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