Just in time for the tourist season, the city of Coeur d’Alene has come up with a guidebook that will lead visitors and those of us who live here to many of the 16,000 permanent residents of our city by the Lake.
They’re the occupants of Forest Cemetery on Government Way, and City Parks Director Doug Eastwood and his staff have selected 20 of the most interesting sights in the 20.7-acre parcel to interpret on a walking tour of the burial ground.
First, a little history from the first page of the 20-page illustrated booklet:
Part of the cemetery was originally U.S. Army property. One acre at the south end was the Fort Sherman Cemetery, sometimes referred to as the “Old Post” section of the burial ground.
It was used exclusively for the burial of soldiers and their families while the fort was active, from 1878 to 1901. By 1905, most of the 100 sets of remains had been moved to Fort George Wright in Spokane.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt, by proclamation, gave the city the original acre plus an additional 19.7 acres.
In 1968, Coeur d’Alene acquired an additional 8 acres directly across Lincoln Way from Forest. That’s known as the Riverview Cemetery.
For some reason, one soldier remains in Forest’s “Old Post” section. Pvt. Timothy Shea, from County Kerry, Ireland, a member of the 4th Infantry who died in 1898, was left behind when his comrades were moved to Spokane.
The oldest burial in the cemetery, Marion Glutches, who died in 1881, also is in this section.
During a brief period between the Army’s release of the property and its acquisition by the city, no burial records were kept. About 30 graves from that period are designated only with small brick markers with the inscription “unknown.”
Just north of the Old Post is a 12-foot statue of a civil war soldier. The Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Civil War veterans, erected it in 1907. The 19th century GI watches over the graves of his comrades, area residents who served in that war. Their names, ranks and units are carved on their headstones.
Many of those who served in America’s other wars have been afforded the privilege of being buried with their comrades. The guidebook notes separate sections for veterans of the Spanish American War and World War I, plus areas designated specifically for members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion and their spouses.
In the southwest portion of the cemetery is a section the guidebook calls “Old and Unique.” Headstones there aren’t linear. Instead, they run in all directions in family burial plots. The circular paths between and around the plots were to allow access by horse-drawn hearses that could exit the cemetery without having to back up.
A section of the cemetery is also dedicated to infants who were born and died here between 1912 and 1944.
There’s something of a mystery about one of the graves. A monument purports that the person buried beneath is a descendant of Betsy Ross, known as the creator of the American flag. However, the marker spells the flag maker’s name as “Betsey,” and lists B.M. Ross as one of her descendants. Yet, she had no male children, and the date given for B.M. Ross’ birth is 1834. The real Betsy would have been 82 that year.
A pioneer Idaho forester, Edward Pulaski, is buried in the Forest Cemetery. He was the inventor of the firefighting tool that bears his name and a hero of the 1910 fires that scorched the Northwest.
His widow was convinced he was a descendant of Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski, who was killed fighting for the Americans in the Revolution, and that he was also descended from royalty. Thus, she had the title “Count” carved before his name on the gravestone.
In addition to serving as a guide to interesting graves and features of the cemetery, the booklet also is an abbreviated history of Coeur d’Alene. For example, after leading us to the graves of Capt. Peter Sorensen and Frederick Blackwell, the narrative describes their contributions to, respectively, steamboating and railroads in this area.
Other prominent residents cited in the booklet include Burl and Beverly Hagadone, William Stark Hawkins, Clayton Henry, and “Commodore” Joseph White.
The booklet also interprets symbols carved into gravestones and monuments and explains the symbolism of such markers as pyramids and obelisks.
At least one Forest Cemetery resident wants visitors to leave with a smile. Frances K. Bond, who died here at 62, had carved on her tombstone, “I told you I was sick!”
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