In 1902, the town of Claquato was officially removed from county records. Today, all that remains are the church and cemetery, both appropriately sitting on land originally owned by Lewis Hawkins Davis.
Claquato, meaning “high prairie” in the Chehalis Indian language, was settled by Lewis Hawkins Davis and his family in 1853. Davis filed a 640-acre Donation Land Claim and built a log home for his wife and children. Around 1854-1855, Davis donated a small parcel of land as a cemetery for family and neighbors and the first burial, “young Mary Spinning” occurred in 1856. Over the years the cemetery’s original size expanded. In 1893, the International Order of the Odd Fellows platted 5 acres near Davis’ cemetery parcel for their own members and in the 1920s, the non-profit Claquato Cemetery Association bought 20 acres of Davis’ estate and added a Baby Rose Garden for infant burials. To help preserve the cemetery, a Women’s Auxiliary formed in 1927 to “maintain and beautify the cemetery’s 70 acres.” By 1937, 16 more acres added to the grounds, along with a bronze plaque designating the large Douglas fir as the “Pioneer Fir Tree” for the shelter it provided new settlers and travelers.
Built in 1857, from the first lumber processed by L.H. Davis’ Mill, the Claquato Church is the oldest standing church in Washington State. Lewis Hawkins Davis and his sons donated the building, land, and most of the labor. Although his family was Presbyterian, Davis allowed the church to be dedicated Methodist as long as it remained open for worship to all denominations. Claquato Academy, the second school district in Washington, used the building for classes during the week until 1864. When the railroad bypassed Claquato for Chehalis in 1874, the county seat moved and the once-prosperous lumber town’s residents, including the congregation, also moved. The church remained deserted until it was restored in the 1950s and added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006, an Oregon Trail marker was installed at the church that tells of Claquato’s significance as a way station for travelers.
The piece was originally written by former Lewis County Historical Museum director Andy Skinner in 2013.