A Newsletter of the White River Valley Museum

July 1997

Pioneer Cemetery

By Hilda (Hemmingson) Meryhew

The Pioneer Cemetery is a little graveyard dotted with headstones bearing the names of some of Auburn's pioneer families, situated on less than an acre of V-shaped land between Auburn Way North and 8th Street Northeast, near the Fred Meyer store. Over the years it has been known as the Faucett Cemetery, Cemetery at Slaughter, Japanese Cemetery and today it is known as the Pioneer Cemetery.

Our earliest historic records show that this site was the 1864 homestead of the farming family of Rachel Ann and John Faucett. They lived in a log cabin south of the cemetery where Valley Cyclery stands today. The cemetery was in fact the burial plot for the Faucett family. The earliest known burial at Pioneer Cemetery was Rachel Faucett's four month old daughter, Harriet, who died February 26, 1866, and the latest burial was in 1996, Tokio Yamashita.

The original plat map for "Cemetery At Slaughter" is in the museum's collection. Hard to read, it is dated 14th of February 1889, states that the following persons were entitled to lots: James Hart, Monroe Keevoy, Mrs. Faucett, Thomas Christopher, Dr. L. W. Ballard, Hanson, Jas. R. Stark, Hopkins, and Charles A. Williams.

The Faucett property included what is now Auburn City Park and the area across from the Auburn High School -- then known as Faucett Grove.

By 1895 the original Cemetery At Slaughter had all but been abandoned because of its small size and spring flooding of the White River. Some floods were so severe they left the burial boxes open. The cemetery was most active for about 20 years. In 1890, when Mountain View Cemetery was established some of the Pioneer Cemetery graves were exhumed and removed to the newer facility. The graves of the Ballard, Christopher, Erickson, Jeffs, Randall, Rommell, Treager, Winter and Wooding families were moved at that time. Mountain View's records start in 1907, leaving a 14-year gap of data.

Later, some bodies were exhumed and removed to Hillcrest Burial Park in Kent, Washington. Attorney James Hart was the only surviving original Trustee for the old Slaughter Cemetery by 1922. He loved it and fought the removal of graves to these newer cemeteries.

George W. Scott, Slaughter undertaker, lived near the Pioneer Cemetery and he took a particular interest in its operations. In 1911 Mr. Scott's funeral home was located in the Jensen Building, 120 North Cedar (now 16 North Division). The sign in the window read "George W. Scott, Funeral Director and Licensed Embalmer." He had a small chapel in the building and lived in a house located behind.

Mr. Scott recorded burial information on a copy of the Cemetery At Slaughter plat map that now hangs on the wall at Mountain View Cemetery. On one side of the plat map has been noted: "This 25-foot strip granted to Japanese Church, Christopher, for Jap burials, 13 August 1917 [1914?], to keep fences up and plot clean and orderly comply with law," signed by Jas. (James) Hart, Trustee. In 1922, Mr. Scott built a new funeral home on the present site of Price-Helton Funeral Chapel on N. Division. He retired in 1947.


Rachel Ann Faucett

Mrs. Rachel Ann Faucett, was born in Kentucky in 1824, married John T. Faucett in Tennessee. They came west in 1854 with their three small children in a prairie schooner.
  WRVM #775

The Faucetts were leading citizens, and Rachel Ann is remembered through many anecdotes. She is known to have pitched right in and helped her husband slash brush, fell trees and split logs for their home. Thjavascript:OpenWindow('MilwaukeeRoadMap.htm')l house -- although it's remembered that Mrs. Faucett never learned to read. Never the less, she helped erect a new school house, splitting shakes for the roof and carrying mud for the stick chimney.

Establishing another first, Mrs. Faucett lent her home for Methodist Episcopal worship, establishing the first congregation in 1865. In that year, Rollin C. Smith preached at Slaughter and organized a Bible class. Later a church was built a half mile north of the Faucett home.

Rachel Ann Faucett was a helpful and friendly woman known as "Grandma Faucett". She became the community midwife and nurse. She rode horseback and often walked 9 to 14 miles to tend the sick and needy. She was a good Samaritan to all and never asked for compensation. Mrs. Faucett once came to the aid of Mrs. Sarah Neely during the night, after having walked four miles through the timber along the river (now known as Green Valley Road). It is remembered that Native Americans in the early days watched for her coming among them and called her friend. Mr. and Mrs. Faucett were the parents of 14 children. Five of them died in infancy.

Rachel Faucett died May 27, 1913, and to comply with her final request her husband's grave was re-opened and her remains were laid to rest in the same little plot on their homestead. George W. Scott conducted the burial and the services were held at the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mrs. Faucett's eulogy was written by Ezra Meeker. He had met her at Mud Mountain while traversing the Naches Pass in 1854.

In 1983, I interviewed Frank Natsuhara of a pioneer family of Auburn. He told how the Japanese community was granted a portion of the cemetery in 1917. To be eligible for burial there, one had to have an ancestor buried in the Japanese Cemetery. Four or five urns are often placed under one family headstone. Rules and regulations pertaining to this were kept at the White River Buddhist Temple. There are not many eligible people left today who want to be buried at the Japanese Cemetery, now known as the Pioneer Cemetery.

Frank's father, Chiyokichi "Charlie", who came to the US from Japan in 1898 and arrived in Auburn in 1902, was owner of C. Natsuhara & Son at 622 West Main Street and a farmer. He recorded the history of the Japanese Cemetery in his own handwriting, documents which Frank keeps to this day.

Charlie replaced the early wooden post markers with concrete markers that he had prepared. They were inscribed by Rev. G. Takemura, the local Buddhist minister, while the concrete was still wet. The cost was $7.00 and included the cement base and a marker. Many are still there today.

