SAAR PIONEER CEMETERY
In 1873, former King County Councilman Peter Saar buried his wife on a small hill on their property thus beginning the first cemetery in the White River Valley. During the next 76 years approximately 200 people were buried at this site now called the Saar Pioneer Cemetery. It is surrounded on three sides by a Winco Foods parking lot and the fourth side is bounded by South 212th Street next to the Valley Freeway (State Hwy 167). (Map)
Saving Graves.com: "We believe that the willful desecration or destruction of human burial sites is unacceptable in a civilized society. All over the globe, cemeteries have been threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy. These cemeteries constitute a memento of great achievements of the common everyday people that lived and worked there, contributing greatly to both culture and science, leading to the creation of a better place for those that followed. It is our primary objective to increase the awareness and highlight the importance of our historic cemeteries as sources of community and state pride, while promoting an attitude of reverence and respect, and encouraging the further preservation of these unique historical resources for future generations to appreciate and learn from. If society fails to appropriately and adequately deal with this issue through some definitive action, whether legislative or otherwise, not only will genealogical and historical resources likely be irreparably harmed, but society will potentially lose a valuable resource for charting its inexorable course into annals of human history."
In the Fall of 2004 the South King County Genealogical Society voted to save the Saar Pioneer Cemetery from obscurity after an article was published in the Kent Reporter describing the horrible condition of this historic cemetery. At the next meeting I volunteered to be the Project Coordinator and I obtained written permission from the cemetery owner to restore the cemetery. Now here it is the Winter of 2014 and this will be the last column I write about this project.
So much has been accomplished as you have read in this newsletter throughout these past ten years. Many major and many small work parties accomplished the arduous task of getting rid of the blackberries, ivy, underbrush, and trees that engulfed the majority of the cemetery. As you can see in the 'before' and 'after' photos a dramatic difference was made.
While spending so much time among the residents of the cemetery, I started to become curious - who are these people? An all-volunteer research team was formed to create a biographical book, and after six years of hard work A History of Saar Pioneer Cemetery And Its Inhabitants was published. A 4Culture grant paid for the first printing of 65 books and sales from that allowed a second printing of 35 more copies, of which all have been sold. All the profit was spent on the cemetery.
Throughout the restoration project several artifacts have been uncovered. Barrel slats, several iron crosses, an ornate fence piece, a shovel head, iron fence poles, and broken pieces of headstones. All of these artifacts have been donated to the Greater Kent Historical Society's museum.
The following have been added to the cemetery grounds by volunteer effort, grant money, SKCGS fundraisers, and community donations:
City of Kent Landmark plaque. The South King County Genealogical Society and the Greater Kent Historical Society collaborated to have the cemetery named an historic landmark in 2010. The City of Kent obtained and installed the plaque.
Civil War veteran replacement markers: New headstones were obtained for William Button, Elias Clark, Nathaniel Hoag, and Lewis Warren. The Department of Veteran's Affairs supplied all of these markers.
- Mr. Button did not have any type of marker and his exact burial location is unknown. The White River Journal dated 15 June 1893 indicated that he was buried in the O'Brien Cemetery so he is indeed somewhere in this cemetery.
- Mr. Clark's and Mr. Hoag's original military headstones were eroding and becoming unreadable. The new military markers were placed next to their burial site.
- Mr. Warren's headstone was being consumed by a large maple tree. Fortunately the genealogical society transcribed this cemetery in 1979 before the front of the headstone became engulfed so we know who is buried there.
A Veterans Day ceremony will still be held each November to honor these soldiers. It is on the same day as the Auburn Veterans Day Parade; the parade in the morning and the Saar Cemetery event at three in the afternoon.
E Clampus Vitus plaque. The 'Clampers' installed a plaque that indicates all of the different names that the Saar Pioneer Cemetery has been known by. It reads: "The Saar Pioneer Cemetery is named for former King County Councilman Peter Saar, who in 1873 buried his wife on a small hill on their homestead. Since that time the cemetery has been know by many names. Kent Cemetery; Kent Methodist Cemetery; M. E. Cemetery; Methodist Cemetery; Nelsons; O'Brien Cemetery; Peter Saar Cemetery; Peter Saar Memorial Cemetery; Pioneer Methodist Cemetery; Springbrook; Wilson's Corner. Plaque Dedicated 12 August 2010/6015 Ancient and Honorable Order of E. Clampus Vitus Doc Maynard Chapter No. 54-40 CREDO QUIA ABSURDUM."
New markers were installed for: Caroline, Edith, and Johann Kasbaum; Mary and Hardin Lusk; Isaac and Nellie Parmenter; Benjamin Pittman; and Margaret Saar.
- Caroline, Edith, and Johann Kasbaum's burial site was in terrible disarray. Johann's headstone was found in several pieces and Caroline's and Edith's headstones were completely gone. The pieces were put back together and new markers were engraved by hand by a dedicated volunteer, Mr. Kimsey Fowler.
- Mary and Hardin Lusk's headstones went missing sometime between 1979 and 2004 so Mr. Fowler engraved new markers for them.
- Isaac and Nellie Parmenter's new marker was recently installed by a family descendant, George Safadago, to fulfill a promise to his mother.
- Benjamin Pittman died in 1907 and was buried without a marker. Exactly 100 years later, his great-granddaughter, Lois Pittman Traynor and her family, purchased a new marker for him.
- Margaret Saar was the first to be interred in this property, her family's homestead. Her original headstone went missing sometime between 1979 and 2004, and the committee acquired a new stone to mark her resting place.
Recovered markers: Three original headstones were recovered and reinstalled: J.S.H. Johnson and his daughter, Julietta; and Ole C. Hoff.
Unmarked Graves Monument. While researching everyone buried in this cemetery the research team kept coming across names of folks that were buried there, but had no headstone. The list of names came to a total of 89! It was impractical to try and make so many individual markers so one Unmarked Graves Monument was created so those 89 pioneers would not be forgotten.
Many Saar Pioneer Cemetery residents' descendants, local companies, groups, community volunteers, tribal and government entities, friends and family have been very generous with their labor, resources, and donations. Without their involvement this cemetery would still be buried under a blanket of blackberries, ivy, underbrush, and trees - its inhabitants unknown and forgotten to the world.
The owner of the cemetery, the Kent United Methodist Church, has recently hired a landscaper to regularly mow the grounds, and to keep the cemetery in good condition.
I thank each and every person who was involved in this project.
Retired Saar Cemetery Project Coordinator
Activities and work are documented in the Saar Pioneer Cemetery Project Photo Album
A complete listing may be found at Findagrave.com.
Click the Push Pin for more information and a link to close up satellite image.
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Saar Cemetery in the news & on the Internet!
- Kent volunteer is dead serious about cemetery work • Kent Reporter, Wednesday, May 28, 2008
- Wash a stone, restore some history • Beyond The Ghosts…A Cemetery Blog, Friday, September 4, 2009
- Statement of Significance • Landmark Nomination for the Saar Pioneer Cemetery, December 1, 2009
- what do cemeteries, immigration and the FBI have in common? • Blog4Culture, Tuesday, May 11, 2010
- Kent TV21 • Live History at Saar Cemetery, Wednesday, December 7, 2011 (scroll down to People and Projects look for Live History at Saar Cemetery)
- Historical Marker Database • The Saar Pioneer Cemetery, Historical Marker Database, February 2012
- KIRO 7 TV • Once-forgotten pioneer cemetery visited on Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, 2016 (Top video. Starts with other events.)
South King County Genealogical Society
PO Box 582, Auburn, WA 98071-0582
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