Lake Tapps cemetery given rightful name

A piece of history was restored on June 4 during a renaming ceremony hosted by the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society at a 125-year-old cemetery.

A piece of history was restored on June 4 during a renaming ceremony hosted by the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society at a 125-year-old cemetery.

The cemetery was donated by Daniel Orcutt in 1889 before Washington gained statehood. For many years, the land was known as Lake Tapps Cemetery, but over time  the headstones, including Fadola and Lappenbusch family members, were forgotten.

A hiker stumbled upon the burial ground in 2008 and referred to it as Dieringer Cemetery, according to the Heritage League of Pierce County.

For several more years, it was left unmarked, covered in dense vegetation and in general disrepair, said Bonney Lake historian Winona Jacobsen.

A troop of boy scouts adopted the cemetery and cleaned it up, erecting a sign in the process which identified it as the “Dieringer Pioneer Cemetery” according to the Heritage League.

However in 2012, Jacobsen and Roger Hunt, an ancestor of Orcutt,  began the task of researching its true history and rightful name. Hunt approached Pierce County and convinced the park board to honor the site’s historical significance and properly name it the Lake Tapps Pioneer Cemetery.

The following is Roger Hunt’s family story of the Lake Tapps Pioneer Cemetery:

By Roger Hunt

Special for the Courier-Herald

My family, the Orcutts, came west from Kansas over the Oregon Trail in 1882, settling right here. All of the land around this little cemetery north of 40th Street is land that was originally owned by my family.

We homesteaded 400 acres and purchased an additional 160 acres from the Northern Pacific Railroad. My family became hop farmers and at that time the Puyallup Valley and the Lake Tapps Plateau were the most productive hop lands in the world. The success realized by my family, and other hop growers, attracted more and more homesteaders to the area, and by the end the 1880’s over 100 people lived in the little community of Lake Tapps.

Daniel Orcutt, my three times great grandfather, his oldest son, Alvin, and their neighbor,  Amos Crawford, were very community minded. In 1889 they decided that there needed to be more infrastructure to support their growing community.

• At the time it was a very rough five miles to the nearest post office in Sumner, so they

applied to the U.S. Government for their own post office and in 1890 Amos Crawford was appointed the first postmaster for Lake Tapps.

• The children of the area needed a school, so Alvin Orcutt donated land to the newly formed Lake Tapps School District for a new clapboard school house. That school house was located just up the road where 40th intersects with 218th.

• And the community also needed a cemetery, so Daniel Orcutt donated one acre to Pierce County to be used “as a public burying ground only… forever.”

In the 1890’s an infestation by a little bug, called the hop louse, destroyed hop farming in the area and many of the original homesteaders, including my family, moved away but the next generation of settlers continued to use this little cemetery for another 50 years.

As that second generation also died or moved the cemetery was forgotten and became overgrown with blackberry vines. Over time the town of Lake Tapps was assimilated into the larger communities of Buckley and Bonney Lake, but the forgotten little cemetery still existed.

Then, in 2008, the headstones were spotted by a hiker who posted the coordinates on a website called Waymarking.com. This website describes itself as existing to “provide the tools to share and discover unique and interesting locations on the planet”. Waymarking does not verify information posted by its members, and when the hiker mistakenly identified the old cemetery as the “Dieringer Cemetery” nobody questioned the name.

In the 1880’s, Dieringer was a competing community. It was located about five miles to the northwest, where the Sumner Meadows Golf Course is located today. That town was named for and was run by Joe Dieringer, and Joe Dieringer was no friend of my family and no friend of the Lake Tapps community.

In 2010 a Boy Scout troop took on the project of clearing the berry vines from this old cemetery and, using the Waymarking website as their authority, posted a sign identifying it as the Dieringer Pioneer Cemetery.

In 2012 I began researching my family’s early arrival in Pierce County, and I discovered this naming error. I could not let Joe Dieringer’s name be posted on the cemetery given by my great-great-great grandfather, so I contacted the Bonney Lake Historical Society and, with their help, began the process of correcting the name.

Today it gives me great satisfaction to see the correct name on the sign over the little cemetery that my family donated to the Lake Tapps community 125 years ago.

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