Editor’s note: This story has been updated and reprinted with new information and context. The original story appeared in the May 19 edition of the paper. One correction has been made: Daisey Kirtley’s grave marker was found in a wooded area, not in a ‘wildcat’ garbage dump.
It’s the story of an 8-year-old girl finally rejoining her parents, more than a century in the making.
On October 1, Bonney Lake resident Dustin Baccetti, releasing a mouse his cat had caught, discovered a grave marker in the woods across from his home.
“It was kind of strange stumbling upon that,” Baccetti said. “You don’t usually see big blocks of stone sitting in the middle of the bushes.”
Amazingly, the stone was still in good condition and mostly legible. It memorialized Daisey, who was born to the Kirtley family on April 10, 1878 and who died on March 13, 1886.
Baccetti took some pictures and posted about the marker in the Bonney Lake Community Group Facebook group. That group began digging into Daisey’s surprising life and history. Soon after, the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society — having been alerted to the Facebook post — started their own research.
Now, nearly 8 months after the discovery of the grave marker, Daisey is making a sort of homecoming. Her grave marker will be reunited June 26 with her parents and two brothers buried in the Buckley Cemetery, managed by the Weeks Funeral Home. The event is open to the public.
How Daisey’s memory ended up in – and left – the woods in Bonney Lake is a story of old-fashioned detective work, a dispute over the proper guardian of her grave marker, and one of the Bonney Lake area’s earliest pioneer families.
Charmaine Jovanovich-Miller, who works at Weeks, said she hopes the public ceremony is a chance to honor and remember the most important person of the story: Daisey.
“I don’t want any bad feelings, I want this to be very wide open,” Jovanovich-Miller said. “I just want this little gravestone to be placed next to her mom and dad.”
Baccetti, who was frustrated by the GBLHS’ handling of the grave marker, said he wants to make sure the members of the community are recognized for helping research Daisey and bring her home.
“As long as credit’s given where it’s due, everything’s cool,” Baccetti said. “The most important thing is reuniting Daisey with her family. That was the ultimate goal.”
Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society President JoAnn Taylor, for her part, said recently that the members of the Facebook group “without a doubt” deserve some of the credit in the story of Daisey’s reunion.
“It takes a community to bring all of this together,” she said.
WHO WAS DAISEY?
According to research gathered by members of the Bonney Lake Community Facebook group, the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society, and Weeks’ Funeral Home, the Kirtley family was one of the original pioneer families of the Plateau area.
James and Mary Kirtley moved the family to Bonney Lake from Summit, Missouri, Foothills Historical Society treasurer Jean Contreras said, settling at their pioneer homestead located at Lake Davis (later known as Kirtley Lake) in 1885 to grow hops. The Kirtley family took ownership of the land in 1890.
Why Washington? “I’d say it was probably cheap land,” Contreras said.
Mr. and Mrs. Kirtley had six girls and three boys, Contreras said, including Daisey and her two brothers Bluford and Fleming.
Around 1900, the family sold their farm to Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, which was purchasing property around Lake Tapps as part of the White River Project.
The family moved to a new farm across from what is now Haugen’s Dairy Farms on Sumner Buckley Highway.
Roughly a decade later, the White River Project flooded the original family farm during the construction of a hydroelectric power plant fueled by water diverted to Lake Tapps.
Four natural lakes – Crawford, Kirtley, Church and Tapps – were flooded to create the Lake Tapps reservoir. Daisey’s old home is now under several feet of water just north of Tapps Island.
Early on, both the Facebook community and local historians learned that Daisey apparently had family buried at the Buckley Cemetery. But the cemetery wasn’t established until after Daisey’s death.
So Jacobsen and other local historians believe Daisey’s remains were most likely buried at the original family farm. Daisey’s grave marker may have been uprooted and displaced by the rising lake waters, some of the historians said. It could have been brought by the family to their new farm.
