Presumably there is more to the name on a headstone at Mountain View Cemetery in Centralia that reads “Edith M. Capp—” but the final letters are obscured by ivy.
We know a few things. She was born July, 1909 or 1908, and died in July 1927. Whether she lived to the day of her 18th birthday, the ivy, again, conceals.
Edith is among dozens in the cemetery who’ve been neglected for years. Despite outcry from family members, a “Restore Mountain View Cemetery” Facebook page and volunteer efforts to fix up the place, the cemetery at Caveness Drive in Centralia is, at best, in disrepair. At worst, it’s in ruin.
Trees and shrubs uproot headstones. Graves have caved in on themselves. Some sites are so overgrown it’s hard to imagine them being recognizable again.
For years, it’s been a private cemetery owned by William Rickard, according to the Lewis County Treasurer’s Office. But, with Rickard three years delinquent on property taxes, the office this week foreclosed on the land and put it up for auction Thursday morning. The plat was up for a starting bid of $53,481 for five minutes. Nobody bought it.
Now, the property is possessed by the county. What will happen next is still unknown.
“We’d prefer it if the city stepped up,” Treasurer Arny Davis said, adding he hopes officials would help citizens form a special purpose district to collect property taxes for cemeteries in Centralia.
Emil Pierson, community development director for the City of Centralia, said a district forming would be a positive path forward. It’s the second cemetery in Centralia in the last few years that has come across his radar in serious disarray. Greenwood Memorial Park was likewise privately owned until it was officially abandoned and repossessed by the state.
The state then asked Centralia to manage it, which it did. Pierson said the city has spent over $600,000 restoring Greenwood, not factoring in the countless volunteer hours.
It begs the question, he said, of whether any cemetery should be privately owned. When first established, Pierson ventured most of these properties were funded by the sale of burial sites. But now, with mowing, water, gas and other burdens enhanced by inflation, he said, these places fall to ruin.
“People have the right to be concerned,” Pierson said. “I would be concerned.”