Atop a hill overlooking Whidbey Island’s heartland lies pioneering history.

It is there, above the rolling farmland of central Whidbey, and the glorious views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains where Whidbey’s first families rest. There lies Sunnyside Cemetery, one of the few largely intact Victoria-era cemeteries still in existence and one of the oldest territorial cemeteries in Washington.

The cemetery began when in 1865 Winfield Ebey was buried on the northeastern corner of Sunnyside Farm, owned by his parents Jacob and Sarah Ebey. There are headstones in the cemetery that are older than Winfiled’s death, but they accompany bodies of people who were exumed and brought to Sunnyside, according to historians.

“They were some of the first people to love this island and they are still in a beautiful place,” said Janet Enzman, volunteer librarian and archivist with the Island County Historical Society Museum.

Buried at Sunnyside is pioneeer families, prominent Native Americans, and seafaring captains who all called Whidbey home. They were all neighbors, all relatives, and most have links to descendents currently living on the island. They are the names that now live on as the names of roads, lakes and towns — Ebey, Crockett, Smith, Power, Coupe, and more. Their lives shaped Whidbey’s history and the landmarks of today.

There’s the Calhoun family who owned the Coupeville Wharf. The grave marker of Sam Hancock, the explorer who was the first white man to see Snoqualmie Falls, is the tallest in the graveyard. Dr. John Kellogg, known as the “canoe doctor” for his mode of transportation to visit patients, even owned part of the cemetery and sold plots.

Next to the Davis blockhouse is large mossy colored stone for Mary Maylor, wife of Sam Maylor for whom Maylor’s Point was named. The stone, written in Gaelic, includes the phrase “We love each other still,” as well as information about Mary’s life, family, and death. Sam Maylor eventually went back to Ireland with the couple’s children and remarried one of her relatives, said local historian Roger Sherman.

The dead do tell tales

William Robertson, the first lighthouse keeper at Admiralty Head, has a famous tale about a property line dispute with his neighbor.

“He set up a cannon in his yard, but apparently the other guy wasn’t hone,” said local historian Roger Sherman. “The wife of the guy came out holding a baby and yelling ‘shoot if you dare’.”

In its first years, people called it the Ebey graveyard after the prominent family who claimed most of the graves.

“Most Ebeys died at a young age,” Sherman said.

The most famous was Col. Isaac Ebey who was beheaded by Haida indians Aug. 11, 1857, at the age of 39. His body, later along with that of his wife, Rebecca, were buried in the orginal Ebey graveyard near the present-day Ferry house.

In the 1800s, families purchased 20x20 lots that could fit eight deceased.

Through the years the cemetery has seen six different growth spurts where it changed ownership or received additional land. Win Cook and Dr. John Kellogg were among the owners. For most of its life it wasn’t taken care of and was overgrown, according to Sherman

Roger Sherman knows the history of Sunnyside well. Sherman’s grandfather, William Sherman was hired in 1921 as the cemetery’s first caretaker for a salary of $25.

Roger Sherman grew up right next door to the cemetery and as a boy would often play cowboys and indians in the overgrown graveyard.

“Some little old ladies didn’t like it but my mom always told me the dead people probably thought it was amusing,” he said.

Sherman remembers his grandfather enlisting the men of the family to help dig graves.

“I even dug a couple,” he said.

In 1960, Sherman’s father began working with service organizations to revitalize Sunnyside Cemetery.

Following a land sale to the county, an official cemetery district was created in 1965, which continues today in overseeing the grounds.

Sunday, Sherman will lead the first tour of the year in the Island County Historical Museums annual series of educational tours at the cemetery. On the tours he shares little known facts such as how everyone in the cemetery is buried so they lie facing the rising sun — all but one.

“Not Frank Pratt, he’s off facing the otherway.”

It’s a placement Sherman said fit Pratt’s character in life. Sherman loves to tell the tales of the people who are now below ground.

Among them are Capt. Thomas Coupe who died Dec. 27, 1875, his wife Maria, and their daughter Marie Jane. Maria Coupe willed $1,000 to the cemetery, which she left in an account at the Dexter North Bank in Seattle. With it she left instructions to use the money to create a stone and metal fence around her family plot. It still exists today.

Captain Howard Lovejoy (1859-1919) was, among other things, a prominent boat builder and architect. Lovejoy’s creations are still with us today, as he created many buildings in Coupeville, including the Methodist Church.

The boat Calista, which Lovejoy named after his wife, is famous for its participation in Bloody Sunday Nov. 5, 1916. Together, the Lovejoys had six children, and when Capt. Lovejoy passed, Calista raised them on her own. She eventually remarried to a man named John Leach.

“It’s kind of funny, there’s no record of John Leach being buried in Sunnyside, but here she is right along side her husband, Capt. Lovejoy,” Sherman said. “It think she might have had something to do with that.”

At the time, segregation spilled into the graveyard. As prominent as they were on Whidbey in the 1800s, few Native Americans are buried at Sunnyside.

“The minorities weren’t allowed to be buried with the white so they had to be buried on the perimeter,” Sherman said.

Near the blockhouse is a small plot of land where four marked Native graves exist including those for Alex and Susie Kettles and sunken ground indicates more unmarked graves.

Ah Soot is the only Asian on file as buried in Sunnyside Cemetery. His plain name plate on the ground reads “Ah Soot, Born in China, died 1925.”

He rests in the family plot of the LaShourds.

“My grandfather took care of him,” Sherman said of his mother’s father.

Enzman has her favorite story. She told of Fidelia Newberry, a young woman who followed her brother, minister of the Congregational Church, to Whidbey. Newberry became a teacher at the San de Fuca church and became “enamered” with a gentleman named Power. Fidelia Newberry married Henry C. Power April 3, 1889, and ten months later died while giving birth to twins, Margaret and Marion.

Henry C. Power never married again. He and his mother, also a Margaret, raised the twins on Margaret Power’s farm. History reports Henry carried a letter written by Fidelia through out his life.

“It’s such a charming story and we have letters written by Fidelia on file here at the museum,” Enzman said.

Sherman believes Fidelia’s headstone is the most beautiful in the cemetery. The white rock bears s sculpted bouquet of flowers and a top is a draped urn to symbloize that the physical body remains underground but the spirit is elsewhere.

Enzman wants to encourage people to take the cemetery tour and find out more about Whidbey’s history and the people who’s life stories sculpted the island into what it is today.

The 12 year museum volunteer veteran has a certain admiration for central Whidbey’s now deceased pioneers.

“When you’ve worked with the archives for as long as I have, you begin to feel like you know them,” she said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 22
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates