2019 Auburn’s Pioneer Cemetery Rededication

Dedication Ceremony and Celebration Event Planned for Auburn’s Historic Pioneer CemeteryCemetery honors early pioneers and Japanese American Families


White River Buddhist Temple, White River Valley Museum, Pioneer Cemetery, City of Auburn, Auburn wa,
Pioneer Cemetery | Photo courtesy City of auburn

The City of Auburn, in partnership with the White River Valley Museum, Mountain View Cemetery, White River Buddhist Temple and Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple, is hosting a dedication event at Auburn’s historic Pioneer Cemetery on August 22 from 6-7 p.m. The event will celebrate the restoration projects that have taken place at this important historic site and will include a greeting from Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus and an invocation and dedication of the newly restored Tora Kato monument from the White River and Seattle Buddhist temples.

Pioneer Cemetery was officially established in the 1860s and has gone by many names in the past: Faucett Cemetery, the Cemetery at Slaughter, the Japanese Cemetery and the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery. It sits on the busy corner of Auburn Way and 8th Street, but inside its gates is a story of dedication, perseverance, and reverence.

The cemetery has two main sections — early pioneering families and Japanese American families. It is a unique location with a rich history that includes stories of homesteading, immigration and dreams of a better life. In 2016, the cemetery became a King County and City landmark and in 2017 the White River Valley Museum worked with citizen volunteers, officials from the City of Auburn’s Parks, Arts, and Recreation Department, and Hoshide Wanzer Architects to create a master plan for its restoration. Restoration projects completed to-date include new walkways, interpretive signage, a gathering space and the restoration of the Tora Kato monument.

White River Buddhist Temple, White River Valley Museum, Pioneer Cemetery, City of Auburn, Auburn wa,
Looking into Pioneer Cemetery | Photo courtesy City of Auburn

In the late 1930s, a commemorative monument was installed to honor the passing of Tora Kato and her four children whose lives were tragically taken by their father. During the height of anti- Japanese sentiments during WWII the Jizo statues that were attached to the monument were defaced or stolen. Jizo are Japanese Buddhist figures that are traditionally thought of as guardians who assist women and children. One of these statues was returned in the ’80s, leaving three empty spots. In the spring of 2018, three replacement Jizo were imported and installed on the newly stabilized monument.

Pioneer Cemetery restoration projects were made possible with funding from 4Culture, the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, as well as generous contributions from the Japanese American community.