Calvary Cemetery (Seattle)

  • By Laura Angotti with David Wilma
  • Posted 11/05/1998
  • Essay 978
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Calvary Cemetery, located in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle (from present-day NE 50th to NE 55th streets and from NE 30th to NE 35th avenues) was the city's first major Catholic cemetery. The 40-acre cemetery was dedicated in 1889, the same year as the Great Seattle Fire. It remains active today. In all, more than 40,000 Catholics have been buried there.


In 1884, Father Emmanuel Demanez, chaplain of Providence Hospital, purchased the 40 acres from homesteader John J. Jordan who had homesteaded the property in 1872. The property was bought at the same time as the lot on Capitol Hill that became Holy Cross Cemetery. Holy Cross was the first Catholic cemetery in Seattle.

Calvary Cemetery was blessed December 1, 1889, making it ready to accept burials. Father Louis Schram, Vicar General for the Bishop of Nisqually in the Territory of Washington, dedicated it to serve the Seattle area. In 1904 the land was officially platted as a cemetery. Before streets were graded, caskets and mourners traveled by train to Ravenna Station on the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway to reach the burial ground.

The oldest burial at Calvary is that of William Boyd who died in 1859. Boyd's resting place, like that of many other Seattle pioneers, did not stay put. He was originally buried in the old Seattle Cemetery (now Denny Park at the foot of Queen Anne Hill). His body was then removed to the Holy Cross Cemetery on Capitol Hill (now the site of Seattle Prep High School). All Holy Cross burials, including that of Boyd, were removed to Calvary beginning in 1905.

Soldiers, Priests, Loggers

Burials at Calvary include persons active locally and worldwide as well as veterans of both sides of the Civil War, along with veterans of the Spanish-American War, World War I, and the Boxer Rebellion. Many pioneer loggers belonging to the Woodsmen of the World fraternal organization are buried here, with their motto dum tacit, clamat (While he is silent, he shouts) inscribed on their monuments.

Historical Figures

Notable persons buried at Calvary Cemetery include:

  • Lieutenant Governor John A. Cherberg (1911-1992);
  • Michael J. "Moose" Heney (1864-1910), founder of the Alaska Pacific Railroad;
  • William Pigott (1860-1929) founder of Pacific Car and Foundry Company;
  • Dave Beck (1894-1993), president of the Teamsters union;
  • Giglio N. Gai (1890-1953), founder of Gai's Seattle French Bakery;
  • Edward L. Nordhoff (1859-1899), founder of Bon Marché Department Store.

A Resting Place for Catholics

Calvary is the largest denominational cemetery inside of Seattle and for many years, until room became scarce, it served as the major burial grounds for Catholics in Seattle. Members of area religious orders as well as missionaries and those serving the archdiocese also rest on the grounds.


Thomas Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897," (typescript, dated 1900-1901, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Library, Seattle); Martin Murphy, Superintendent, Calvary Cemetery, "Historical Notes: Calvary Cemetery," (; Dave Wilma Interview with Martin Murphy, May 19, 1999; Laura C. Dalyh, "A Change of Worlds: a History of Seattle's Cemeteries," in Directory of Cemeteries and Funeral Homes in Washington State (Seattle: Washington Internment Association, 1989).

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