While visiting Union Cemetery in Tumwater, Washington, I took a picture of the headstone for George, Isabella, and Riley Bush. I spent a few minutes setting up the shot just right because I loved the contrast of the Bush family’s 1860’s headstone, and the 20th century superstore behind it.
But after posting this picture to Reddit, and to my Facebook page, I received a few messages from people telling me how sad or angry the picture made them. It left me wondering what the Bush family would have thought of this view. Maybe they would have really liked to be right where all the action is, near the hustle and bustle of a shopping center.
Plus, I know of at least one person who probably would have loved to be buried there…
I desperately wanted to go to Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery. Ever since I got the cemetery baseball card last Christmas I knew I just had to see it, now here I was only 30 miles away… yet it might as well have been 1,000.
A weird request
During my recent trip to Chicago I realized visiting Bachelors Grove Cemetery may not ever be in the cards for me. I hadn’t known that the cemetery would be 40 whole minutes from the hotel I was staying at, or that the cemetery would have strict rules regarding the time that it closes. I was warned by locals not to even try and enter the forest preserve after sunset, as the area police are reportedly very strict about this rule.
But I wasn’t about to give up so easily.
Since the cemetery was so far away a bus or cab was out of the question. So after some thought I knew my best bet was to convince a local or someone with a rental car to take me.
I was in Chicago for a work conference, and I knew very few people in the class. So I did what anyone would do in my situation (right?), I announced to the whole class that I planned on visiting a “haunted” cemetery 40 minutes away and needed a ride, and maybe a companion or two. My friend Diane volunteered to go right away so I had a companion, now my plan just needed another teeny tiny little part of the thing …a ride.
Matt to the rescue
No luck. No one took me up on the offer to take hours out of their evening driving us to and from a cemetery in the middle of the forest. Go figure.
Seriously though, I thought people would be clamoring at the chance to go on such an awesome outing but it was quite the opposite reaction. During the first class break multiple people came up to me and advised against my trip to Bachelor’s Grove. They told me me that it was unwise to go out into a strange city. After all anything could happen to me, did I hear about the school kids that were just shot while walking home from school? What exactly that had to do with Bachelor’s Grove I didn’t know, and I wasn’t discouraged.
Another classmate, Gae Lynne, volunteered to come along. So there were three of us now and all we needed was a ride. A little later a new person entered the classroom, Matt. I didn’t know Matt personally but I did know one very important piece of information: Matt lives in Chicago. I looked at Diane and said “Should I ask him? He wasn’t here when I made the announcement so…”
“Oh yes,” she said, “definitely ask him!” So I did.
Without hesitation he said “Sure I’ll take you, when do you want to go?”
So that was that and the next night, Diane, Gae Lynne, Matt, and I were off to Bachelor’s Grove…
Visiting Bachelor’s Grove – in pictures
The future of Bachelor’s Grove … Prison?
While reading up some more on Bachelor’s Grove before posting this blog, I ran across some recent events that have saddened me. It seems a headstone repair group, approached originally to help assist in repairing the cemetery, is pushing for the cemetery to be fenced off for good. This would mean that no one could go in Bachelor’s Grove, ever.
How sad for the families of the people buried here, to have to look in through a fence to see the graves of your loved ones, as if they are in a zoo or prison. I can’t imagine that the deceased would have wanted their resting place caged off from the outside world just because a headstone repair group prefers to keep their work pristine.
I think that fencing off Bachelor’s Grove will invite more crime to the area. The lawful people who want to visit and take care of the place will be shut out, while the mystique and interest of the cemetery for non-law abiding citizens will drastically increase.
I hope I get a chance to visit Bachelor’s Grove again and be able to walk the well worn paths of visitors, and hear the stories of the headstone recovery efforts without being shut out as if the deceased are in prison, never to be freed.
For more information about how to speak out against the efforts to permanently cage in the cemetery, see the right hand side of this website: bachelorsgrove.com.
