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Duwamish Poor Family Cemetery - Seattle

The Washington Cemeteries webpages reflect a special project conducted by Cassie Chinn, The Wing's Deputy Executive Director, in Winter 2016.

The King County Hospital was located near the intersection of Corson Avenue and Lucile Street in Seattle’s Georgetown. Courtesy of HistoryLink.org.
 

Potter's Field

When Lake View Cemetery was incorporated on October 16, 1872 to become the final resting place for city founders like the Borens, Dennys, Dr. and Mrs. Maynard, and banker Dexter Horton, what became of those without the means (either in money or in family support) for a formal gravesite? Known as the Duwamish Poor Farm Cemetery, a potter’s field, paupers’ grave or common grave was established in 1876 as a burial place for the unknown and the poor. It was located on a knoll overlooking the Duwamish River at the King County Hospital and Poor Farm.

The cemetery remained until 1912 when 3,260 graves were exhumed and cremated, ashes reportedly scattered in the Duwamish itself. (See the article “Instead of Potter’s Field” for a modern-day example.) Only 855 had names and dates on their headboards. Here are the recognizable Asian American names:

- Charlie Chen (b. and d. unknown)
- Infant Fukura (d. February 21, 1912)
- T. Mishida (d. January 29, 1902)
- T. Mishida (d. October 1907)
- CHK Sing (d. March 17, 1909)
- Ingo Singh (d. June 10, 1908)
- Infant Sukada (d. February 3, 1911)
- I. Tanabe (d. December 28, 1904)
- Charles Wing (d. December 9, 1909)
- Chin John Yin (d. November 10, 1903)
- Infant Yoshijima (d. March 28, 1912)

What stories could these early pioneers tell of their experiences in King County? And what tragedy fell the two Japanese American infants? Though their stories may never be known, we remember and honor their presence in the developing region.

Ingo Singh

One name especially stands out in the listing. Amidst the perhaps more expected Chinese and Japanese American names, reflecting early immigrant waves among Asian Pacific Americans, Ingo Singh was also buried in the Duwamish Poor Farm Cemetery.

Singh is a distinct Sikh last name. According to religious practice, all Sikh men use “Singh” meaning a lion as their last names. Few know of the Sikh Community’s early history in the Pacific Northwest, dating back over 100 years. For those who do know, most associate the Sikh Community with lumber mills and railroads in more rural areas. Yet, here we find record of a Sikh man in Seattle before 1908.

What brought him to Seattle? How long had he been here? On September 4, 1907, Bellingham witnessed the “Anti-Hindu Riots” with a mob of approximately 500 men attacking Sikhs and forcibly removing them from town. Could Ingo Singh have fled Bellingham and headed south, staying in Seattle rather than continuing on to California, like many others? Or maybe he was heading north from California when the Anti-Hindu Riots took place and decided to stay in Seattle instead?

His story too is yet untold. But his presence in a potter’s field opens the door to new understanding of Pacific Northwest history.

Learn more about the Sikh Community in the Pacific Northwest here. The Gurudwara Sikh Centre of Seattle provides helpful guidance for all visitors. The Gurudwara Singh Sabha of Washington also maintains an active YouTube channel with live streaming.


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