Hear pioneer history on cemetery tour

By Sara Bruestle | Jun 06, 2012
Photo by: Sara Bruestle Mukilteo Historical Society member Margaret Summitt dials in the phone number for an audio tour at Mukilteo's Pioneer Cemetery. Summitt researched and recorded biographies of those buried at the cemetery for the tour.

Visitors to the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery need only to dial a phone number on their cellphones to hear about the region’s rich history.

The cemetery at 513 Webster St. now has an audio tour on the lives of the pioneers buried there, provided through cellphones or other mobile devices. The tour, which is only a demo, is sponsored by the Mukilteo Historical Society.

Call 585-797-1404 to listen to pre-recorded spoken commentary on the lives of more than 25 individuals and families buried in the cemetery, including Morris Frost and Jacob D. Fowler, the founders of Mukilteo. The stops may be visited in any order.

“These people from all the different parts of the world came out to Mukilteo, and for different reasons,” said MHS member Margaret Summitt, who researched and recorded the information for each of the burials on the tour.

“Some people are still very mysterious to me, and I’m still researching some of these names and looking for information.”

Summitt found information on nearly all of the individuals or families whose graves are marked. About 40 graves are marked; many more were buried in the cemetery without markers.

Learn about Nathaniel Fowler, Jacob’s brother and a Civil War veteran; Daniel Joseph McCormick, who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic; Mortimer Fasset, a U.S. soldier and Civil War deserter; Paul C. Vike, a Norwegian immigrant who was hit by a train; Tokumatsu Shirai, a Crown Lumber mill worker, John H. Davis, the beneficiary of a murder on Hat Island; Mukilteo’s “shady lady, Beatrice DeRosier, and more.

Five individuals – Jack Price, Joe Riley, Jim Riley, Gena Turner and Jack Wheeler – are mentioned in the final stop on the tour. There was no information found on these “Mukilteo historical mysteries.”

The idea for the cemetery tour was Mayor Joe Marine’s. Last year, on Memorial Day, the mayor had asked members of the Historical Society, “When are we going to have a mobile tour?” Exactly one year later – on Memorial Day, May 28 – the MHS unveiled the audio tour.

“I’m all about getting people to understand the history of their community,” Marine said. “We’ve tried to do that in Mukilteo… anything we can do to connect people to their community and help make it theirs, and it’s easier if you know the history.

“I think it ties people to their community better.”

Once a visitor has dialed in, they will be prompted and can enter the corresponding stop number of the grave they’re viewing, to hear the recorded biographies. Visitors are invited to leave a feedback message for each stop or on the overall tour.

Each stop on the tour is about two minutes long; the whole tour takes about an hour.

The phone number for the demo tour is good now through Sept. 27. Mobile tours require ongoing funding, so once the MHS gets funding sources in order, the historical society will acquire its own, local number.

“Mobile tours, I learned, require ongoing funding that most small volunteer organizations, such as historical societies, can’t do by themselves,” Summitt said.

Other historical societies with mobile tours include the Granite Falls Historical Society, the Snohomish Historical Society and Historic Everett. They received funding for their tours through donations and tourism grants. The MHS is looking to do the same.

Summit said that, with enough funding, the historical society could also create a mobile tour for the Mukilteo lighthouse and add photos and video clips to the tours.

The MHS also would like to post a sign at the gate of the cemetery with a map of the grave markers, as some of them are hard to find without landmarks, and post small signs at each of the numbered stops.

“A lot of people in Mukilteo don’t know Pioneer Cemetery exists,” Marine said. “It’s off the beaten path a little bit, but it’s a beautiful place overlooking the water to go there and learn of the history of our founders that are buried there.

“It’s just one more little thing to help us connect to our community.”

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