Sno-Isle Genealogical Society

The Sounder
Volume 24, Issue 2
June, 2010

Serving Snohomish and Island County Genealogists
for over Twenty Years

Sounder Banner Graphic by David Raney

Resurrection of the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery

by Margaret Robe Summitt

Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery


The first known burial in Mukilteo, of Capt. Nathaniel B. FOWLER, one of the town’s founders, was made in 1873 on the property of Morris H. FROST.  FROST, who was then still living, may have at that time informally designated this part of his property as a cemetery.  However, he later fell into debt and much of his original property went into receivership.   Louis Kossuth CHURCH and his wife Emma must have purchased this land around 1890, either from FROST or whoever his receiver was.  (1)   Louis and Emma had originally intended to reserve part of their property for a cemetery; and went so far as to have their intention notarized on June 5, 1890.  Unfortunately, they did not follow through with the formality of having the property set aside for dedicated use as a cemetery.  The residential area of Mukilteo grew up around the property at 513 Webster Street;  by 1919 the cemetery was no longer in use.

During the Depression this lovely spot was spoiled,” wrote Alice Pallas BROOKS, one of the town’s early teachers, in her memoir “Memorial Day Memories.”  “Fences were all removed and the markers knocked down.  Some were broken and some are lost.   My father with the aid of a friend mended and remounted them.  Mr. FROST’s marker was broken into two pieces… As a result of this devastation several grave sites are completely lost.”   The true number of burials is unknown.  The cemetery offers spectacular views of Possession Sound and Whidbey Island, from the top of an embankment high above the Burlington Northern tracks.  Rumor has it that the embankment has slumped, maybe more than once, maybe bringing some remains down with it.

By 1964, the Pioneer Cemetery was over 90 years old and in a neglected condition.  Mayor Ronald KANE in the spring of 1965 called for all the volunteer help he could get to cut the brambles and weeds, to get down to ground level and see what remained to be preserved.  No legal action was taken until 1979, when the grave marker of Nathaniel B. FOWLER turned up as a prank on the doorstep of a real estate office on the Bothell-Everett Highway.  About that time, the Mukilteo Historical Society paid for a title search and discovered that property around the edges of the cemetery had been sold, and that legally the cemetery could conceivably be placed on the tax rolls.  In 1982 the remedial legal process was completed after which the cemetery officially belonged to the city.

After the legal work was done, the Historical Society tried to determine just who was buried there.  Volunteers paced north to south, east to west, and diagrammed the locations of grave markers and trees.  A map was produced from their labors.  On the title page of the map, Valerie NORWINE wrote as a dedication that she did this work “in hopes that this will aid some future genealogist or historian…made possible only from the prodding of my crazy genealogist mother who did find missing links of her research in one such document.”

Following the 1965 clearing, a list of 25 names was typed.   Since then more markers have been added to bring the number of marked graves to 43 (see the survey made in 1999 by Kevin Fraley online at cemeteries/mukpio.txt).  The original source for names of those buried here appears to be a handwritten list made by Louisa Fowler SINCLAIR, daughter of Jacob FOWLER, and niece of Nathaniel FOWLER. Louisa, who died in 1955, drew up the list from memory at an unknown date.

Much work remains to be done into the histories and genealogies of those buried here.  Mas ODOI of the Historical Society has translated the markers of the three Japanese—Goro WADATANI, Tokumatsu SHIRAI, and Rikimatsu OKAMURA--employees of Crown Lumber, revealing thereby their death dates and their homes in Japan. (2)   Similar work needs to be done for many of the others.

Most of the burials are of people who came from afar to Mukilteo. Finding information about them has been and continues to be a challenge.


(1) See the article by Margaret Robe Summitt, “The Most Important Founder of Mukilteo You Never Heard of : Louis Kossuth Church,” The Sounder, 21:3, 97-99.

(2) Goro Wadatani was born in Wakayama Prefecture; died 24 Nov 1908, age 36.  Tokumatsu Shirai was born in Wakayama Prefecture; died 10 April 1908, age 30;  Rikimatsu Okamura was born in Kumano Prefecture; died 19 June 1913.  The article by Mas Odoi on these burials appeared in the May 21, 2008 online English edition of the North American Post, community news section (no longer online at


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