Although the remains of more than 40,000 people are laid to rest in Walla Walla’s Mountain View Cemetery, 2120 S. Second Ave., its grounds are alive with sights to please visitors out for a stroll or bike ride. Birds and wildlife, such as deer, foxes and raccoons can often be spotted there.
Cemeteries aren’t the most obvious place to enjoy time outdoors, but they can be peaceful places for a walk and fascinating to explore for their historical, sometimes famous “residents” and interesting grave markers.
Burials at Mountain View date from the 1850s. Expert stonecutters carved some of its oldest headstones of marble and granite, some that came from Italy.
More than 1,000 trees shade the site, many surpassing 100 years old. A walk along the lanes can take 20 minutes to several hours depending on interest.
Look for special features on headstones. Many are decorated with art, sculptures, flowers and other special symbols that reflect those buried there.
A virtual symbol discovery tour is in the planning stages, set for June, said cemetery employee Joanna Lanning. Participants would register online at wwpr.us to access details.
Now under the care of the city of Walla Walla, the cemetery is the union of burial grounds formerly owned by the Masonic Lodge, International Order of Odd Fellows and Catholic Church.
It has sections for children, veterans, Chinese and Jewish residents and a mausoleum. It is one of the oldest municipal cemeteries in the state of Washington, the city website notes.
All burial records are available online.
Self-guided tour brochures for points of interest and information cards detailing headstone symbols are at a kiosk located next to the office. Dogs are not allowed on the premises.
A number of burial plots in Walla Walla, Columbia and Umatilla counties are inaccessible because they’re on private property, but among area cemeteries open to the public are the following:
- Athena Cemetery, 50900 Sherman St., Athena. 541-566-3862.
- Blue Mountain Memorial Gardens, 300 NE Myra Road, College Place. Founded in 1968. Records on site. 509-529-0703.
- Newland/Pioneer Cemetery, U.S. Highway 12, west of Dayton. Created in 1863. Dayton founders Jesse and Elizabeth Day are buried there.
- Dayton City Cemetery, Eckler Mountain Road off Fourth Street, Dayton. Records are housed at Dayton City Hall, 111 First St. 509-382-2361.
- Dixie Cemetery, Petty Bone Road, Dixie.
- Fort Walla Walla Military Cemetery, in Fort Walla Walla Park off Myra Road. A historical site established in 1858. The oldest known burial was of Pvt. Jacob Leonard, Company B, 9th Infantry. The cemetery includes soldiers from most of the regiments that served at the Fort. Burials also include soldiers killed during the Nez Perce War in the battles of Cottonwood and White Bird canyons, Idaho. Also buried there are an unnamed Nez Perce Indian, an unknown Indian prisoner, an unknown Indian person and soldiers’ spouses and children.
- Ivy Cemetery, 7641 state Route 124, Prescott.
- Milton-Freewater Cemetery, 54700 Milton Cemetery Road, Milton-Freewater, 541-938-5224.
- Mount Hope Cemetery, 1892 Suncrest Terrace, College Place, 509-386-2929.
- St. Rose Cemetery, Frenchtown Historic Site, 8364 Old Highway 12, Walla Walla. For more details, see frenchtownwa.org.
- Touchet Cemetery, off U.S. Highway 12, turn south on Byrnes Road ½ mile, turn left at Touchet Cemetery sign, cross railroad tracks, travel 4/10 mile past a big barn. Earliest burial 1875.
- Valley Chapel Cemetery, 66 Valley Chapel Road, Walla Walla.
- Waitsburg Cemetery, East Sixth Street, Waitsburg.
- Walla Walla County Poor Farm Cemetery, 1448-1466 SE Sandpiper Lane, College Place, historical landmark.
- Weston Cemetery, Weston Cemetery Road, founded 1871, Weston.