Laurel Grove: Where history rests

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The rich pioneer history of the Pacific Northwest is quietly preserved in port towns that ring Puget Sound.

Port Gamble’s Buena Vista Cemetery is known for one of its oldest residents: coxswain Gustav Engelbrecht, killed by Haida raiders in 1856 and the first U.S. Navy war casualty of any Pacific theater.

In Port Madison, Saint Peter’s Cemetery embraces the remains of Noah Sealth, witness to Captain Vancouver’s early explorations of the region, buried June 7, 1866 – and known to posterity as Chief Seattle.

But it is Port Townsend’s own Laurel Grove Cemetery that cradles the remains of the shipping magnates, real estate speculators and timber barons who powered progress in centuries past.

To paraphrase Tacitus, “Success has 100 fathers, failure is an orphan.” There are no orphans interred at Laurel Grove, but lots of fathers – or at least, founders.

• Alfred A. Plummer, 1822-1887, age 75 years, founder and, with Charles Bachelder, first settler of Port Townsend, Washington.

• Charles Bachelder, the aforementioned cofounder, who was known for a rough-and-tumble (and intemperate) lifestyle, faded from glory in the earlies, but was a true cofounder nonetheless.

• Cofounder (and founder of Portland, Oregon) Francis W. Pettygrove, who made his poke with Bachelder in the gold fields of California and rose to become the richest man on the Pacific Coast.

• Cofounder Charles Eisenbeis, emigrant from Prussia, baker, brick maker, real estate magnate and three-term mayor of Port Townsend.

• Cofounder Loren Hastings, who also made his bones (so to speak) in the gold fields of California and served as sheriff, probate judge and county commissioner.

• Cofounder Nathaniel Hill, chemist and banker, lumber tycoon, telegraph entrepreneur, county commissioner and territorial representative, and one of the most respected and successful men in the Washington Territory.

MANY, MANY MASONS

Rubbing shoulders with founders and cofounders, and cofounders in their own way, were John F. Damon, Granville Haller, Enoch Fowler, H.L. Tibbals, Charles H. Jones, D.C.H. Rothschild, Thomas Minor, Joseph Kuhn and Llewellyn Seavey. These men forged Port Townsend into the commercial powerhouse of the region – eclipsing (for a time) Olympia, Port Angeles, Port Gamble, Seattle – and all other Puget Sound commercial centers.

These men – almost without exception – were Masons. Most rose to the exalted position of Worshipful Master in Port Townsend Lodge No. 6 Free and Accepted Masons (F&AM), and many were elected as Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Washington, F&AM.

All rose to prominence in the political, civic and commercial affairs of their community.

The scions of pioneer industry and accomplishments are reverently remembered with markers, monuments and monoliths. However, other prominent movers and shakers populate Laurel Grove.

CHIEF CHETZAMOKA, TOO

Chetzamoka, chief of the S’Klallam and allied tribes and known to posterity as the “Duke of York,” rests in a full cemetery block beneath a carpet of oyster shells, with his wives, See-Hei-Met-Za (Queen Victoria) and Jenny Lind. The large marble marker is inscribed “The White Man’s Friend – We Honor His Name.” Chetzamoka’s son, Lach-kay-min (the Prince of Wales), and his wife and children rest nearby.

Frederick Flint is remembered as a Woodsman of the World: “Dum Tacet Clamat – Mar 25 1879 – June 9 1908 ‘Here rests a Woodsman of the World’ – The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations Rev Ch22 verse 2 And there shall be no more death neither sorrow nor aging Ch 21, Verse 4.”

Punctuating massive blocks and crypts are more modest half blocks and quarter blocks. And, yes, there are numerous little lambs and doves above petite stone markers, with poignant epitaphs: “Gladys M, Daughter of Jos. Richardson, died March 12, 1899 Aged 5 mos & 4 days – ‘A little time on earth she spent, Till God for her his angels sent.’” Or Augusta Maud, “Dau of H&J Louis born June 26, 1882 died August 28, 1884. ‘A dear link is broken, a bright hope is dimmed; But the hope is not lost, for we all meet in heaven.’”

ARCHITECTURAL THEMES

This is by and large a Masonic cemetery, and you generally won’t find the sleeping seraphs perched atop headstones, or weeping angels, or mourning cherubs that embellish other pioneer memorial parks. Here, the themes are more architectural: spires and obelisks, scrolls and tablatures, columns, draped urns and spheres.

The square and compass dominate, with occasional references to Scottish and York Rite imagery.

The granite and marble monument of F.W. Pettygrove, founder of Portland, Oregon, and cofounder of Port Townsend, greets the visitor with a message of hope: “Life’s duty done, as sinks the day, Light from its load the spirit flies; While heaven and earth combine to say, How blest the righteous when he dies.”

The graves of Alfred A. Plummer, “Founder and with Charles Bachelder, First Settler of Port Townsend, Washington,” and his Masonic luminary namesake son, Alfred A. Plummer Jr., “His work was unfinished, his column is broken; His death was untimely, and his brethren mourn,” flank the entrance road.

Charles Eisenbeis of Manresa Castle fame lies with his wife and (an unidentified) child in glass-topped coffins in a Victorian cenotaph beneath a massive slab of concrete and pea gravel, a repair made more than a decade ago when the original granite failed.

D.C.H. Rothschild – known as a sharp dealer in business but lionized among most Masons (with notable exceptions which resulted in Masonic trials), thrifty and pragmatic in death as he was in life, with his immediate family – is remembered by six modest granite markers.

Enclosing 14 acres, this is Jefferson County’s largest cemetery, in the words of William Shakespeare, an “Undiscovered Country, from whose bourn, no travelers return (and) which puzzles the will.”

CEMETERY FRIENDS

Laurel Grove is not a perpetual care cemetery, and while Port Townsend Lodge No. 6 F&AM has preserved her over the decades, there have been highs and lows.

According to Drew Coleman, lodge secretary and cemetery custodian, Laurel Grove’s fortunes have waxed and waned with those of the lodge itself.

“This last half of a century has taken a toll on all fraternal organizations. Resources and will [puzzled or not] shrink as membership shrinks, and the members themselves age,” said Coleman. “But there’s been a recent resurgence of interest in the mysteries of Freemasonry – throughout this state and certainly here in Port Townsend.”

To help ensure that Laurel Grove continues to “puzzle the will” of future generations, the lodge has developed a 10-year plan for preservation and restoration, and welcomes the community at large to join it as “Friends of Laurel Grove.”

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