The First Tombstone in Snohomish

Tombstone for Woodbury Sinclair, c. 1876


The sad story begins with his sudden death in 1872, just after Woodbury and his wife Mary Low had platted the eastern section of the town site newly named “Snohomish.” Their two small children, Clarence and Mabel, inherited the Sinclair land holdings, with their mother acting as the executor.

So, acting on behalf of the children, Mary donated three acres alongside the Pilchuck River for a cemetery, since the young town had no place for public burials. The Snohomish Cemetery Association was legally established in 1876. After four years, Mary finally had a registered resting place for her husband’s remains. She ordered a marker of white stone from Seattle, and Woodbury’s tombstone (pictured here) is considered to be the first one in Snohomish City.

Along with the her husband, Mary included the remains of their first born, Alvin, who died within a month of Mary’s arrival in Snohomish, he was barely two months old in 1865.

Accounts of Snohomish’s first cemetery describe a picturesque, park like setting with a white metal picket fence and a gateway with swinging gates. A black arch above read “Snohomish Cemetery” in white letters.

With the establishment of the G. A. R. (Grand Army of the Republic) cemetery west of town in 1898, the small cemetery alongside the river was no longer used, then neglected and forgotten. In the 1940s it was divided for the extension of Second Street to connect with Highway 2. Supposedly, the remains were moved to the G. A. R cemetery, but not the Sinclairs, according to the records. Even Woodbury’s tombstone was left behind, as it was vandalized in the thirties and eventually rescued by the Historical Society.

One day, I hope to take a “now” picture of the stone in its new setting, alongside a monument to Mary Low, and the other founding pioneers that shaped early Snohomish.

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, October 21, 2009.

Learn more about Mary Low Sinclair at

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