While wandering through the scenic Jones Point Cemetery in Haines, Alaska, I couldn’t help but notice the wide variety of sounds coming from all around me.
There was the whirring of machines in the warehouse next door, the buzzing of the bees and mosquitoes, and even the beating wings of the eagles that Haines is so famous for.
It was an interesting mix of sounds but I put them out of my mind as I only had a short amount of time and wanted to concentrate on what I was there to do: photographing all the headstones so that the information could be preserved forever.
Going from headstone to headstone I became very focused and didn’t notice anything in particular until some movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention.
I looked up from my camera and saw a man who seemingly came from nowhere. He was dressed in sandals, black pants, a brimmed hat, and a black coat. His long hair and beard obscured his face. But one thing in particular made him stand out, he was holding a guitar.
He walked right over to a bench near me and began playing a gentle tune on the guitar. The notes were halting and unsure at first. After a short while of playing (and watching me, probably wondering what exactly I was doing) he began to sing a slow, sad melody. As he became more comfortable the notes became more sure, his voice louder, until I couldn’t hear the other chorus of noises around the cemetery, and could only hear his sad melody.
The music became a companion to me as I read each headstone, wondering about the person buried there. Who were they? Did they have someone to play them love songs? I also wondered about the mysterious musician. Was this simply a quiet place to practice? To reflect? Or was the slow, sad melody a love song to a dear lost loved one?
After a while I heard the melody stop and I looked up to see which way the stranger was going. But he was already gone, disappearing as mysteriously as he arrived. I can’t help but wish that every visit to a cemetery was accompanied by such beautiful music.
I’m sorry this took so long to post, but here is part two of my visit to the historic Riverside Cemetery in Denver, Colorado. In part one, Teddy’s Ominous Warning, I explained that Riverside Cemetery is Denver’s oldest operating cemetery. The cemetery lost its “handshake agreement” with the city for water rights, and because of this the cemetery no longer has water and many of the trees and plants are dying…
It was easy to forget about Teddy’s warning because I became so engrossed in the beauty of the cemetery. This cemetery was nothing like I’d seen before. On one hand it was much like a wasteland with dead trees, and no more than a few tufts of grass, yet on the other it was like walking through a museum, with the history of Denver spread out as far as one was willing to walk. I knew that four hours was not enough time to take in all the wonder of this place. But I was going to try.
I passed beautiful statuary, monuments, crypts, and tributes. I found large family plots with ornate carved statues marking the final resting place of generation upon generation of Denver settlers. I saw faded headstones that were no longer discernable, monuments whose meanings were unclear, and tributes to soldiers who fought bravely in the Civil War.
One thing that especially caught my eye was the Baker monument. I could see it from the moment I entered the cemetery, and slowly worked my way towards it, taking in the beauty around me, but rarely taking my eyes off of the magnificent white horse.
The horse was standing atop a pedestal, guarding a sheaf of wheat, his tail seemingly blowing in the wind, drawing me in. Years of wear and hot dry weather have taken its toll on the beautiful stallion, but he was magnificent nonetheless.
It turns out that this is the final resting place of Addison Baker. Mr. Baker was a prominent farmer and the owner of Denver’s first fresh water supply, Baker’s Springs. Legend states that he used to deliver all of the water to this cemetery in barrels atop a wagon pulled by his beloved arabian stallion “Ali”. I wonder what Mr. Baker would think of the cemetery if he could see it now.
I went from tree to tree trying to find what little shade I could so as not to burn in the heat. Luckily, every once in awhile, a soft breeze would pass through. It saddened me to see the condition of what were once large lush trees overlooking a long gone green landscape. I couldn’t help but think back to what I read about the trees in the cemetery, and how they were dying and falling down onto the headstones. Almost immediately I remembered Teddy’s warning. Could I hear the groaning and creaking of the trees when the wind hit them just right? Nah…
But as I approached the back of the cemetery I heard a noise behind me in the woods, a rustling that was coming towards me. Instantly the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I became acutely aware of my surroundings. I was almost completely isolated, hidden from the rest of the cemetery by a hill full of three crypts and behind me was a wall of trees marking the edge of the cemetery…this is where the noises were coming from.
