On Halloween, the Pierce County Council voted unanimously to approve the land transfer of one of the oldest graveyards in the county to the city of Lakewood in exchange for $1.
Old Settlers’ Cemetery, at the corner of Washington Boulevard and 83rd Avenue Southwest, is home to the graves of more than 250 people, some of whom were early pioneers in the 1800s.
Pierce County had overseen the cemetery’s maintenance since it was established in 1855. Part of the cemetery was paved over during the last century, and more graves might have been lost to time, according to the Lakewood Historical Society.
Transitioning ownership to the city of Lakewood will make it easier to maintain and preserve the site, which is within Lakewood city limits, said Brynn Grimley, Lakewood communications manager. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier has 10 days to approve the sale or veto it.
The cemetery is no longer in regular use, and the most recent burial dates to the early 2000s, according to county documents.
When the cemetery was established, the city of Lakewood was still unincorporated, said Pierce County Council member Jani Hitchen, who serves District 6. At that time there wasn’t a park district set up, so many facilities like the cemetery were left in the county’s purview until the city of Lakewood expressed interest in taking over ownership, she said.
Hitchen said proactive preservation work had been a challenge for limited county staff. Having Lakewood take over ownership of the cemetery, especially when the community has wanted to do projects related to its care, will be easier now, Hitchen said.
“It actually saves us some money,” Hitchen said. “So it’s a benefit to Pierce County and then a benefit to Lakewood.”
History of the site
Settlers began to arrive in Lakewood in the 1840s, according to the Lakewood Historical Society. A lawyer, Frank Clark, donated and deeded the land that would become Old Settlers’ Cemetery to Pierce County in 1881 for free burial of pioneers and their descendants.
Some of those buried in this plot arrived in Pierce County by way of the Naches Pass Trail and include the names of McAllister, Bonney, Murray and Benston.
The oldest grave is commemorated with a granite obelisk titled, “The Pioneer At Rest,” according to a 2015 article by the Lakewood Historical Society that profiled an Eagle Scout who invested about 600 hours into a project documenting who was buried there. That obelisk commemorates Thomas Wright, who was born Aug. 26, 1795, and died June 18, 1868.
Other burials include Lake City residents Mary Holt and her husband Joseph Holt, who established the Holt Chapel, now called Lake City Community Church. There are also several members of the Bonney family buried there, as well as some Civil War-era veterans, according to the article.