The Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery Park
The GAR Cemetery in Seattle, Washington was platted in 1896. It is located on the north and of Capital Hill in Seattle. The cemetery land is covered with grass, maple and oak trees and is fenced by tall shrubbery, which does not make it easily visible from the street. The cemetery is maintained by the Seattle Parks Department and the Friends of the GAR Cemetery Park.
In the center of the oldest part of the cemetery is a pylon monument, placed by the Woman's Relief Corps. On the face of the monument is the phrase "In memory of our Heroes 1861-1865". On the three remaining sides of the monument at the base are rectangles showing crossed swords, cannons and muskets. There is a flag pole next to the monument.
This Civil War cemetery has 526 graves, mainly of Union and Confederate veterans and their wives. There are both Army and Navy veterans buried there. The majority of veteran’s graves are of Union military units. There are twenty-five states represented in this cemetery.
At the conclusion of the Civil War, many of the veterans came west alone or with their families, seeking adventure or a new life in what is now the state of Washington. 1989 is Washington's Centennial year. In the year 1889, this area was a land of opportunity, with fertile soil, lush evergreen forests, tall mountains, rivers, lakes and Puget Sound, a western boundary of the Pacific Ocean and a Northern boundary with Canada. Seattle became a busy seaport on Puget Sound and developed large fishing and lumbering businesses. People who came to Seattle found that it was an ideal location for many successful business enterprises and a beautiful environment in which to live. Many descendants of the Civil War veterans buried in this cemetery still live in Seattle.
The original transcription of all the names on the gravestones in this cemetery was done in 1979 by Helen Chase Keliehor with Children of the American Revolution groups. Helen Chase Keliehor was President of the C.A.R. groups in the State Of Washington and carried out this project of recording the G.A.R. cemetery data with the young people of C.A.R. who learned valuable lessons in history, regard for our veterans, patriotism and the actual service performed in recording the data. Helen Chaise Keliehor has given outstanding service to NN.S.D.A.R and C.A.R. and is presently the Regent of the Elizabeth Bixby Chapter, N.S.D.A.R. in Seattle, Washington.
Cemetery mapping was done in April, 1989 by Eileen E. Boyce Stich and Joan E. Zorn Strand, members of Elizabeth Bixby Chapter, N.S.D.A.R. in Seattle, Washington. The map and the lists of graves by row and number show the location of the graves of all but 18 people listed in the 1979 transcription. In the years between 1979 mid 1989, 18 gravestones have been discovered to be missing. This is noted by the names of those people in the list. There are also six veteran’s graves marked "Unknown". Variations in the spelling of a few last names are noted as spelled the same as on the gravestone.
It is possible that there are other Veterans buried in this cemetery whose gravestones were missing before 1979, but the cemetery was not recorded before that time. The remaining stones are showing varying amounts of deterioration and are becoming increasingly difficult to read. Elizabeth Bixby Chapter, N.S.D.A.R. felt that it was most important to have a published record of the information from this cemetery for present and future generations as well as to honor the Civil War veterans buried in this Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery.
History of the G.A.R. Cemetery
About 1895, five Grand Army of the Republic posts in Seattle established this cemetery for the heroes of 1861 - 65 (the Civil War) and maintained it until 1922. They then hired the neighboring Lakeview Cemetery Association, Inc. to take care of the property at their expense, but the financial and maintenance burden was too great for the diminishing numbers of old veterans so they placed their problem before the Seattle City Council.
By purchase and condemnations, a sympathetic Council acquired the property surrounding the gravesites, the gravesites being deeded to the G.A.R. Stevens Post No. 1, and turned it over to the Park Department for "park purposes" together with maintenance of the entire area. The scattered gravesites were relocated to a central grouping and the upright headstones were imbedded in concrete flush with the lawn, a sprinkling system installed, trees and shrubs planted, including a hedge enclosing the gravesites. Maintenance became an increasing problem, owing to the legal complications in spending funds on property not legally owned by the city, so care-taking became minimal.
An attempt was made in 1939 to create a W.P.A. Improvement project including a service building and perimeter fence, but was unsuccessful. During World War II, the Coast Artillery was permitted to emplace a searchlight with power plant and crew quarters in the park. Then came a period of abuse and dumping of refuse and garbage and the playing of ball games across the gravesites as well as "lawns": shrubs and trees were knocked down or damaged.
Police and maintenance crews were ineffective, so the trustees of the Stevens Post, G.A.R. attempted a solution by hiring a firm (Martin Pick Co.) to assist in maintenance, but in 1955 again sought help from the City Council. The request was tabled for study, including an attempt to transfer maintenance and control to the Federal Cemetery system, but the request was lost in red tape. In 1960 there was an attempt to remove either the gravesites or the maintenance to the Fort Lawton facility. No action.
The Lakeview Cemetery Association, Inc. corresponded with Senator Warren G. Magnuson about this matter and he contacted both the Veterans Administration and Department of the Army. The Veterans Administration was only authorized to maintain cemeteries in connection with its own installations. The Department of the Army Quartermaster General's Office replied that they could not provide funds for maintenance, but by a 1948 law they could furnish appropriate headstones for the unmarked graves of Civil War Veterans. This correspondence was in 1960.
Thanks to SUVCW for editorial input.