In 1876 on Capitol Hill, Seattle constructed its very first cemetery. 313 days later, the city unexpectedly condemned the plot of land, closed the cemetery and ordered the immediate removal and transport of the existing bodies to a nearby plot of land. The who, where and what behind this event is well documented in Seattle history annals however the more obvious "Why?" was never acknowledged nor explained.
According to property archives, the site next held a small sanitarium housing the local skid row population. The venture came to an abrupt end when one of the guests, wanting a quick fix, dismantled a lantern for its small alcohol content, spilling it thereby and setting himself and the building ablaze.
In 1949, the space was home to a large turkey farm although it was soon overcome by a rare feather disease resulting in the full shedding of all the birds' feathers. Once the cold Winter hit, they all passed away due to over exposure.
1962 brought the Valentine Automotive Garage which thrived for 8 years until the owner, while working on the mayor's Studebaker, was crushed due to a weak hydraulic support.
And finally, we have "Garage" today - open for 7 thriving years, the streak of bad luck on this plot of land has finally been overcome, or has it?
|Dec.-1893||I.O.O.F. Articles of Incorporation for Comet Lodge #139 of Duwamish with mention of officers: Noble Grand, H.C.Carson; Vice Grand, E.E. Teachnor; Treasurer, C.S. Maple; Recording Secretary, T.A. Henry; Permanent Secretary, W.W. Wardell; Trustee, ?.P. Rich; Trustee T.B. Rhodes; and Trustee, T.B. Maple.|
A.B. Maple, the Chairman, President and Grand Noble of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and its secretary, T.B.
Rhodes, fixed their signatures and corporate seal before a Notary Public, H.A.
Bateman, to a "Dedication:" hereby declaring "..."to the use of all owners of
lots in this Cemetery" forever the walks and driveways as hereon shown." thereby
dedicating and recording with King County this land as a graveyard. Shortly
afterward, the Dedication was: "Approved this 24th day of Sept. A.D. 1895. Fred
Gasch Chairman Board of County Com's, Attest Nathan Beman County Auditor. No.
142368 Filed for Record at the request of E. Teachnor, on this 24th, day of
Sept. A.D. 1895 at 30 min. past 2 P.M. and recorded in Vol. 9 of Plats, page 19.
Records of King County, Wash."
Photo: Original plat for the Comet Lodge Cemetery linked to full plat.
On January 18th, 1905, the Post Intelligencer reports
MOVING BODIES AT GEORGETOWN
City Officials Are Removing the Remains to a Point Farther South of the City
"The city is busy removing the graves of the paupers buried at the county cemetery to the southern part of the city limits of Georgetown. Ever since the incorporation of the city of Seattle the burying grounds have been located there. There have been buried since the city started it between 700 and 800 bodies, and the work of removing to the new burial grounds will require several weeks."
There are no records indicating the new location for the blood/potter's fields or paupers' graveyard. There are no records indicating the removal of hundreds of babies from "Babyland" in the Comet Lodge Cemetery either in Superior Court documents or the press to any location.
Photo: Original plat for the Comet Lodge Cemetery linked to full plat.
Comet Lodge 139 divides cemetery into two parcels and sells Comet Lodge Cemetery to one of their Nobles, H.S. Noise, for $1.00.
At this time King County and the City of Seattle have both abandoned the Georgetown Potter's Fields, other paupers' cemeteries. There is no record of either Seattle or King County "vacating" these graveyards, notifying the descendants and moving the bodies. They were the homeless and the poor of Seattle's earliest founders.
Photo: 1997 survey with notation of graveyard divisions.
H.S. Noice sold burial plots in this graveyard until July 19, 1912. It is not known if Mr. Noice issued deeds of trust, but it should be assumed that his customers received something to recognize their purchase of particular plots of land. Mr. Noice and his wife, Frances M. Noice, then filed a quit claim deed, 837297, in the presence of M.W. Lovejoy, a Noble notary, deeding the properties to H.R. Corson, a Grand Noble of the Comet Lodge, for the sum of $10.00. This deed was recorded by Lida White Richardson on Nov. 20, 1912, at 55 min. past 2 P.M. with Otto A. Case sp. the County Auditor. For the next few years both Noble Noice and Grand Noble Corson sold burial plots within their association with the Comet Lodge as recorded by the Lodge burial list.
Photo: Survey showing further divisions
Grand Noble H.R. Corson, and wife Eva S. Corson subdivided and sold portions of the babies' resting place, the north half of the Comet Cemetery, to the City of Seattle for $1.00. The City bought the properties knowing that they were sections of the graveyard.
2423316 (1373/390) Jun. 10-27 $1.
HR Corson, and wife Eva S. Corson
The City of Seattle, a mun corp.
