Some might think a cemetery tour a little odd, but a tour of this Boundary County cemetery proved to be quite interesting and enlightening . . .
by Dave and Dottie Gray
Boundary County Museum
On Saturday, October 4, thirty-two people gathered at the historic gates of Grandview Cemetery with the Boundary County Historical Society and the Grandview Cemetery Association for a first-ever tour of the old section of the cemetery.
In 1907, A.J. Kent sold 12 acres of land to the Village of Bonners Ferry for a cemetery. The sale price for the land was $200. The Grandview Cemetery Association was not created until 1921. However, there are known burials as early as 1892. In 1924 the Cemetery Gate was purchased for $600, two brick piers were installed to support the massive gate, and 450 feet of iron fencing was embedded in concrete footings. An iron turnstile was placed for use when the gates where locked. In the fall of 1956, Museum Researcher Howard Kent, was absconded on his way to homecoming float construction and lashed by a rope from the flag pole at the North Side School to this very same gate, as part of freshman initiation, spending at least a portion of the darkness of night tied to the gate.
The Cemetery tour began at the gravesite of Joseph Beeler, a logging contractor and hotel manager at the Kootenai, Kaiser House, and International Hotels, who died in 1901. Sue Kemmis, Curator at the Museum, explained the symbolism of the heart, anchor, gates, and Latin cross all appearing on Beeler’s headstone. She said, “Grave markers are symbols containing carved, sculpted and engraved images and epitaphs informing us of names and dates of birth and death. But tombstone symbols often tell us of a person’s religion, ethnicity, social memberships, occupation, and thoughts on the afterlife.” As the tour wound around various sites, she would explain the symbols and engravings on stones.
Many familiar pioneer names for our area and found at the cemetery include Martin and Minerva Fry, Richard and Justine Fry, Fred Fisher (White Caribou Bar), William Eaton (Eatonville), Doctors Bishop and Fry, William Kinnear (Kinnear building), O.F. and Alice Howe, A.J. and Nelly Kent, the Fitzpatricks, the O’Callaghans, the Brants, the Meddocks, the Hopkins, the Meekers, the Anglens and many, many others.
Linda Morice, former Bonners Ferry Badger and daughter of Don and Leanna Morice traveled from Seattle expressly for this tour, and shared her knowledge of the Northrup Family, one branch on her family tree. Terry Howe, Museum Field Researcher, told about the Howes and Grays of his family, Howard relayed tales about the Kents, and Sue told about her family, the Petersons and Mike and Speed, beloved horses entrusted to the care of George McCormick. Others in the group shared brief bits and tidbits along the way.
Special attention was called to the Veterans who served in wars dating back to the Spanish American War, and possibly even the French and Indian War. American Legion stones were also highlighted with their many emblems: rays of the sun, the wreath, the star, and large and small rings, all of which carry symbolism. Sue pointed out the stones of fraternal organizations with their specific symbolism: International Order of Good Templar (IGOT), Benevolent Protective Order of Elks (BPOE), and Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), Order of Eastern Star (OES), and Fraternal Order of Freemasonry, and the Daughters of Rebekah.
There are mysteries still hidden within Grandview’s historical section. Where might Sue Ng (a Chinese man) and J.F. Cook (a black man)’s graves be? Who might lie within the large, totally unmarked section where old wooden markers apparently have rotted and fallen apart? We know there are graves in unmarked rows. Who are these people?
One single wooden marker is held together by a bungee cord and numerous “temporary” metal markers dot the landscape. Cylindrical shapes sit atop two stones; what significance might they have? And why, on several markers might one find coins? Could this symbolism date back to an old Greek Myth of having to pay the “Ferry Man?” Or is there military significance to pennies, nickels, and dimes left atop markers?
This tour only scratched the surface of the historical stories, symbolism, and mysteries that lie at Grandview. If you missed this tour, you missed a great opportunity to learn about old timers in our area.
The money collected for this tour was divided between the Grandview Cemetery Association and the Museum. Thank you Terry Allen and Ruth Ann Wilson of the Association for being on the tour and answering questions.