The Baby Graves of Tri-Cities “OH MY GOD!”

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Last night we went out to the Baby Graves cemetery and got the crap scared out of us. This cemetery is weird, it’s over a hundred years old, and has nothing but babies buried there. They say that if you go there at night, and are really quiet, you can hear the babies crying. Maybe they call for their mommies? It wasn’t easy to find the place, it’s located in the hills outside of Kennewick, and the roads wind in and out of the hills, and there aren’t any real landmarks.

Anyway, we got there and walked around, and Tom started getting silly, yelling for the ghosts to come out. He even rapped on one of the headstones with his flashlight.

We didn’t know that the babies have a guardian. There’s an old man who lives in a shack not too far away, and he came running out of it, screaming at us. He was yelling that he was going to kill us, and he had a baseball bat in his hand. We ran to our cars, and got in them, but didn’t have time to turn around. We actually backed down the dirt road, and almost went off the road into a ditch, and the man caught up with us. He swung the bat, and hit the windshield, and cracked it. Tom gunned the engine, and we left him behind, but he still followed us until we made it back to the main road. By the time we got back to Kennewick, everyone but Tom and me were laughing. I was still afraid and shaking, and Tom was pissed about his broken windshield. –Amy

In spring of 2007, Weird Washington visited the Baby Graves Cemetery Tri-Cities resident, Eric C. He had driven by a few times, but hadn’t stopped for long. We found that like all legends, stories of the Baby Graves were partly true, and partly false.

We found the cemetery standing near a crossroads of several different roads. These roads probably dated to the years when all of the homesteaders laid out their claims, and put in roads around their property lines. The pioneers probably agreed to have a community cemetery in a central place, rather than having a separate family plot near each farmhouse. This sense of community helped to bring out the tragedy of frontier life.

Within the cemetery was a small picket fence. It was the only feature that we could see of the cemetery from a distance. It was once white, but most of the paint has peeled off. A heavy iron gate and a barbed wire fence marked the cemetery entrance. Outsiders can count ten tombstones, several of which have been broken over the years. Someone stole the tops off two markers, leaving the stone bases buried in the ground. There is no telling how many people were actually buried in the cemetery, since many of the old tombstones were probably wood, and have rotted away over the years. Money was always scarce in the old days, and some of these stone markers had to do double duty, particularly if the dead were children. Only the remaining families know for sure how many dead rest uneasily in the Baby Graves Cemetery. These remaining stones mark out at least 12 graves, seven of which were children.

The Travis family seemed to suffer the most. On May 20, 1893, their baby Norma died, aged 6 months, 17 days. The tragedy must have broken Mrs. Travis’ heart. Five days after baby Norma died, on 26 November, twins were born into the Travis family. They lingered a day before they too passed on. The three of them share a single stone.

Inside the little picket fence lie William and Mark Pearson, brothers who never knew each other. William was born on the 4th of July, and died on the 10th, in 1901. Mark was born on June 30, 1902, and lived over a year before dying in November 1902.

It was obvious that people visit the cemetery every now and then. A survey of the cemetery a few years ago showed 10 intact grave markers. In 2007, Weird Washington found the tops of two were missing; several of the remaining stones were scratched or broken. There were burned out road flares, fireworks, and a few beer cans around the cemetery. Obviously the place was a hang out for local parties, but there was also evidence that more benign visitors did not completely abandon the cemetery. The iron fence was decorated with red ribbons, and someone left a toy rabbit for the Pearson boys.

Fortunately for Weird Washington, there was no angry old man carrying a baseball bat, living in a nearby shack. Perhaps he had left over the years. Even so, with so many families buried in the cemetery, it is likely that some of the pioneer descendents live nearby. The closest house is about a mile away, and we might have been watched through binoculars as we toodled around the Baby Graves Cemetery.

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