No records exist of any vacating done with this occupied portion of the graveyard. Three women in their 90's, have been interviewed about their walks among the baby markers, reading "We loved you for the day you were with us" in the 1920's. They still remember the day when they returned to visit relatives and the markers had been removed and stored in a tavern.
On November 29, 1938, Judgement and Decree of Foreclosure in the Superior Court of Washington for King County vs. M.L. Noice, deceased, for the graveyard property "Less streets and less property sold for burial purposes. In other words, this foreclosure, meritless because a cemetery can never be foreclosed upon, was for non-existant property.
On December 20, 1938, Judgement and Decree of Foreclosure in the Superior Court of Washington for the City of Seattle vs. Unknown for the graveyard. Another meritless foreclosure grants Seattle the Comet Lodge Cemetery. Still there is no record of any vacating in the courts as required.
It is King County's contention that the graveyard had been abandoned for "many years" although records show that Jewel Lundin had been buried there a year before the foreclosures.
On April 21, 1954 the City of Seattle asks King County how much to buy a strip on land in the graveyard. King County replies: "Your attention is directed to the fact that the property is a part of the old Comet Lodge Cemetery and the portion required by the City of Seattle includes the graves or remains of deceased persons buried therein. We have been informed that it will be necessary for a court order to issue
authorizing the disinterment of said remains and reburial elsewhere. This
requirement will be an obligation of the City of Seattle.
The County Treasurer has advised us that the County equity for the property required for the widening is the sum of $25.00, plus deed charges of $3.00, making a total of $28.00, a copy of said report being enclosed herewith. Will you please return the statement of the Treasurer when making your application for purchase of the above property."
Photo: 1956 aerial view showing graveyard losing its integrity with its entrance on South Graham Street barely visible.
|25Jan.1959||A series of letters were written by concerned citizens, oportunistic Lodge members, Corson family heirs, King County and the City of Seattle. Descriptions of the deplorable conditions were written, as well as suggestions on how to solve the problem. King County and the City of Seattle, both describe their non-ownership of the land and elect to officially take no action to save or care for the cemetery. Photo: 1956 aerial|
Ordinance No. 89356 to record Seattle's purchase of more cemetery property. Once again Seattle ignores the laws governing vacating of graveyards.
Photo: 1976 hand drawn map showing very accurate locations of grave markers.
In response to a complaint written by Mrs. Leslie Reidt to King County Property Management Office of Citizens Complaints, a series of letters were written culminating with more denials of ownership and responsibility.
William V. Kirk, Acting Director
Office of Citizens Complaints
Re: Comet Lodge Cemetery
This office has made an investigation into the ownership of certain lands commonly known as the Comet Lodge Cemetery (IOOF).
It appears from the attached title report (B-911350), that the heirs of Hiram B. Corson are in title. Any interest that may have been acquired by King county under Tax Foreclosure, shown at paragraph three of said report, is now held of record by the City of Seattle. King County has no interest remaining in subject lands.
Permission for general clean-up should be obtained from the City of Seattle.
Very truly yours,
Chris J. Loutsis, Manager
Property Management Division
cc: John Porter, John Spellman
attachment: title report
In response to numerous complaints, the City of Seattle's Department of Community Development requested a legal determination from Douglas Jewitt, City Attorney:
Mr. Darel E. Grothaus
Department of Community Development
City of Seattle
RE: Comet Lodge Cemetery
You have asked several questions concerning Comet Lodge Cemetery located near 22nd Avenue South and South Graham Street. The cemetery was created by the plat thereof filed September 24, 1895 - before the incorporation of Georgetown January 24, 1904. Except for the occasional work of civic organizations, upkeep of the cemetery has been neglected for many years. in recent years the state of disrepair has been such as to prompt nearly annual letters to the City from a frustrated community anxious to see the situation improved.
We will restate and answer your questions in the order submitted and conclude with or recommended course of action.
Question One "determine the legal owner of the site"
Except for the individual grave plots already sold (this may be all - CF 108300) the ownership of Comet Cemetery has devolved by operation of law upon the heir of heirs of H.P. Corson. Among such heirs the interest of Anna Z. Corson has devolved by Quit Claim upon John B. Corson by 1952 action. In 1959 Kenneth P. Corson claimed power to sell the cemetery to the I.O.O.F. Between 1952 and 1970 John B. Corson made no grant of his interest which was recorded in the records of King County. Some shadow remains as of this time, as to the title to the cemetery within the Corson family. The Engineering Department Abstract Section reports that the will of H.P. Corson was not filed in King County.
The owners of the individual grave plots are the heirs or successors of the original purchasers whose names are presumed to be in the cemetery records wherever the same are located. County real estate tax and city local improvement district assessment foreclosures did not affect these ownerships which are exempted from such foreclosures by Rem. Rev. Statutes, Section 3760, now RCW 68.24.220, and whether or not the plot is "occupied".
