Puyallup: Opinion

Anderson: Much can be learned on a stroll through Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup

Civil War veterans’ graves are usually marked with an early Veterans’ Administration gravestone.
Civil War veterans’ graves are usually marked with an early Veterans’ Administration gravestone. Courtesy

It is well known that the founder of Tacoma was an invalided Civil War general.

What is not so well known is that a number of prominent citizens of Puyallup had served in that war as well, before they came west.

Civil War veterans’ graves are usually marked with an early Veterans’ Administration gravestone, as shown in the accompanying photo. A stroll among the trees in the older section of Woodbine Cemetery on 9th Street will turn up several of these markers. An organized search by a half-dozen volunteers yielded 20 such graves. But a recently recovered list of all county veterans’ graves conducted by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression reveals that there are at least 69 such marked graves in our cemetery, as well as those of three veterans of the Spanish-American War, and one from the Indian Wars.

The latter marks the resting place of Francis Marion Simmons, son of the founder of Tumwater, who arrived in the area in 1844 at the age of 4. He was laid to rest in January of 1924.

Last year during preparations for an event at the cemetery, we noticed that Peter Belles, locally well known as the owner of the Puyallup Hotel, and even better known as the owner of the racehorse Sleepy Tom, had a VA-issued Civil War stone on his grave. The engraving indicated he served with Company D of the 214th Pennsylvania Infantry. That was our first indication of his service to his country.

The Puyallup Historical Society will sponsor a late afternoon event at the Woodbine Cemetery on Aug. 19, the 126th anniversary of the official incorporation of the city. See the Meeker Mansion website for more details.

One more note: A PBS Special, “The Boys of ’36,” is the story of the University of Washington Olympic Gold medal rowing crew in the 1936 Berlin Games. Puyallup native George “Shorty” Hunt was a member of that crew.

The story will air on “The American Experience,” at 9 p.m. Aug. 2.

Andy Anderson is the historian of the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion. You can reach him at historyandy@comcast.net or through the Meeker Mansion at 253-848-1770.

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