Way out in the little mountain town of Oso, Washington sits a nearly forgotten and well hidden little cemetery. The picturesque landscape that surrounds it gives you a sense of why way back in 1888 it was chosen as a final resting place, arguably, for some of the toughest pioneers in the area.
Their reason for homesteading here was to make better lives for their families. Logging and farming was a promising way to make a living in the town of Oso, as the railway came through in 1901. So long as you were strong enough to do the grueling work. The rugged land had to be cleared for their homes and camps. Everything was done by hand and without electricity in a remote area under extreme weather conditions.
It took me two attempts to find the cemetery as you follow a gravel drive up and over the old railroad bed that leads toward an old farmhouse. The first time I came by it felt as though I was trespassing on someone’s property, so I turned around and went home. After speaking with a longtime resident of Oso I was told to continue on the drive past the farmhouse and I would see the little gate on my left. Sure enough, I found it the other day and I was instantly brought back in time.
There was a rickety little gate just as I was told. It looked to be barely held together, so I found a small gap in the fence that I was able to slip through with some sucking in. Next time I think I will just carefully open the gate, but it is very important that we enter places like this with extra care and respect. This is precious, crumbling history of a community that broke their backs and banks for future generations to be able to visit and enjoy Oso’s unwavering beauty. It is easy to take for granted that we can simply drive through the mountains and trees, and over raging waters with ease. These people had to do it the hard way.
Good intentions have furthered the deterioration of this historic site. A barn nearby was in disrepair and the farmer had used some of the headstones to support its foundation. Also, a former keeper of the cemetery thought it a good idea to let his sheep keep up on the grass there. I’m sure it worked, but the stones were used by the sheep as scratching posts and names were rubbed away. Also, they would eat any delicious flowers brought by visitors. When you enter the cemetery you will find several missing markers, collapsed/broken gravestones and some nearing a fall down into a pond. It makes what is left that much more important to preserve.
On this day that I am writing this it is Izri B. Vancil’s birthday. Being born March 7th, 1847 he would be a record breaking 171 years old today if he was still alive! However, there is a record Izri does keep, and that is that his gravesite is the oldest at the Oso Cemetery. April 15th, 1888 he was laid to rest. A farmer of Swedish decent, but from Illinois. From an old newspaper clipping I found dated in the 1920’s a hand mirror of his was donated to the Stillaguamish Association of Pioneers at their 12th Annual Celebration.
Another resident of the Oso Cemetery that I want to introduce is Private Lanty Brazelton, Spanish-American and Civil War Veteran. His story stands out to me most of all for what he had to endure. In 1864, during the Cival War, he was stationed just outside of Baton Rouge when a rebel bullet changed his life forever. The musket ball shattered through his leg destroying his tibia and exiting through the back of his calf. He would never walk on it again. Also, Around the same time his older brother Oliver, who was stationed in the area, passed away from diarrhea.
Despite being declared totally disabled the Private continued to find work. Taking a job as keeper at the Sheboygan’s North Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan from 8/9/1865 to 10/19/1869. He then went on to try farming and then carpentry. A medical exam on 9/4/1877 noted several open sores in and around the Civil War wound, stating that “the patient suffers severely.”
Again, in the 1880’s several exams were reported with the same findings. It is documented that in this time he had requested an increase in his pension stating that “…My leg has always been a running sore, (It) smells bad. I have to dress it three times a day. I cannot work anymore. My leg is killing me within inches.” Nothing seemed to have come of it.
Assuming he was taking a turn for the worst he remarried his wife Elizabeth to insure benefits from his pension. They were now residing in the town of Haller, just West of Oso. Four months later on 7/28/1889 Private Lanty Brazelton died from blood poisoning. 25 years of suffering from his festering battle wound was over and the bullet finally killed him.
I know this was a long one, you guys, but remembering just one name in group of many keeps something alive. These are our ancestors that paved the way to where we are now. There were so many other names I wanted to write about, but I did want to make one last mention. A man was buried here and he doesn’t have a name, just “Stranger”. His cause of death was suicide. I am left wishing I knew his story…
21025 SR 530 Oso, Wa 98223