Welcome to the McCool Cemetery History Website

Because of overcrowding at the city’s first Catholic cemetery established near the corner of 6th and Alder in 1859, a plot of land known as the McCool Cemetery was dedicated by Rev. Father Mans(1) in 1867 and acquired from Robert McCool in 1869, measuring 450′ x 152′(1,2,3,5,6). After overcrowding there as well, in October 1891 a new Catholic Cemetery was purchased adjoining the Mountain View municipal cemetery on Second Avenue, and the Church requested descendants of those buried in the old cemetery to move all remains to the new cemetery(1).

McCool Cemetery

McCool Cemetery

On October 31, 1969, on the assumption that all burials there had been removed to the new cemetery, the Catholic Bishop of Spokane sold the McCool Cemetery ground to developers.(3) Official records show fewer than half of the several hundred Catholic burials at McCool to be reinterred at Mt. View.(4)

Survey of the expanded McCool Catholic Cemetery showing archaeological excavations, January 2003. Data provided by Tomkins Land Surveying

In the 1970s, during construction of Pine Crest Village and Village Way, human remains were encountered in the street and on residential lots. From 2002-05, professional archaeological excavations documented the presence of additional burials both inside and outside the boundaries of the deeded cemetery.(1,5,6) In accordance with Washington State law (RCW Chapter 68.60, and RCW 68.40.40), once five or more sets of human remains are discovered on a property, the property is considered a dedicated cemetery and is protected from disturbance. As required by law, the boundaries of the originally deeded cemetery have therefore been expanded to incorporate the area where additional burials have been found. All of the site is now protected from further disturbance by Washington’s Historic Cemeteries and Graves Act, unless and until all remaining graves are removed as provided for in RCW 68.24.090.

Partial church records show 159 persons buried at McCool during the period October 1869 to July 1872, and January 1884 to October 1891 who are not listed as reinterred at Mountain View Cemetery.(4) Burial records from 1872-1883 were not available and are not included. A list of the 159 persons not shown as reinterred is available by clicking here and is also in the Additional Resources box on this page, along with excerpts from archaeological investigations of the site in 2002 and 2004, proposed signage to be placed at the site by Walla Walla 2020, and a printable Historic McCool Cemetery brochure.

Markers & Ownership

2013 Aerial view with superimposed survey of the original McCool Catholic Cemetery of January 2003, courtesy of Reiss-Landreau Research and Tomkins Land Surveying.

The land comprising the Historic McCool Cemetery is currently in four ownerships.

The large Eastern portion of the cemetery is owned by Traditions at Walla Walla, LLC, a Spokane-based firm which operates the adjacent Affinity retirement facility. An unmarked path leads up to the cemetery from that facility. Most of the western portion of the cemetery is owned by Pinecrest Village, Inc, which developed the adjacent condominiums and streets. Other than one private residence, the balance of the cemetery consists of a portion of the street and adjacent public right of way owned by the City of Walla Walla.(1,3,5,6)

Before the land was sold by the Catholic Diocese of Spokane in 1969, all of the gravestones had been removed from the cemetery over the nearly one-half century of abandonment.

The Walla Walla 2020 citizens group has proposed to identify the unmarked cemetery with appropriate signage, at the citizen group’s expense. Traditions has so far refused to allow any marking of its portion of the cemetery. The Pinecrest Village, Inc. developer has also stated it will not allow placement of a marker on its portion of the cemetery at present. Walla Walla 2020 has been successful in obtaining permission from the City of Walla Walla for placement of a roadside marker on the city’s portion of the historic cemetery.


Footnotes

  1. “An Assessment of the Boundaries of The Old Catholic Cemetery near Walla Walla, Washington,” Catherine E. Dickson, Cultural Resources Protection Program, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
  2. “Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest—Walla Walla and Frenchtown,” Harriet D. and Adrian R. Munnick, Banford & Mort Publishing, Portland, Oregon
  3. Walla Walla County Auditor and Walla Walla County Assessor Records
  4. A comparison of Catholic Church Records, St. Patrick’s Parish, Walla Walla, and City of Walla Walla, Mt. View Cemetery Records, by Dan Clark
  5. “Archaeological Review of a Proposed Development on Village Way in Walla Walla, Washington,” Christopher A. Landreau, Reiss- Landreau Research, 2002
  6. “Ground Penetrating Radar Investigation of the Old Catholic Cemetery in Walla Walla, Washington,” Shawn Steinmetz, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, 2004