Seattle’s Potter’s Field

Seattle’s Potter’s Field

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

Known by two names, King County Hospital Cemetery or Duwamish Poor Farm Cemetery, depending on your search engine, Seattle once had a Potter’s Field. When the cemetery was exhumed in 1912, there were 3,280 people buried here. A little less than 800 of those lost souls had known names. 

So what happened to their remains in 1912? Some say they were cremated and the ashes were scattered in the nearby Duwamish River. Others though claim a darker fate; that the dead were thrown in the river without cremation or ceremony. I don’t know the truth, but Seattle’s Georgetown district is known to be haunted. From the Georgetown Castle to Sarah the menacing red-head to the church full of restless souls, KOMO news has a great article on the area. Read it, if you have a few minutes.

Ingo Singh

One of the most remarkable graves at the cemetery was for Ingo Singh, a member of the Sikh religion. His grave was dated 1908, a decade before anyone else of the Sikh religion was known to settle in Seattle. Historians wish they knew his story. So do I. From Wing Luke Museum’s website:

“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?”
A photo of the area in the early 1900s courtesy of Seattle P-I.

This gritty district of Seattle was filled with taverns, houses of prostitution, and a perpetual fog of soot and sawdust due to local industry. If you want to see more photos of the area at the time, refer to Seattle P-I’s website here. 

The Duwamish Poor Farm Cemetery held over 3,000 souls, that’s 3,000 stories we will never hear. What we do know is that many died without any family to claim their bones. They mostly died destitute, and King County put them to rest. Or did they? 

Now, King County is doing something different with the remains of the unclaimed dead. NPR did a story about it. After cremation, a small boat with a handful of volunteers sets sail on the Puget Sound. Prayers and words of love are spoken to the wind and ashes are scattered over choppy waters. It’s beautiful, but I also feel sad about it. Maybe we should raise a collective monument on the shores of the Puget Sound? I’d like to leave them flowers.

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Seattle’s Potter’s Field

  1. Great post, Jennifer. Where is Georgetown? Geri and I lived in Renton for a few years and I think the Duwamish River flowed through Tukwila or somewhere around there.

    1. Hi Larry! It’s in South Seattle – near the infamous “Green River” and nearby Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field (where the Mariners and Seahawks play!) I’m so glad you still keep up with my little blog. Let me know if you are near Seattle. I’d love to see you.

  2. Potter’s fields are always such sad places, aren’t they? Often you find out things about your community you really don’t want to know

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