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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eastern Washington Genealogical Society presents walk with ancestors

By Cindy Hval The Spokesman-Review

Every headstone tells a story.

But sadly, as time passes and the markers fade, fewer and fewer people remember those stories. That’s why on Memorial Day, members of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society will be at Pines Cemetery in Spokane Valley to share brief bios of several folks who rest there.

“We picked about a dozen tombstones (all with deaths prior to the 1950s) in the older part of Pines Cemetery, and we’ve researched a bit about that person’s life,” Donna Potter Phillips said. “Each presentation will be about 10 minutes, and we envision folks walking from stone to stone and hearing the stories.”

Phillips said before COVID, they had three Walk With Ancestors events, two at Fairmount Memorial Park and one at Greenwood Memorial Terrace.

“We’re eager to do events like this because we believe that every person has a story and every story is interesting,” Phillips said.

For this event, Phillips went out and took photos of likely candidate’s gravestones and handed them out to volunteers at an EWGS meeting. The rest was up to them.

Last week, EWGS members shared a few of the stories that they will be telling at the Memorial Day event.

Melode Hall didn’t choose her person from a gravestone snapshot – she already knew who she wanted to profile: her great-grandfather J.K. Mumau, who is buried at Pines Cemetery next to his wife Clara.

“The whole family came on the train from Pennsylvania in 1910,” Hall said. “J.K. came to minister at the Free Methodist Church in Colville.”

Mumau served in various congregations throughout the area, eventually buying farmland and building a house.

“I’ve always known it as my grandparents’ house because he sold the farmland to my grandpa Forest, who had a dairy farm,” she said. “I remember the milk in glass bottles.”

Mumau died in 1949.

Kelly Martin isn’t related to the person she chose to research, but she does have a connection to him.

“Edward Thomas Best was born July 6, 1842, and came here quite late in life,” Martin said. “He bought land at 32nd and Best, and the road is named for him.”

Martin grew up in Spokane Valley and lived on Best Road.

She further discovered that Best and his brothers fought in the Civil War and that Best was taken captive by the Confederates.

He’d enlisted at 19 and spent 15 months in a POW camp.

“His first wife died in childbirth, and he moved here with his second wife, Emily, who is buried next to him,” Martin said. “They each owned a portion of the 40 acres he purchased.”

Jeanne Coe researched Silven McDaniel, born in 1896 and died in 1926.

“He came from Missouri, to Montana, to Idaho and finally Washington,” she said. “He worked for the railroad and settled east of Rosalia.”

Lynn Krogh uncovered information about Samuel Smith.

“He was one of 10 children – eight lived to adulthood, and the entire family was involved in the Civil War,” she said. “Sam enlisted in Illinois at 16. By the end of the war, he likely received a $550 bounty for enlisting. That would be $10,000 today.”

The time spent researching these stories gives Krogh a sense of kinship with her subjects.

“Samuel and Susan Smith had eight children, but only four of them lived. Almost all of them farmed in the area around Rockford,” she said. “I feel like they’re family, now.”

With just a name, date of birth and date of death, these genealogists found fascinating tidbits about the people beneath the headstones.

“It’s like a detective mystery,” Krogh said.

The results give insight into the ancestors who settled here.

“It brings their stories to life,” Coe said.

Contact Cindy Hval at