Historical Register

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The Union Pioneer Calvary Cemetery is associated with the earliest period of Tumwater history. Some of the first permanent American settlers on Puget Sound at Tumwater, such as George and Isabella Bush, members of the 1845 settlement party, are interred here. The cemetery is also significant for the unusual grave markers for a Puget Sound Indian War Volunteer, War of 1812 veteran William Rutledge, and Civil War Veterans. The Pioneer Calvary Cemetery was the first Catholic Cemetery in the area. Both cemeteries represent two of the earliest burial plots in the county.

Early meetings to establish the cemetery were held in the school or in Jesse Ferguson’s House, which stood where Tumwater Middle School is now located.

Although it was not formally dedicated until 1867, extant markers indicate that as early as 1855 interments were being made at the site. The Territorial Legislature in 1866 established the Union Cemetery. William Jenks, James Dunlap and Morris Littlejohn were the incorporators. Jesse Ferguson deeded the property to the Acting Trustees of the Union Cemetery of Thurston County for $10.00 in December 1867. The price of the lots was set at $6.00.

In January, 1873 Father A. M. A. Blanchet, Bishop of Nisqually, purchased 2.3 acres of land from Jesse Ferguson for $57.00 in gold coin for a cemetery, that became known as the Pioneer Calvary Cemetery. Records indicate that as early as 1853, burials had occurred in the Calvary Plot. In 1909 the New Calvary Cemetery adjacent to the Tumwater Masonic Cemetery was established and many of the interments from the Pioneer Calvary Cemetery were moved to the new location.

The cemetery was periodically cleaned and restored but often fell into disrepair. Jim Brown, David Nicandri, Wes Barclift and interested city parties worked to have the cemetery deeded to the city, which was done in 1977. In 1991, the Catholic Archdiocese deeded the Pioneer Calvary Cemetery to the City of Tumwater. Since that time the City of Tumwater has restored many stones and added fencing and the front gates, as well as maintained the site.

Today the cemeteries are owned and maintained by City of Tumwater as the Union Pioneer Cemetery. An adopted Master Plan guides the City’s investment in the site.

Listed on the National, State and Tumwater Registers of Historic Places.

5700 Littlerock Rd.; Established 1867 and 1873

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