Monday, July 29, 2013

Cemetery Tales - Pataha Flat

I decided to take a drive Sunday afternoon…you might say my destination was a familiar one – at least on the surface.  Throughout my lifetime, I have driven through Pomeroy from Lewiston going west mostly to Canby, OR.  As a youngster, it was merely a landmark on a long car trip…today, it is much more.  I recognize a place that was a home to some of my family members.

Pomeroy, WA is the only incorporated town in Garfield Co., WA.  It became a town in May 1878 and was officially incorporated on 3 Feb 1886.  Garfield Co., WA is the smallest county in the state of Washington in terms of population.  It is a lovely little town full of old homes, old buildings with character and one of the most beautiful court houses in the area.  It is also the place where my great grandparents moved to after living up on Grouse Flats in neighboring Wallowa Co., OR.  They went there so their son could graduate from high school (Jasper James “Jack” Friddle) and was also the place that several members of the Friddle family lived.  It is interesting to note that my sister-in-law’s family also came from the Pomeroy, WA area as well.  As I have learned more about my families’ history, I recognize the significance of this little town.
Garfield County, Washington Courthouse


Two Views of the Pataha Flat Schoolhouse
Pataha Flat - Established 1865
One of the first times that I can remember going to Pomeroy as a destination to somewhere other than further west…Mom and I learned that her step-father’s family were buried up at the Pataha Flat cemetery which is a few miles outside Pomeroy.  As you climb the hill towards Pataha Flat, you experience what is like living in the Palouse hills.  There are many communities that rest at the bottom of a valley and farmland encompasses the hills surrounding the region.  It is truly some of the best farm land in the world and during the hot July afternoon it was obvious that wheat harvesting was well under way.  Usually you can look around 100 miles in several directions on a clear day and see several landmarks clearly…but not on Sunday.  The dust from harvesting and the few grass fires that have occurred during the past week have created a haze on every horizon.  When I reached the top of the ridge, I looked for the old schoolhouse. To my sorrow the old schoolhouse doesn't look so good anymore.  It is probably around 100 years old and was probably in use up until the advent of electricity.  Perhaps it was even around before the turn of the century and my step grandfather’s relatives attended the school.  It is a landmark that signals that is time to turn east and head a few hundred feet down to the Pataha Flat cemetery. 
Jesse Green Shearer -
My Step Grandfathers - Grandfather
Joel Sturges Shearer - Jesse Green's father

The first time we visited this cemetery we looked around and until we found the cache of Shearer graves.  It was there we saw my step grandfather’s grave as well as that of his father.  Also in the same area were several Crumpacker graves but that of Cassandra Arrasmith Crumpacker didn't seem to be around there.  We took pictures of the Shearer graves and then headed home.  After we headed home, it was time to do a bit more research on the family.  Initially family legend said that Cassandra Arrasmith had been killed along the Oregon Trail…however; this didn't seem to be the case.  With a little research, I found that Cassandra Arrasmith was originally married to William Crumpacker on 21 Dec 1843 in Linn, Osage Co., MO.  They were the parents of nine children and after his death on 3 Mar 1862; Cassandra gave birth to twin girls on 20 Jul 1862.  Within a year, she gathered her children and began her trek across the Oregon Trail.  Within a short time after her arrival in the Washington territory, Cassandra married B. F. Newland and on 3 Mar 1876, she married Schuyler Woolery.  Finally on 23 Jun 1889, Cassandra married John Lewis Tewalt, her daughter’s father in law…so knowing this, I made another trip to Pataha Flat and searched to find Cassander Tewalt in the Pataha cemetery.   It took me a while to find the middle two husbands, but finding this grave was definitely proof that Cassandra didn’t die on the Oregon Trail during her journey west.
Cassandra Arrasmith Tewalt's Grave

So, there in the tiny country cemetery are my step grandfather’s relatives.  I’m sure he must have known about them, but I don’t ever recall him going there.   The biggest mystery that I had after untangling Cassandra’s life was wondering what had happened to Jesse Green Shearer.  I knew that he had died young by his gravestone and left his wife, Mary Crumpacker a widow at the age of 26.  It wasn't until this past year when I located Mary Crumpacker Shearer Earl’s obituary that I discovered that Jesse Green Shearer had died of pneumonia.  It is surprising to note that the Pataha Flat Cemetery is still an active cemetery and there are still burials that have been made there during the last 20 years.  After a perusal of some of the newer burials, I find that I am going to have to make another trip perhaps in the spring.  I just discovered another cousin buried there.  When I visited Sunday, I didn’t walk through the cemetery – too much grass and much too cautious of the possibility of snakes.  I suspect I will have to until Memorial Day next spring, when it is ready for visitors to see if I can locate that cousins’ grave!