Gig Harbor family finds link in Sequim’s Pioneer Memorial Park

SEQUIM — A Civil War veteran family’s search led them to Sequim. While the exact location of his remains are unclear, his family left with some answers — along with a unique, 100-plus-year-old keepsake.

Moore G. Waldron, listed as a private in the 102nd Regiment of the Illinois Infantry (Union) by the National Park Service and other war records, moved with his family from Illinois to Sequim in 1905 and died in 1908. He was buried at Sequim Prairie Cemetery, Sequim’s first cemetery, now the site of Pioneer Memorial Park.

Laura Singer of the Sequim Prairie Garden Club, the organization that takes care of park and clubhouse maintenance and improvements, notes the cemetery was established in about 1885 on 4 acres sold to Clallam County by John Bell of Bell Hill fame.

According to the Washington Interment Association, Sequim Prairie Cemetery had no burials past 1940. Problems with flooding in the area forced the cemetery’s closure in about 1910, Singer said, and cemetery officials began contacting families to encourage them to move remains and/or gravestones to other new cemeteries in the area — including Sequim View Cemetery off Sequim-Dungeness Way and Dungeness Cemetery in Dungeness.

Some families chose to take headstones to farms and family plots in Sequim and Port Angeles, Singer said.

Garden club officials said the cemetery closed in 1920 and the property was abandoned until the club took on the park as a project in 1951.

What garden club officials found spread across those 4 acres were a number of gravestones, many of them in disrepair, leading to a second push to contact families for possible reburial.

The remaining unclaimed gravestones, including those in broken pieces, were moved to a locked, fenced-in area in the 1980s to preserve some history while trying to prevent vandalism; U.S. GenWeb Archives notes that some of the gravestones were vandalized in 1982.

Inside the fence, headstones were placed on a cement base — except for some markers that lay there in pieces.

The headstones were moved, Singer said, but the remains, well, they may remain.

In the early 1950s, garden club officials contacted DeEtta Sprague, Waldron’s granddaughter. According to Singer, Sprague told them the family “wished the stone put in the Legion plot at the other cemetery,” and that garden club notes indicate “the American Legion is going to move it up there.”

Garden club members, however, could find no records or gravestone for Waldron at Sequim View Cemetery, Singer said.

In May of 2016, Oklahoma resident Cheryl England — whose mother-in-law is the great-granddaughter of Waldron’s oldest son, Frank — began helping the family research some genealogical history and discovered Waldron’s Sequim connection via the U.S. GenWeb Archives website.

England then contacted the Sequim Prairie Garden Club about Waldron’s gravestone and whereabouts.

Not much is known about Moore G. Waldron besides what can be culled from family members’ research and official war records.

According to the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, Waldron joined the Union Army in Oneida in Knox County, Ill., on Aug. 6, 1862. A brick mason by trade, he was married at the time, was 6 feet tall and had blue eyes, brown hair and a “light” complexion.

He joined for a three-year stint with the Illinois 102nd but was discharged Feb. 22, 1863, with a disability.

During his stint, the Illinois 102nd marched in pursuit of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg during the Confederate Heartland Offensive, or Kentucky Campaign, in early October 1862.

England’s family research indicates that when Waldron’s oldest son, Frank, got married, he and the family moved from Illinois to Nebraska and then Kansas, where Waldron’s wife, Mary, died. The couple had five children together.

Waldron returned to Illinois, remarried and then moved the family to Sequim in 1905, dying three years later. (According to Army records, he was 28 when he was discharged from the service, making him 72 or 73 at his death.)

In 1910, Frank Waldron and immediate family moved to Pierce County and he died in 1945, six years before the Sequim Prairie Garden Club took on the park project.

This past summer, England and six other family members were able to piece together — quite literally — some of the family history. Within the fenced area at Pioneer Memorial Park, family members didn’t find a complete headstone but were able to piece Waldron’s marker together from piles of broken stone that park officials had moved there years earlier.

Waldron’s descendants asked for permission from the city of Sequim, owners of the park land, to take possession of the original gravestone and replace it with a new one. Within a few short weeks, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Memorial Programs Service had paid for a new gravestone and sent it to Sequim’s Public Works Department.

In late December, Waldron’s new gravestone was installed, and on Jan. 7, family members joined city of Sequim and Sequim Prairie Garden Club officials at the park to bring Waldron’s marker home.

England said she isn’t sure what the family plans to do with the original gravestone just yet.

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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