Northwest NEWS

August 31, 1998


Secret tribal cemetery lies In Carnation back yard

   by Oscar Roloff
   Many years ago I began scouring the Eastside in search of feature work for area newspapers. This included Lower Snoqualmie Valley residents as well. Soon I knew them all. They became my friends. They were old timers and today they are gone. Most are in cemeteries.
   I really couldn't handle all of the stories that abounded. I was in the field alone.
   I kept getting a hunch that there was a top notch story somewhere in the Carnation area. It used to be called Tolt. Later it was changed to accomodate Carnation Dairy Farms.
   I ran across a local man, one of Carnation's leading citizens. For a long time he talked about the area, but actually said little.
   One day he said, "Oscar, there is a secret Indian cemetary here in Carnation. Few know it. I'm one who knows and I keep it quiet."
   Getting me to one side, the man who asked not to reveal his name in this article (this was 20 or so years ago) began, "Before the turn of the century, Indians roamed this land and settled here. They traveled and hunted at will and lived here. Soon they started a cemetary to take care of their deceased ..."
   The group found a likely spot and fenced it in to keep out intruders. Shallow were the buriel sites. The deceased were placed there with all of their belongings, which included war items such as spears, bows, arrows, axes, and such with other personal belongings.
   When a well known tribe member was buried, the few settlers living close by were asked to place a silver dollar on the dead man's chest.
   After being covered with earth, a few rocks with markings on them were placed at the head of the grave. Over the years the markers disappeared and eventually no trace was left of the cemetary.
   Then, in the early part of the new century the burials there ceased.
   Soon, more settlers came to the area and the tribes moved out of the area. House sites were marked off and small houses were built. They had gardens and enjoyed their new land.
   They had small hand-dug gardens that were not too deep. They didn't know of the dead below. Really unusual.
   On one of my weekly trips to Fall City, criss-crossing the Valley through Carnation to have coffee, cake and cookies, I ran into my Carnation friend who said, "Oscar, follow me."
   We came to a small crossing and stopped. He said, "Soon as the coast is clear, we will cross over. I'll walk to the front door of that house there. You go ahead to the corner of the house and wait. If a man comes to the front door, I'll offer greetings and come around to join you and we'll walk on. If no one comes, I'll join you and we will go to the back yard, open the gate and enter. Be quiet. Then I'll point downward to the vegetable garden area. The graves are there. Don't dig or make a fuss."
   We left and since then have never returned.
   Also, during this same period of the 1950s, I ran across a man in his 90s. I'd sit on the front steps of his old house and listen to the fascinating tales of the past when he was a young kid there.
   I had a tape recorder that never worked, one of the cheap kinds. Boy, did I lose history. Now it's lost forever because my memory is getting sketchy. And of course he's long since hit the dust. A fine old-timer.
   Yes, I took photos when the house man wasn't there. But when I made a print, in the background one could see a huge barn. That photo if used would give away the secret Indian grave site.
   After years I decided to burn the negatives. My wife knew of the site when a long time ago I took her there and pointed it out. Recently she said, "Golly, I can't recall the site. It is so confusing." So I guess that leaves me alone.
   The other day my Carnation friend said, "I've kind of forgotten now where the graves are located.
   Maybe city records on house building permits indicate it, but that was so long ago. Maybe a strong metal detector. Well, I personally hope the site is left as is.
   I've had a slight stroke, and can't drive so I won't be out to Carnation to dig up anything.