Lynden Cemetery breaks new ground; named to state list of historic places

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 9, 2014 

LYNDEN - With its pioneer residents, its deep roots in the community, and its veterans from the Civil War to contemporary battles, there's no question that Lynden Cemetery is historic.

Now it's official.

The active cemetery at Front Street and Guide Meridian was recently added to the Washington Heritage Register, a list of historically significant sites throughout the state.

"We have a community treasure here," said Dick Decima, a commissioner for Cemetery District 10, which oversees Lynden Cemetery as well as Greenwood Cemetery. "It's a prestigious award."

Counting Lynden, 21 cemeteries are now on the state register. Lynden is the first one in Whatcom County to make the list.

Decima said no decision has been made whether to try to place Lynden Cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places. Four Washington cemeteries are already on the federal list.

Being on the state list can provide properties with extra protections and can help them make a stronger pitch when seeking grants, but the main benefits are prestige and public recognition. While Lynden is the first Whatcom cemetery so honored, others, such as Bayview Cemetery, likely qualify, Decima said.

"They simply haven't asked for the distinction," he said.

A plaque citing the state honor will be installed soon, an extra garnish for the Lynden and Greenwood cemeteries' 125th anniversaries this year.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of Cemetery District 10. Before voters created the district, Lynden Cemetery was owned and operated by the Masonic lodge in Lynden, in conjunction with the International Order of Odd Fellows.

Lynden began as a settlement in 1871 and was established as a city three years later by pioneer couple Holden and Phoebe Judson.

The first person buried at the future site of the cemetery was Anna Goodell, Phoebe's mother, in 1881. That was eight years before the cemetery was established and a decade before Lynden was incorporated.

Phoebe Judson's family donated land to help establish the cemetery. Widely known as the "Mother of Lynden," she is buried there next to her husband, the town's first mayor.

The cemetery also is the resting place for Ellen Violinda Booman-Nelson, who died at the age of 108 in 2001. She was the last living person to have been delivered at birth by Phoebe Judson, and is the longest-lived person buried in the cemetery.

Along with the Judsons, there are 122 other pioneers buried at the cemetery, with their dates of birth reaching back to 1812 and their dates of death extending into the 1970s.

While a historic site, Lynden Cemetery has made modern moves in recent years, such as computerizing its records, using radar to locate empty and unmarked graves, and installing informational barcodes on grave markers of prominent pioneers.

"We've been working hard to enhance the appearance and the name of both the Lynden and the Greenwood cemeteries," Decima said.

CEMETERY TOURS

Free tours of Lynden Cemetery will be offered at 1 p.m. Saturdays from the last week of May through the last week of October. Tours are led by guides dressed in period costume and start at Cemetery District 10's office in the middle of the cemetery.

Reach DEAN KAHN at dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2291.

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