Unearthing History

Take a historic cemetery tour


What: Historic Cemetery Tour

When: 12 pm Sun., Oct. 15

Where: Mount Vernon Cemetery, 1200 Fir St.

Cost: $10-$12

Info: http://www.skagitcounty.net/museum

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

While it’s true that the outings taking place Sun., Oct. 15 at the Mount Vernon Cemetery are occurring during the spookiest time of the year, Skagit County Historical Museum Director Jo Wolfe wants to assure potential visitors that there’s absolutely no need to be afraid of what lies inside the storied memorial park’s gates.

“It is a historic tour,” Wolfe says of the fourth annual event that sees attendees showing up throughout the autumn afternoon to join wagon rides that make a route around the cemetery, stopping at or near various gravesites to hear from actors portraying some of Skagit County’s most interesting citizens.

“The character tells their story, and the wagon moves along to the next location,” Wolfe says, noting that attendees will be able to interact with those who have long since left their mortal coils behind—including Mount Vernon pioneer Jasper Gates, veteran and former Kern Funeral Home owner Leroy Anderson, potato farmer Mary Jane Peth, and pirate Ben Uri.

Wolfe says that tour organizers from the La Conner-based museum make an effort to use descendants of the dearly departed to stand in for their relatives when possible, but if it’s not, then they look for role-players who are also good storytellers.

Among the line items visitors will likely learn about when they join the rain-or-shine outings is that the initial graves at the Mount Vernon Cemetery were dug in the 1870s, and that the locale was first known as the I.O.O.F. Cemetery.

“It stands for Independent Order of the Odd Fellows,” Wolfe says. “They were a fraternal organization whose motto was ‘to visit the sick, to relieve the distressed, to bury the dead and educate the orphan’—thus their establishment of a cemetery.”

For even more backstory about the Skagitonians who are buried on Fir Street, schedule a stop before or after the event to the Skagit County Historical Museum’s headquarters on Fourth Street. Although they’re between seasonal exhibits, it’s still possible to make an appointment with archivist Mari Densmore, who can help you navigate the research library’s documents, records, newspapers, photographs and books to make more fascinating discoveries about the past.

If learning more about local history and hearing stories about some of its founding citizens isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider the fact that it’s the middle of October and you’ll be spending part of your Sunday meeting dead people. If the prospect of getting even just a little bit scared is what lures you in, that’s OK, too.

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