Pioneer Cemetery rededicated to Yost and Senica

ARLINGTON — When the first settlers started arriving in this region, the Stillaguamish Tribe had their own way of sending off the dead. With time, they joined the white settlers in burying the ancestors on the bluff of a hill, out of the way of the river, according to Frank Barden, a member of the city’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission, who recently completed research on Arlington’s first cemetery.

The Pioneer Cemetery was rededicated on Memorial Day, honoring the efforts of many people. It was dedicated to Harry Yost and William Senica, both active members of the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association who passed away in the last year. The neighbors on Gifford Street kept the old cemetery mowed for many years.

From 1895 until 1912, the dead of the tribe and the pioneers were buried at the bluff above the early town of Arlington, at the end of what is now called Gifford Street at the top of Fifth Street hill.

The cemetery was left ignored after most of the bodies were transferred to the then-new cemetery on Cemetery Road — until the late 1980s, remembers Ruth Yost.

“I think it was around the time of the Washington state centennial in 1989, when they decided to clear the old cemetery,” Yost said as she reminisced with Mayor Margaret Larson on Memorial Day.

“They took out trees as big as those in Terrace Park,” Yost said.

Then Harry and Bill kept the ground mowed.

Larson told the gathering it was Harry Yost who told her that the city needed to take ownership of the cemetery.

“Harry called City Hall one day and said he needed to talk to the mayor,” Larson said.

“He came with a trunk full of paperwork and told us that he and Bill could no longer maintain it,” she said.

The word got out to the chaplain of the American Legion Post 76, Keith Reyes, who recognized the need to honor this piece of history. Reyes called Kurt Patterson with the city’s Public Works Department. The city’s PARC chair, Virginia Hatch got involved as did Jim Barron, of both the Legion and the VFW, and a community effort was launched.

The Kiwanis and Rotary clubs donated cash. Concrete was donated by Stanwood Redimix, and a contractor, Kevin Dingman, of Puget West Construction, offered to install the base for a flag pole and a new sign that Ken Casperson coordinated.

“It’s another amazing community effort,” Larson said.

Barden got a lot of help from the Stillaguamish Tribe in his effort to document the history of this burial ground and several tribal elders attended on behalf of their ancestors in the ground.

“I am honored to be here,” said Pat Brown, one of the elders.

“I have been looking forward to this occasion. I feel a great privilege to be here on behalf of my tribe,” Brown said.

The president of the auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1561, Carol Williams brought a wreath in honor of fallen veterans, and the gathering was enhanced by the flute music of Paul Ninehouse.

“We designed the placement of the sign and the flag pole so that Ruth could see it,” Reyes said.

Watching from her house across the street, Ruth Yost said Harry wouldn’t want the recognition.

“He would be happy to see it taken care of, though,” Ruth Yost.

“It’s too bad he’s not here to see it,” she added.

Doris Senica said the same about her husband.

“Bill didn’t like publicity, but this is a great honor,” Senica said.

At the conclusion of the event, Patterson was not quite done with his part of the job.

“Once the solar lights are installed, we will put up the flag donated by Rick Larsen,” Patterson said. “That flag will stay up 24 - 7.”

A member of the cemetery board who was also missing her husband on Memorial Day, Skip Smith said she was pleased with the effort.

“All the people involved did a wonderful job,” said the wife of Oliver Smith, a former Arlington City Councilman who died almost two years ago.

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