History of Claquato Cemetery

The Claquato Cemetery exists today as the most vital legacy of the Davis family, who came west in 1851 and established the village of Claquato (“high prairie” in the Chehalis Indian language). Through a series of additions, enhancements, and far-sighted plans, the cemetery continues to represent the brightest hopes of its founders.

Situated on the brow of a hill, overlooking the Chehalis River valley and the Cascade Mountains to the east, the cemetery commands a peaceful and scenic view of southwest Washington. It beckons to all those who value the serenity and beauty found there—from pioneer families whose members were buried 150 years ago, to today’s residents who have visited the cemetery and appreciate the care and dedication apparent in the landscaped grounds. Many who have moved out of Lewis County will return to be buried here at Claquato.

Lewis Hawkins Davis originally donated a small parcel of land to be used as a final resting place for those loved ones who have passed on from this life. The first burial was young Mary Spinning in 1856. Other pioneer burials followed. In 1893, the International Order of Odd Fellows platted a five-acre cemetery tract near the Davis parcel, for the use of their members.

By 1920, the Claquato Cemetery Association was formed and purchased a 20-acre portion of the Davis estate. Voluntary contributions and portions of lot sale prices were used to form endowment funds, the principal of which can never be reduced. The interest is used for perpetual care and upkeep of the grounds. The Cemetery Association was formed as a non-profit entity, and its directors have always served without compensation.

In the early years of the 20th Century, county founders showed their belief in the Claquato Cemetery, and other residents followed suit. Claquato gained acceptance as the preferred burial site for local residents. Its pioneer history, timeless beauty, and enlightened endowment plan made it the premiere cemetery of the area.

Over the years, many improvements have been made to the grounds. In 1927, local women formed a Women’s Auxiliary to beautify the site, and a water system was installed, bringing irrigation water up from the nearby Chehalis River. Also in the 1920s, a “Baby Rose Garden” was established to offer a quiet spot where infants could be laid to rest, and parents could fine solace and comfort.

In 1937, the huge fir tree within the cemetery was dedicated as the “Pioneer Tree” under which so many early settlers found shelter. A bronze plaque on the tree attests to its importance to the pioneers. In following years, many new plantings of ornamental shrubs, trees and flowers enhanced the stately grounds. Another 16-acre plot was added to the cemetery’s holdings.

By the 1950s, the Ridgely Lodge of IOOF established an adjoining tract of land called Sunset Memorial Gardens. In 1973, Sunset merged with the Claquato Cemetery Association to create one cemetery under the direction of the non-profit board.

In 2006, the Cemetery Association generously supported the installation of an Oregon Trail marker on the grounds of the old Claquato church, thus demonstrating the Association’s ongoing interest in area history.

Today, the approximately 70 acres under the care of the Association continue to offer a unique resting place. Unlike other cemeteries that suffer from neglect and vandalism, the Claquato Cemetery sustains its founders’ goal: to provide a burial place of lasting beauty, with freedom from industrial encroachment, and with a permanent endowment fund and public trust dedicated to perpetual care.

Claquato Cemetery preserves a sense of history and tradition while meeting contemporary needs and expectations, blending old and new in a natural setting. We invite you to visit the Claquato Cemetery, and experience for yourself the serenity and beauty found there.

Written for Claquato Cemetery by Karen Johnson.

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