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Sunnyside up! Pioneer cemetery serves Washington’s oldest city

by John Fannin COUPEVILLE – For nearly 150 years Sunnyside Cemetery has dotted the landscape near Coupeville, the first city formed in Washington state. During a visit to Whidbey Island this summer we went to Sunnyside Cemetery looking to see if some of my wife’s ancestors were buried there. Instead, we found a charming, quaint and not-at-all scary graveyard. At least during the day. But who knows what ghouls may lurk during the night hours of this Halloween season? But I digress. Sunnyside Cemetery gets its name because, according to tradition, the headstones – many of them elegant and Victorian - face the same direction overlooking the sunny farmland of Ebey’s Landing. Now a national historic preserve, the landing takes its name from Isaac Ebey, Whidbey Island’s first homesteader, who in 1857 was beheaded by the Kake Indians. A scouting project about 10 years ago helped restore the Isaac Ebey marker and those of his family at the cemetery, which are now set aside by a white picket fence. For more on this cemetery and the slice of Washington pioneer life it offers visit sunnysidecemetery.org.

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Sunnyside Cemetery serves primarily Coupeville and the Central Whidbey Island area. A list of all those interred in the nearly 150-year-old cemetery is at sunnysidecemetery.org.

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This ornate fixture in the Sunnyside Cemetery’s Engle Pearson Lot is representative of the many Victorian style markers at the cemetery.

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‘Gone but not forgotten’ reads the tombstone for Jacob Jenne, framed by an iron-gated entrance covered in ivy. Jenne’s home still stands in Coupeville and is today a bed and breakfast. According to the Island County Historical Society, Jenne operated a hotel so popular for its cigars, wines and liquors that its bar extended into the adjacent building….which housed a temperance organization.

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A landmark at Sunnyside Cemetery, the Davis Blockhouse was built as a log cabin in 1853, then converted into a blockhouse for security purposes after Isaac Ebey was beheaded in 1857. Adjacent to the blockhouse is a marker for Mary Barrett, written in both English and Gaelic.

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A tradition at Sunnyside Cemetery near Coupeville is that nearly all of the markers face sun-splashed farmland that today makes up Ebey’s Landing.


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