Roslyn’s 19-acre cemetery complex encompasses 26 separate, historic cemeteries formed in the late 1800s by local ethnic and civic lodges to provide for the burial of their members. Between 1886 and 1929, workers came from countries such as Italy, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia as well as England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to work in the mines. These immigrants maintained the traditions of their homeland, as seen in the historic Roslyn Cemetery with its 26 individual ethnic and lodge cemeteries. Many Roslyn residents today are descendants of these immigrant miners.
At least 24 nationalities are represented among the nearly 5,000 graves. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), Knights of Pythias Lodge, Soloka Lodge, Wanapum Tribe 28, Improved Order of Redmen, Cacciatori d’Africa (literally Hunters of Africa – an Italian Lodge), Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge No. 56, SNF Lodge No. 79 (Croatian), St. Barbara Lodge No. 39 (Greek Catholic), and Dr. David Starcevich Lodge No. 56 (Croatian) are among the organizations and ethnicities represented at the cemetery.
Stories of the people buried on the grounds are told through gravestones, ethnic icons and artwork, epithets, carvings – even some photographs. Burial practices recorded here provide a glimpse into individual lives as well as ethnic cultures reaching back to ‘old world’ countries. Locals say, “Every grave has a story to tell.” For example, the gravesites of 45 miners killed in a mine explosion in 1892, the largest mining disaster in state history.
Some Slavic graves are marked by beautiful metal-worked Eastern Orthodox crosses, while the Croatian cemeteries contain raised plots. The Polish graves face due North while all others face East. Many people travel here from other states and countries to unearth ancestral and cultural stories.
Buried in the African-American section, is the first black woman schoolteacher in Washington, Mrs. Thelma DeWittig. She followed the black migration of folks who came to work in the coal mines.
The entire city of Roslyn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and warrants exploration. Take time to wander the streets to see turn-of-the-century commercial buildings containing active businesses. These false-fronted wooden buildings are typical of western towns from the late 1800’s with their tall, narrow profiles and unpainted wood. Roslyn’s residential neighborhoods are also worth exploring as most of the houses date from Roslyn’s boom days of 1888-1914, and have a definite Victorian flavor.
Many Northern Exposure episodes, a popular 90s television series, were filmed in Roslyn.
Here is a descriptive video from the Roslyn Cemetery Beneficial Association: