TACOMA – It was a haunting good time at the Pierce County Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 31, when the Council unanimously approved the transfer of one of the County’s oldest cemeteries to the city of Lakewood.
The Old Settlers’ Cemetery has been maintained by the County since it was established in 1855 with a land donation to Pierce County. City of Steilacoom attorney Frank Clark provided the land for the free burial of early pioneers.
According to the Lakewood Historical Society, there are 250 deceased people buried at the Old Settlers’ Cemetery, though that number is likely higher. Part of the cemetery was paved over during the past century, and more may have been lost to time.
The Lakewood Historical Society covered a memorial project completed by Eagle Scout Len Castro in a 2019 newsletter, writing that “the oldest grave is that of Thomas Wright, born Aug. 26, 1795, died June 18, 1868. Other burials include those of Lake City residents Mary and Joseph Holt, who established the Holt Chapel, Lake City Community Church. There also are several members of the Bonney Family buried there, as well as several Civil War-era veterans.”
The cemetery is located within Lakewood’s city limits. Pending Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier’s signature, the ordinance passed on Oct. 31 will authorize the Executive to sell the cemetery to Lakewood for $1.00. Lakewood will assume responsibility from the County for the maintenance of the property as a cemetery and agree to preserve existing monuments and fencing. In addition, they will secure the cemetery against removal or disturbance of buried human remains and other vandalism.
“The Old Settlers’ Cemetery has historic and cultural significance for our region,” said Councilmember Jani Hitchen (District 6), whose district includes the cities of Lakewood and Steilacoom. “It wasn’t intentional that this ordinance was passed on Halloween. It just worked out that way, which is nice because it brings focus to the history and legacy of the Puget Sound region.”