At our request Mr. Charles Custer of the Engineering Department Abstract Section, a Georgetown native familiar with the Corson role in the community, has drafted forms of letters to the Corson heirs seeking more information about the cemetery. It is suggested that your department communicate with the heirs in the suggested or similar vein.
We may then learn that there are four categories of title:
(1) sold and/or occupied plots
(2) the interests in common of all plot purchasers in the areas identified on the plat (Volume 9 of Plats, Page 19) as walks and driveways
(3) unsold plots, if any
(4) the residual interest of the plattor and successors in category (2) land.
We will retain our extensive notes and research data until you have a response to the Corson letters and have made an effort to locate the cemetery records. Until we have such information the names of the legal owners in the site cannot be determined.
Question Two "determine what actions may be necessary to clear the various titles"
At this time we do not know that anything at all is necessary "to clear the various titles." The problem is to learn who holds the various titles. We have already addressed that issue in our response to Question One.
However, reading Question Two as a request for suggestions as to what should be done next we suggest:
(1) The determination of the fee interest to the cemetery within the Corson family should be made.
(2) It is highly desirable that the City locate, copy, and file duplicates of all records of sale and occupancy within the cemetery as it has at various times been bounded both to determine such knowledge for use in event of of any future action and to protect established rights to City streets.
(3) Further, it would be desirable for the City to obtain the twenty foot strip of tax title land adjoining "South Bateman Street" to the north in order to extend its system of streets.
Question Three "determine who is liable for any injury occurring on the site"
The City is not; whether the owners of any of the various interests in the site would be is entirely dependent upon the circumstances surrounding any injury. Proof of liability could be very difficult to establish in any event.
Question Four "determine who is liable for site maintenance and if the City can and should assume that responsibility"
Liability for site maintenance is probably lodged in the owners of the site(s). It may be that if the cemetery records can be found some intended plan for meeting the cost of maintenance will be revealed even though it has admittedly gone awry.
Whether or not the City can and should assume the responsibility for maintaining the cemetery is a question of policy. In this connection we are attaching a copy of a memorandum prepared by Donna Leong of our staff in which she has outlined and discussed six possible mechanisms by which the City can obtain control of the cemetery.
We have learned that State Representative Richard Barnes, 33rd District, is a cemetery "buff" and may be able to give you names of other groups who would join in an effort to explore the availability of federal financial assistance with the abandoned cemetery problem.
We will now set this matter aside pending receipt of copies of the responses to the Corson letters and a decision by your department as to the course of action, if any, you wish to pursue.
Very truly yours,
Douglas N. Jewett
by G. Grant Wilcox
Photo: 1997 aerial view shows a graveyard, which has lost its integrity after the sewer main was completed. The City now allows houses to be built atop graveyard. City and County officials, from the Mayor and Executive down, deny its past existence and ignore residents's pleas for resolution to their predicament.
A letter from the Director of the Department of Construction and Land Use, Rick Krochalis, to Mayor Norm Rice and John Dickinson is very emphatic with its ukase. "There is no graveyard on Beacon Hill!" The Mayor's office during Rice and Schell's term continued their denial of the existence of the cemetery until Executive Ron Sims converted it to a dogs run free neighborhood park with decorative tombstones. Rick Krochalis' letter denying graveyard's existence.
On November 2, 1987, All Souls' Day or as celebrated in Mexico, the Day of the Dead, City of Seattle ignores King County warning of 1954 and proceeds to deeply trench through the graveyard and through the gravesite of Edmond P. Getchell, who at 50 years old, passed on April 16, 1903, and had the misfortune to be buried in the SW 1/4 of Block 91 in the direct path of the City's trenchers. On this day the City Engineering report states that the City contractor bulldozed the gravestones. In 1990, the gravestones of William Dickinson and Samuel Bevan were found near the gutter on South Graham Street. The City, claiming that the graveyard no longer exists tells the curious that the stones are for the taking, there are no bodies within and that it is a constuction site that has not finished clearing the markers. A check of zoning and property use maps from the City shows that the property is now retail space.
Photo: Hand drawn map as it existed in 1976.
"The City of Seattle has no interest in the Comet Lodge Cemetery..."
"I hope this helps. Thanks for contacting the Citizens Service Bureau."
"Any apologies or resolutions to the citizens' complaints would cost the City too much money that it doesn't have."
City of Seattle
Citizens Service Bureau
Photo: Hand drawn map as it existed in 1976.
The Old Snohomish Cemetery Take my hand and let us wander With confidence they cast their luck Through forests, dense, they cut their trails, Should we stand without a feeling. Where they rest beside the river, Alvin B. Pettersen 11-18-60
The Old Snohomish Cemetery
Take my hand and let us wander
With confidence they cast their luck
Through forests, dense, they cut their trails,
Should we stand without a feeling.
Where they rest beside the river,
Alvin B. Pettersen 11-18-60
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