26th August 2021

Originally published – Bonners Ferry Herald – August 25, 2021
| By Rose Shababy – Staff Writer

Boundary County Museum hosts a new cemetery walk


Susan Kemmis and Dottie Gray of the Boundary County Museum and Historical Society share a love of cemeteries.

“They tell great stories,” Gray said.

Both women love learning about the history of the people who have been laid to rest and, when Gray’s daughter-in-law mentioned a cemetery walk in another town, they knew it was an activity they wanted to offer Boundary County.

The Parker Family Cemetery Tour this Saturday, Aug. 28 will be their seventh since they first started with Grandview Cemetery.

Kemmis pours herself into the research for the tours, learning as much as she can about the cemetery’s permanent residents.

Prepping for the Parker tour took place over the course of about two years. When asked how many hours of work she put in, both women laughed and Kemmis quipped “maybe two,” with Gray quickly adding “maybe less than 1,000.”

Their research, however, filled a thick binder with photos, biographies and other tidbits of information that will all be part of the Parker Family Cemetery Tour.

This tour is a little different than most they’ve hosted. Most of the cemeteries they’ve toured are bigger but the Parker Family Cemetery is exactly what it sounds like: a private cemetery managed by the family. Everyone buried in it is related to the original Parkers, William “W.C.” and Betty Parker.

W.C. and Betty moved to Bonners Ferry from Virginia in 1901. The story goes that they took a train with Spokane, Washington, as their final destination.

However, when the train stopped in Bonners Ferry, they were so struck by the beauty of the area that they got off the train and stayed. W.C. was even quoted as saying that the “railroad still owes him a ticket to Spokane” because of it.

Other tales of W.C. exist, part of the “local color” as Gray phrases it. W.C.’s grandson, Frank Wood Parker, passed down the tale of his grandfather saving the ferry from drifting down the river by lassoing a stump after its guiding cables broke.

Kemmis and Gray were quick to say that they couldn’t confirm or deny the story, but part of what they like about the tours is sharing tales like these and hearing similar stories from attendees, gathering more of that “local color.”

Now, they’re hoping to start collecting those kinds of oral histories, like the Parker’s train ride and the stump lassoing, to add to their archives. Oral histories, sometimes described as “”the first kind of history,” add depth to what can normally be dry, public records, giving listeners and historians a better idea of the attitudes and perceptions of the time.

The Parker Family Cemetery Tour is Saturday, Aug.28 at 1 p.m. Kemmis and Gray recommend that anyone interested in attending the tour show up on time as it will start promptly. Parking is also limited so carpooling is recommended. They also ask that attendees understand that this tour is on private land, so please be respectful of the owners and neighbors.

The Boundary County Museum is located at 7229 Main St., Bonners Ferry, and can be reached at 208-267-7720.

Parker Family Cemetery Walk
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