That’s not the only theory. Baccetti and Melinda Handy, another nearby resident, noted that they found the grave marker just as construction had begun on property nearby. Handy said she personally believes Daisey’s remains are nearby, and they said the marker could have been displaced by the construction somehow.
A DISPUTE OVER DAISEY’S DISCOVERY
After Baccetti’s Facebook post, Bonney Lake artist Glory Cancro caught wind of the grave marker and decided to call GBLHS president JoAnn Taylor, fearing the grave marker could be stolen.
Taylor, recognizing the Kirtley name, knew the grave marker was important. It was getting close to Halloween, and the historical society didn’t want someone plucking the grave marker for a seasonal prop.
GBLHS members Dennis Dhaese and Don Frazier and former Bonney Lake Councilmember Mark Hamilton helped obtain the marker and bring it to the Historical Society.
But that triggered a dispute over the rightful guardian of the stone.
Handy says the grave marker was about two feet away from her property line when Baccetti discovered it, and by the time the GBLHS came to pick it up, it was on her property.
“They didn’t even ask, they just took it,” Handy said.
She and Baccetti said the GBLHS originally refused to reunite the grave marker with the family and shouldn’t have taken months to finally do it.
“We’ve been fighting with them to get it back so we could reunite the gravestone at the cemetery ourselves,” Baccetti wrote in one Facebook post.
The GBLHS sees the situation differently.
It’s the role of a Historical Society to preserve and study artifacts like Daisey’s grave marker, Taylor said. She categorically denied that it was stolen from Handy.
“We were quite open that we had it, that we took it,” Taylor said. “Anybody that wants to become part of figuring out what’s going to happen (with the grave marker) could have joined us at any time.”
The Historical Society couldn’t meet in person due to COVID-19, Taylor said, slowing their efforts to make sure they followed the law in reuniting the grave marker at the cemetery.
“You can’t just drop off a gravestone there,” GBLHS board member Winona Jacobsen said.
Amanda Bolt, a member of the Facebook group, had already contacted the funeral home as early as October, according to posts on Facebook. Handy said she’d done the same.
But reuniting the grave marker was the GBLHS’ hope from the beginning too, Taylor said.
“Right off the get go, we wanted to reunite her gravestone with the family farm,” Taylor was quoted in the original story. “But we said no, it really belongs out there with the mom and dad and siblings.”
Ultimately, from Baccetti and Handy’s perspective, credit belongs to the group of strangers on Facebook who poured hours into researching a family they didn’t know.
“Here’s something that’s great, that shows how awesome people can be when they’re doing the right thing,” Handy said.
The Historical Society “absolutely (did) not” present the Facebook group’s research as their own, Taylor said.
The two groups did similar research independently of each other and came to similar conclusions, Taylor said. She said the Historical Society was barely aware of the group aside from the fact that the grave marker’s discovery was posted there.
Much of Daisey’s family history, such as their farm at Lake Tapps, was information the GBLHS already had “long before” the grave marker was even found, Taylor added.
REUNITING DAISEY WITH HER FAMILY
Regardless of the rocky pathway Daisey’s grave marker has taken over the last 135 years, it’s now finally coming home to be with Daisey’s parents and her brothers Bluford and Fleming at the Buckley Cemetery.
“For me, it’s a relief,” Weeks Funeral Home president Russ Weeks said.
Daisey’s story hit her hard, said Jovanovich-Miller, who works at Weeks. It’s been a huge team effort, Jovanovich-Miller said, involving much of the staff of the Weeks Funeral Home.
“You know that mother had such anguish,” she said. “What mother doesn’t, to lose a child? And as they left the property, when all those lakes came together to make Lake Tapps, she literally had to walk away from the property where her child was buried.”
At 10 a.m. on June 26, 135 years after her death, Daisey will be reunited with her family in a ceremony at the Buckley Cemetery. The grave marker will be set next to an obelisk marking the lives of Daisey’s family, on her mother’s side.