With the highest respect, Charlie Natsuhara placed a stone next to what would be his own grave. It represented the grave of his parents who died many years ago and are buried in Japan. He and other men maintained the cemetery until they were sent to relocation camps during World War II. Frank's father showed benefit Japanese movies to raise money to maintain the cemetery.

This little plot of land can tell us many stories. For example, in 1922 a dispute arose over the right-of-way for a road going through the south end of the cemetery, between members of the Erickson and Lyden families and the community group the Pioneer Daughters of Slaughter. One Daughter of Slaughter was so incensed by the impending sacrilege, she set herself to patrol the cemetery with a rifle over her aging shoulder.

In June of 1922, Trustee Hart strongly opposed the condemnation of a part of the cemetery for a roadway. Those accustomed to trespassing across the cemetery appealed to the county commissioners and health officer to assist in forcing a direct road through it. In fact neighboring homes were at that time using part of the cemetery as a roadway. Fence boards were repeatedly torn away, and Mr. Hart and others made frequent repairs -- out of their own pockets. Despite these efforts, with the decrease in new burials and the passage of time, Pioneer Cemetery became badly neglected.

The Auburn Globe-Republican of November 29, 1928 reports the following:

Fawcett Cemetery Will
Blossom Into Beauty Spot

Transformed from an unkempt, weed-growing desolate plot of ground the Fawcett cemetery is now cleaned of all weeds and brush, low-hanging limbs have been cut, the grounds leveled and put in condition to sow grass seed, and it will emerge from its over- hauling a beauty spot rather than the eye-sore it has been for a number of years.

All this work has been done under the direction of Cecil [Charlie] Natsuhara, who has had the assistance of as many as 43 Japanese in one day. The work has been going on now for 17 days, and in a few days will be completed... Under the direction of Mr. Natsuhara 75 grave markers have been made of cement and inscriptions have been made on them indicating the Japanese who are buried there. The graves of members of the Faucett family, the James Hart family, and other pioneers are there and marked. There are something like 75 unmarked graves of white people in the plot it is said.

Later during WWII, Charlie Natsuhara collected money in the internment camp, going door to door to the families with relatives buried at Pioneer Cemetery. He sent his collection to an Auburn business man. The money was for Memorial Day flowers and repairs at the cemetery. When they returned after the war they sadly found the cemetery had been vandalized, was in once again in disrepair and many of the gravestones damaged.

In the early or mid 1950's another dispute arose over the right-of-way involving the City of Auburn. The city wanted to straighten Auburn Way North, trimming a sizable slice from the west side of the little green island, still popularly known as the Japanese Cemetery. The Japanese American community felt strongly about moving its dead, but the real show stopper (for the community at large) was the re-discovery that European American pioneers are buried there. So with righteous zeal the Daughters of Slaughter found a solution. "We put a big rock right in the middle of where they wanted to go," said Roberta Morley. The boulder was donated by Jack Wadkins and moved to the site by James Shaughnessy. And indeed today, you can appreciate the big rock still in the cemetery. From then on the Pioneer Daughters of Slaughter and the City of Auburn maintained the plots.

In July of 1965 this controversy was closed when a ceremony with over 50 people attending, was held at Pioneer Cemetery dedicating the grounds to the pioneers and others resting there. Conducting the program was Mrs. Roberta Crisp Morley, president of the Pioneer Daughters of Slaughter. Mrs. Katie Richmond Bissell placed a floral wreath atop the large stone bearing a bronze plaque that reads: "In Memory of the Pioneers of Slaughter." Mrs. Bissell, wife of one of Auburn's first druggists and sister-in-law to Auburn's first mayor V. R. Bissell, spoke a few words in dedication of the grounds. The plaque was donated by the Pioneer Daughters of Slaughter. Representing those of Japanese ancestry were Frank Natsuhara and his father Chiyokichi and his mother Sen Natsuhara. They were honored for the part they and the Japanese American citizens of the area played in the maintenance of the Pioneer Cemetery before it was incorporated into the City park system.

Illustrations by Hilda Meryhew

Mrs. Bertha McJoe, Muckleshoot Tribal Chair was also present. The cemetery is the resting place of Angeline Seattle, wife of John Seattle, a cousin of Chief Seattle. Her grave was once marked by a standing totem, carved by her brother. Spirited away many years ago, the wooden memorial stands in Seattle's Pioneer Square.

Also at this ceremony, representing the White River Historical Society were Mrs. Betty Roberson and Joe Koch, past presidents of the Society.

By 1962 a fence was put up as part of the efforts to prepare for the World's Fair. Frank remembers how beautiful it was. His father had protected the graves and monuments without pay for 30 years until 1962. He then passed to his son, Frank, the responsibility of maintaining the cemetery until the City of Auburn took over several years later. Today on Memorial Day a fresh flower and incense is placed on every stone.

There are about 200 burial plots in Pioneer Cemetery. Many of the headstones are missing, broken or only partially there, but many others are in good condition and their inscriptions are still legible after standing for more than a century.

Flowing with the changes which life presents, the Pioneer Cemetery is a place which records many stories. Pioneer Arthur Ballard told of funerals being held there in the 1860's. At least one Civil War veteran, H. P. Hopkins, having died in Auburn is interred here along with three-month-old Mary Maruhashi, who died in April, 1922 from bronchial pneumonia. Frank Natsuhara's grand parents' marker evokes a memory of the family connection to Japan. Grandma Sophia Pautzke, wife of the leading, early Auburn photographer found her final resting spot at the Pioneer Cemetery, and she is joined by many other early Auburn residents some named, and others anonymous, resting in this historic Auburn spot.

Hilda Meryhew