The story behind cemetery pioneer Thomas White

By Betty Lou Gaeng | May 26, 2017
Courtesy of: Betty Lou Gaeng CUT-The grave of Edmonds Cemetery founder Thomas White.

Edmonds Memorial Cemetery and Columbarium is a beautiful, well-kept cemetery situated in a parklike setting in the Westgate area of Edmonds. It offers a historical pathway to remind us of the people who settled not only Edmonds, but all the communities that make up south Snohomish County.

First founded by the International Order of the Odd Fellows on 4.25 acres of land deeded to the city by pioneer Thomas White, the cemetery has since grown in size and evolved from what was once an eyesore to a lovely and peaceful final resting place for our family members, neighbors, friends and classmates, former community leaders and, yes, even some unknowns who were only passing by when fate ended the journey.

White was a young man who had come to Edmonds from Pennsylvania in 1887 with several family members.

In 1892, he was issued a land patent for 160 acres of land south of the town. In 1894, he donated a portion of his property to the city for the establishment of a cemetery. Sadly, a few years following his gift, White returned to his former Edmonds land to become a permanent resident at the cemetery.

Having moved a few miles further east to the area known as Cedar Valley, White and his family settled on a parcel of land near Hall Lake, where he worked as a hook tender for a logging company.

At the age of 49, while at work and riding on a string of logs, White was killed instantly on Saturday, December 17, 1910. This was one of those strange and puzzling accidents that seem to leave us wondering: Why?

White was on the forward log when a log in the rear broke loose and pitched through the air, striking him in the head. To pay their respects to White, family and friends gathered at the Free Methodist Church in Edmonds, and White was laid to rest at the cemetery.

Although it is part of the history of the area, Edmonds Memorial Cemetery and Columbarium is still fully operational. The Cemetery Board manages the operation of the city-owned cemetery, including the sale and location of burial lots; maintenance of the grounds, monuments and markers; and capital improvements.

The board also manages monetary gifts and donations on behalf of the cemetery. Of considerable interest is the fact that at the present time, the chairperson for the board is the great grandson of Thomas White.

As its name implies, the cemetery is a memorial to all who are interred on its land. As a special honor to our veterans of all wars, the cemetery board each year presents a program on Memorial Day. The program consists of a military honor guard and special guests.

Of note, a select group of veterans is recognized for special honor. Those honored may have served in the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam,vor they may be victims from one of the many conflicts or acts of terrorism.

Altogether, there are 625 veterans interred at the cemetery.

In addition to the annual Memorial Day ceremony, during the month of July another program is presented. Named Walk Back in Time, it is just that. Members of the Edmonds Cemetery Board and other volunteers, often appearing in costume, are stationed at select grave sites throughout the cemetery to tell the story of the individual buried at that spot

It may be the story of a well-known pioneer such as George Brackett, the founder of Edmonds, and then again it may be the story of someone with an unfamiliar name to most of us. All have a story to tell—they are all part the rich history of South Snohomish County.

This year, during its scheduled Walk Back in Time 1 p.m. Thursday, July 20, the Edmonds Cemetery Board will be conducting guided tours of the grave sites of veterans of the Spanish American War.

Betty Lou Gaeng is a member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board.



Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.