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History of Pioneer Memorial Park

Pioneer Days

Pioneer Memorial Park played an integral part in the early days of the small pioneer community of Sequim. It originated as part of John Bell’s 1880, 160- acre homestead. Four acres were split off and sold to Clallam County to be used as Sequim’s first cemetery. The deed to the Sequim Cemetery Association was signed in about 1909. Frequent flooding from Bell Creek caused the association to abandon the property. Living family members were contacted for burial transfers to other cemeteries or at that time, on family farms. Some families could not be located and the individuals and headstones remained on the property. For the next thirty years, the property became overgrown with brush and weeds but still home to a stand of beautiful native Garry Oaks.

Sequim Prairie Garden Club and the City’s First Community Park

In 1951, the newly formed Sequim Prairie Garden Club signed a 99-year lease with the Sequim Cemetery Association. Garden club members, with the help of numerous other service groups and volunteers, created Sequim’s first community park from the abandoned cemetery and named it Pioneer Memorial Park.

Over the following decades garden club members spent hours and days clearing the dense overgrown brush. With the assistance of husbands and the community, the land was leveled and rocks were hauled. The planting areas were designed and a large semi-circle was created along the north side. As cash donations came in, trees, shrubs and flowers were added. The ornamental cherry trees were added to the semi-circle in 1961. The community donated memorial plaques, benches and trees in memory of their loved ones. A donated Carlsborg mill house became the garden club’s headquarters in 1963. Many improvements were made including a major remodeling in 1992. In 1966 the families of Judge Max Church and William Rhodefer created the oval on the south side of the clubhouse. Bill Whitney of Whitney Farms donated over 200 shrubs and evergreens for the area.

Pioneer Memorial Park 1960's

Historical Artifacts in the Park

SPGC has always focused much attention on the history of the community and preservation of the historical artifacts in the park. In 1964, final attempts were made to find the family members of the remaining cemetery headstones. The headstones were ultimately gathered into the southwest corner of the property and placed on a cement slab.

In 1965 an 1893, hand-hewn, pioneer cabin was donated by the Earl Barrett family. The Clallam County Historical Society took on the responsibility of moving it from its original location in Blyn to the park.

In 1966, Cy Frick donated a hand-made Tribal Canoe to be exhibited in the park. Its history was unknown, but after much research club historian Priscilla Hudson discovered the name of the original carver, William E. Penn. The canoe was returned to his niece, Viola Penn Riebe, in a Gifting of the Canoe event held at the park in April 2017. It was restored by members of the Quileute Tribe and relocated to the University of Washington Campus, Olympic National Resources Center in Forks, Washington for display and educational purposes.

Community Involvement in the Park

In 1969, a Jamestown S’Klallam totem carved by tribal elder Harris “Brick” Johnson, was installed in the park. It has been restored by Terry Johnson, nephew of the original carver, and installed in a new location along the park entrance. The tile for the base will be installed later this fall.

In 1972, a stone and plaque were dedicated to commemorate the pioneers who made irrigation possible in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley turning a virtual xeriscape into a viable farming community. In addition, there are benches and picnic tables dedicated to the legacy of individuals and pioneer families located throughout the park.
A beautiful waterfall and pond were built in 1967 to grace the front of the park in part by funds donated by Henry Lotzgesell as a memorial to his wife Hazel. The water was turned off in the 1990’s due to long-term problems with leaking. In 2017-2018, the rockery, waterfall, pond and landscaping have been restored in a collaboration between the City of Sequim and the Sequim Prairie Garden Club.
The Sequim Cemetery Association disbanded in 2001 and the park property was deeded to the City of Sequim subject to the existing lease with the SPGC. In a 2002 amendment, SPGC agreed to continue maintenance of the grounds for the purposes of a park and the clubhouse as a venue for community events. Funds raised by the club through plant, garden, rummage and bake sales; pie socials, bazaars and rentals of the clubhouse are dedicated to the ongoing maintenance of our primary charge, Pioneer Memorial Park.