Buried in the backwoods near the Bavarian-themed mountain town of Leavenworth is the Old Leavenworth/North Road Cemetery. To get to the cemetery, visitors wind down North Road until reaching the Icicle rail station. Across the road is a dirt driveway that appears to lead to a private orchard. Follow the road past the apple trees, about a half mile uphill, and there rests the century-old cemetery overlooking the nearby railway and Tumwater Mountain.
It’s a small cemetery, easy to miss tucked behind evergreens, and so quiet visitors can hear the pine needles fall in the wind. Most plots are older, but toward the back newer plots from the past decade can be found. Some gravesites are sectioned off by rusted gates, others with cement slabs, and a few are only recognizable by plaques in the cold ground. There are signs of life around the cemetery, though, seen in the blooming floral bouquets or mementos that scatter tombstones of departed loved ones.
It’s a place of mystique and many names. It’s known as the Old Leavenworth Cemetery, the North Road Cemetery and, to some locals, the Pioneer Cemetery, according to Matt Cade, board president of the Greater Leavenworth Museum operated by the Upper Valley Historical Society.
It is believed the Old Leavenworth Cemetery was the town’s first cemetery and is the resting place of its first settlers, according to Cade. As construction of the Great Northern Railroad started during the 1890s, the area began to see its first settlers, mostly miners, fur traders and loggers. In 1906, the town of Leavenworth was officially established, with its founding pioneers buried next to the formative railway.
A year later, the cemetery was sold to the Leavenworth Cemetery Association, a now-defunct organization. Since selling the cemetery in 1907, the city does not coordinate maintenance; rather, the cemetery is owned by those with plots. Family members are responsible for the upkeep of gravesites, but if family members are unable to keep up with the maintenance, the plots are subject to wear and tear over time.
Since the 1980s, the Old Leavenworth/North Road Cemetery has a history of being maintained by faithful volunteers.
“No one is officially involved in it,” said Cade. “It is truly just people that care for the cemetery.”
The cemetery was first read, or documented, by Joanne and Marion Calhoun in 1983. In 1992, Lenard and Bertha Smith of Leavenworth raised funds to lay the gravel road that leads to the plots. The Smiths also started researching gravesites, sifting through old city records, funeral home logs and The Leavenworth Echo newspaper obituaries. The couple’s cemetery sleuthing covers from 1904 through 1956.
Members from the Upper Valley Historical Society and community volunteers have taken on the upkeep, cleaning up the cemetery twice a year since 2014. More information and obituaries of those buried at Old Leavenworth/North Road Cemetery can be found at the Wenatchee Area Genealogical Society.
The Wenatchee World
Wenatchee Area Genealogical Society
Online cemetery records