free Methodist Church, for advice. The pastor wrote Peterson urging him to accept the settlement suggested by Olympia and added that Mr. Peterson would do well to join the Odd Fellows to enhance his popularity.
On June 28, 1879, Peterson officially transferred ten acres to the Odd Fellows for use as a cemetery forever. The price was $110. In 1882, he sold ten more acres to the Free Methodist Church for a cemetery. Eventually the property was purchased by the S.O. Cross family, and by 1895 it had been sold to the James W. Clise family with the name Mount Pleasant Cemetery firmly attached. (…)
The following cemeteries are a part of Mount Pleasant: The independent Order of Odd Fellows (established in 1879); Congregation Chaveth Sholem cemetery, Seattle’s first Jewish cemetery (1890); Seattle Hebrew Benevolent Association Cemetery (1895); Temple de Hirsch Sinai Cemetery (1911); Chong Wa Society Chinese Cemetery, establishment date unknown. A Muslim section was established in 1979 and burials are arranged with the permission of the mosque. Strict burial customs are observed and it will be immediately noticed that all Muslim graves are oriented in the same direction so the faithful will be facing Mecca. The Hills of Eternity are operated as a separate facility by Temple de Hirsch Sinai.
A New Service: The Washington Cremation Association
Arthur A. Wright came to Seattle in 1888 and after the turn of the century saw potential for a new service industry. In 1904 Wright formed the Washington Cremation Association, to be located on the southeast corner of Mount Pleasant. (…) The main mortuary was leveled in 1930. It was replaced by an authentic reproduction of a sixteenth-century Italian monastery chapel (…) equipped with a custom-built imported 680-pipe church organ. (…) In May of 1940, the Wright Mortuary formally dedicated and opened a new larger columbarium, adjoining and behind the chapel mortuary.
In early 1942, the United States Army commandeered several sites in King County for anti-aircraft installations including a site at Mount Pleasant Cemetery that was chosen for its height above Puget Sound. The site was located in the northwest corner in Section five, the only open area in the cemetery. (…) The command consisted of about two dozen soldiers…. As army life in tents was not a pleasant experience in the cold, rainy Seattle weather, the tents were later replaced by wooden Quonset huts. (…)
By 1957, the cemetery was in a state of disrepair. Some tombstones were toppled and broken and lawn and shrubs were overgrown. It was at the time that Neil Edwards family bought the property and began clearing the grounds and improving the site. (The family continues to own and manage the cemetery in 2015). (…)
Full Service for Queen Anne
Queen Anne is certainly a city within a city, with full service from womb to tomb. For this last state of life, earlier residents of the area had more funeral homes and cemeteries. By 1917, they also had the services of the Washington Casket Company at 400 W. Mercer Street and, later, the Pacific Casket Company at 508 Third Avenue W., one of the largest manufacturers on the Pacific Coast. In addition, the Norwalk Vault Company, a concrete burial vault factory, was located at 121 Queen Anne Avenue. Custom tombstones were available from Art Marble Company at 731 Westlake Avenue or Sunset Monument Company on Aurora Avenue at Valley Street. By 1950, the fashion of elaborate tombstones and monuments ebbed and the Messett Brothers, owners of Sunset, disposed of their inventory and transformed the property into the forerunner of successful chain of hamburger stands.
The cemetery is now privately owned and operated. Over 23,000 records for Mount Pleasant are located at the site findagrave.com. Search the site to find a grave.
USGenWeb Archives provides a listing of approximately 3,500 records, which represents about 15-20% of the total persons buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. This database is unique in that it shows information that is on the headstones.
View a map of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery.