The Snohomish Pioneer Cemetery


I do have a few strange hobbies and among them are exploring cemeteries. The older the better! Today I thought I’d take a quick trip to Snohomish and check out a place I hadn’t visited in an eternity. To my surprise, a lot had changed. So I figured I’d give you guys a little history lesson to paint the missing pieces. Since what is left of this historic site makes it appear a little uninteresting.

The Snohomish Pioneer Cemetery AKA Pilchuck Cemetery was used by settlers as early as 1876. By 1885 they had a whopping 1,020 plots. The last burial was in 1923. However, due to lack of upkeep, the area began to re-wild itself. This is where the sacred land began it’s century long battle to be left in peace.

In 1947 the state carved a road right through the center of this treasured slice of history in order to gain access from the Highway to the small town of Snohomish. During this intrusion 111 confirmed burials were relocated to Snohomish’s GAR Cemetery (one we’ll visit another day). You’ll see in the photo below where the road stands today- still dividing the dead.

In my research I found a link to all the recorded burials at this site. I was endeared by the old time names and in awe of the years they spent homesteading in the heavenly Snohomish valley. Back when the scenery and wildlife ruled the area more so than concrete and plywood structures. What life would be like with horse drawn buggies rather than our modern vehicles today. Below is a link if you would like to see for yourself:

http://files.usgwarchives.net/wa/snohomish/cemeteries/snopio.txt

As if the separation of the deceased and unsettling of their graves wasn’t enough the city allowed removal of more tombstones and some were salvaged by decedents of the pioneers themselves to form The Pioneer Village Museum across the dividing road. Fifteen tombstones still remain in their second home there on a bluff over the Pilchuck River. There used to be several homestead structures displayed there (filled with artifacts) but have since been removed. However, the Kikendall homestead still remains. It’s a beautiful log cabin with an immense stone chimney at its face. It was built in 1875 and housed several generations of this pioneer family before trading hands and landing on site of the cemetery.

The main section of the cemetery was completely desecrated as the city moved an old dwelling directly over historical grave sites to house the Snohomish Senior Center. It is speculated that the graves of John and Lydia Low were buried directly under the center’s addition. The Lows were one of the five original families to settle in Seattle. If it wasn’t for diligence from these pioneer’s decedents the land would be completely developed today with no sign of the lives that began the darling town of Snohomish. Today, the Senior Center has been relocated and all that remains at the heart of this pioneer cemetery is bare ground and a simple sign.

To me, the few golden remains of what is left of this amazing place is well worth the visit. To get there you’ll take the very last exit into Snohomish heading East on Highway 2. Take a right turn toward town and eventually you will cross a bridge over the mighty Pilchuck River. Take the first right after the bridge into a shopping center, stay right again and you’ll find the Pioneer Village with the grave markers and log house tucked away in a corner with no signs. Across the road is the actual cemetery without markers. If you head over that way there’s a road to the right of the cemetery site that leads to Pilchuck Park and there’s plenty of fun to be had down there along with river access. Go ahead and make a day of it!

What do you think? Where should we go next?

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