I suddenly felt uneasy, what could be behind me in the woods? I tried to convince myself that it must be a squirrel or a rabbit, but it was too loud to be such a small animal. There was no place for me to hide either, unless I wanted to plow through cobwebs and descend the stone steps into the darkness of the crypt in front of me.
I looked into the woods, my eyes darting around to find the source of the noise. Nothing. As I turned to walk further, I heard the rustling again. I would be lying if I said i wasn’t seriously spooked, I realized that if there was something back there, it could easily get to me and no-one would notice.
I told myself I would just take pictures of the last crypt, and then move away from the trees.
The uneasy feeling continued to build up inside of me as I took pictures of the crypt, and the second I heard the rustling noise again I booked it out of there pretty quickly.
I’m not superstitious, but I know there’s no reason to take chances when you’re wandering a cemetery alone, especially since strewn around the crypt area were old beer cans and other signs of habitation by someone who may be in the woods behind me.
I put the rustling out of my mind so as to make the most of my limited time, but there was a problem. The 96 degree sun had been beating down on me the whole time and and it was beginning to take its toll. Now I had a taste of what the cemetery was exposed to day in and day out, all without any source of water. My own source of water, a single water bottle, was fast drying up. I wondered if the old funeral home at the front of the cemetery was open today, and made my way towards the building, hoping for a respite from the scorching heat.
Walking into the building was like taking a breath of fresh air. The table and chairs, and ceiling fan were a much needed break from the immense heat. I was surprised that the building was open and asked the man sitting behind the counter if i could rest for a short time out of the sun.
After a few minutes break, the man, who told me his name is Jay, showed me around the building. I saw the original crematory (a room I didn’t stay in for long) and the original chapel which had been turned into a museum of sorts with black and white photos lining the walls. I could write a whole blog on what I learned about the history of the cemetery, but I’ll save that for another day.
As I was headed back outside, Jay saw my dwindling water bottle and offered to let me fill it with the water cooler in the back. I was very thankful for this opportunity, but felt a little guilty that I was getting water, while those magnificent trees were not.
Later, when I was sure I could no longer take the heat, I decided it was time to call Teddy and ask for a ride back. As the train thundered past me I called the number he had given me.
“Hello?” I could hear the train on the other end of the line.
“Teddy, It’s Jenn, can you come and get me?” I asked.
“Jenn! I already came, I am waiting for train, very long. So glad you are okay, I came to check on you.”
A few short minutes after I hung up the phone he was pulling into the cemetery. He told me that he had gotten a call for another fare in a part of town far away and was afraid that I would get stranded at the cemetery. “Cabs don’t come here” he said “very bad area”.
On the way back Teddy was very happy that I had made it out ok and was excited to hear how my day had gone. I told him about my adventures, about meeting Jay and how he had shown me around, and about how beautiful it had been. If only I was staying in Denver longer I could have enough time to explore all the beauty there.
Just as we were pulling up to the hotel it started to rain. As the raindrops hit the windshield, I smiled. The cemetery did get some water, after all.
Graving is the hobby of:
* exploring cemeteries
* photographing headstones
* recording burials
* discovering genealogy
My name is Jenn and I live in Anchorage, Alaska.
I've had a fascination with cemeteries and genealogy ever since I was a child but never really got into it until I came across a site called Find A Grave.
Once I discovered the Find A Grave project and the hobby of graving I realized that I not only could explore my interests but also help people at the same time.
It feels great to be able to help someone find out where their loved ones are buried and send them pictures of the headstone if they can't visit right away.
I've come across a lot of amazing things and adventures while graving so I decided to start this graving blog so I could share it with you.