The clouds loomed grey and heavy above the last Thursday, a few stray raindrops causing a small flourish of umbrellas from the gathered crowd.
They had come to experience the “Walk Back in Time” event at the cemetery. It's an annual tour led by members of the cemetery’s Board, showcasing some of Edmonds’ most prominent historical figures buried on the grounds, including the city’s founder, George Brackett.
“It started out as a school tour a few years back, and just kept growing and evolving until you have the tour we gave today,” said Melissa Johnson, the current Edmonds Cemetery Board Chairperson. She was dressed in a traditional mourning costume, and during her segment of the tour spoke about the difference between traditional men and women’s mourning roles.
The tour began with a history of the Edmonds Cemetery, followed by the main leg of the tour, hosted by Dale Hoggins, who is also a member of the Cemetery Board.
The Edmonds Cemetery was founded in 1891 by the Oddfellows group, a fraternal organization started in England and transplanted to the United States. One of the goals of the group was to clothe orphans, comfort widows and bury the dead, and as a result the Oddfellows groups in towns all over Washington (as well as other states) founded cemeteries. The group originally sold large lots with 8-10 plots on them so that families could be buried together. For a dollar extra on the purchase price, the Oddfellows would erect a brick border around the plot. Some of these original borders still exist in the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.
Hoggins hit a lot of the prominent people from Edmonds’ past, including numerous mayors, George Brackett, 1932 Olympic gymnastics medalist Edwin Gross, and baby Hubert Cary, who died at three months old and has the oldest marked grave in the cemetery (1891). The cemetery also holds over 400 war veterans, including a soldier from the Civil War.
Several other Board members in 19th century period clothing talked about different sections of the cemetery, and the tour-goers (there were several dozen) kept piping in their own opinions, adding facts and occasionally correcting a missed date or name. Hoggins introduced one woman, Betty Meyring, for her work in researching and writing a book about all the soldiers listed on the Edmonds war memorial, located next to the Edmonds Museum.
“I’ve lived in the area since 1933,” said Meyring, who is a 1945 graduate of Edmonds High School. “I know a lot of the old timers, and I can do a biographical sketch of all of those men.”
Even though the cemetery appears full, according to Johnson it is still an active cemetery, and there are 1,500 plots still available.
Although it may sound morbid, a tour of the cemetery is a must-do for anyone interested in Edmonds’ past. The cemetery provides walking tour maps on its website so interested parties can take their own tours, albeit without a guide.
“We do these tours to keep the Edmonds history alive,” said Johnson. “It’s really a quaint little destination town, and a lot of the pioneers and founding fathers are buried here. The history is rich.”