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Pioneer Cemetery gets new flag pole, sign to be dedicated

ARLINGTON — As part of Arlington’s Memorial Day Celebration, a new flag pole and sign at the town’s original cemetery will be dedicated to Harry Yost and Bill Senica.

The two World War II veterans have passed since last year’s Memorial Day.

They both worked together through the years taking care of the town’s first cemetery, which is located at the edge of the bluff, down the dead-end Gifford Street where Harry lived.

The city took ownership of the cemetery at the end of last year and since then members of the city’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission, with permission from the cemetery board, have made an effort to honor that burial ground.

An historian on the PARC, Frank Barden said that PARC Chair Virginia Hatch asked him if he could document the history of the cemetery.

“I found it very interesting,” Barden said.

With help from Lora Pennington, cultural resources officer for the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, the city’s public works department, and from Jim Barron, of the American Legion Post 76, Barden assembled a complete history of the cemetery which will be distributed at the dedication event at noon Monday, May 25.

“The cemetery appears to have been utilized originally by local Native American Indians prior to 1885,” Barden wrote in his history of the original cemetery. He learned the Stillaguamish Indians were then called Stolockquamish, or “People of the River.”

Barden learned that the first early settlers were Roman Catholic priests, called Blackrobes, and that a traveler-explorer in 1850, Samuel Hancock visited the Stillaguamish people while searching for coal deposits.

“As the settlers took over the land previously used by the Stillaguamish people, they also influenced a change in the native people’s burial practices,” Barden wrote.

On the history of the town’s first cemetery

“Traditionally, canoe burial was the common custom among the Indians of the Pacific Northwest. When a person died, after wrapping the body in blankets or rush mats, it was placed in the largest canoe belonging to the deceased. A smaller canoe was placed bottom upward inside of the first and served as a protective covering for the body. Then, the canoe “container” was left on a light scaffolding or hauled high up into the treetops.

White families in the valley objected to the sight of corpses and often removed and buried the bodies, Barden wrote.

After a settler threatened to burn the bodies if they were not removed from “his” land, tribal members started to place their dead in crude wooden boxes large enough to hold several bodies. Some were interred, others were burned.

The Indians then started to bury their dead along an embankment that ran across the northern edge of the property which later was included in the townsite for the city of Haller.

Arlington’s first cemetery is located on that bluff, facing out over the Stillaguamish River. Exactly how many Indians are buried in this area has yet to be determined. As originally platted, the cemetery occupied five acres.

It appears the early Arlington settlers continued to use this land and, eventually, it came into the possession, first, of Mr. Alfred Gifford (May 4, 1846 - Sept. 6, 1910) and his wife, Mary A. Gifford and became a part of what was known as “Gifford’s Addition.” On Sept. 4, 1897, Mary Gifford filed a notice in the Arlington Times advising that “no further burials on the property would be allowed unless payment for the lot was made in advance.” She further advised that “all parties who owe for lots are notified that unless they settle for same, promptly, bodies will be removed there from.”

By Jan. 11, 1902, Mr. Elias Clum (June 25, 1852 - June 30, 1920) acquired the property, possibly, from the Giffords on a Warranty Deed.

Mr. Clum had the ground surveyed and advised in the local newspaper that people could begin purchasing lots for cemetery purposes. The survey revealed that there were already some 30 graves there. The public had ceased interring bodies in that ground and, instead, began doing so in Harwood Cemetery, now known as the Arlington Cemetery. Removal of the bodies began in March or April of 1903.

The Arlington Times reported on July 23, 1910 that “Elias Clum is preparing the old cemetery site on the hill, intending to plow it and seed to clover.” Mr. Clum had previously given notice to the relatives of the deceased to have their relatives removed by March 1, 1911 as he intended to plow and level the ground.

On March 4, 1911, a prominent Arlington farmer, B. C. Schloman, along with others from the community, filed a restraining order to prevent Clum from interfering with the graves and using the old burial ground for “other purposes.”

The matter was settled when Clum agreed to set aside as a cemetery about one acre of the ground and allow free access to the public.

(The Supreme Court had previously ruled that any common burial ground was inviolable.) The cemetery was ultimately closed in 1912.

It was in 2006 that Harry Yost told the city he could no longer maintain the cemetery. At that time, the acre of land was still under the ownership of Eva Clum, long deceased.

The city then did a genealogy search and ran legal notices in the attempt to identify potential heirs, and finally executed a quiet title action finally transferring legal ownership to the city, said city attorney Steve Peiffle.

It was approved at the end of 2008.

Since the city acquired the property, it’s public works department has cleared out blackberries, and PARC recruited donations to install a monument and a flag pole to identify the sacred site.

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