Vandals strike Pioneer Cemetery, community responds


Headstones overturned, some permanently damaged

Teenagers are suspected by the Stevens Co. Sheriff’s Office to be the vandals that struck the Chewelah Pioneer Cemetery off Flowery Trail Road last week. The vandalism resulted in several headstones being knocked over and some permanently damaged. Members of the community, however, have responded to the vandalism by volunteering their time and materials to try and repair some of the damage.

The vandalism was first reported to Stevens Co. Sheriff Deputies last Thursday.

“I observed several headstones knocked over and a couple were even permanently damaged,” Stevens Co. Deputy Brandon Hoover said in his report. “I was able to lift one small one and put it back in place, but most were too heavy.”

Hoover reported that there were well over a dozen headstones overturned or disturbed. The reporting party had already picked up broken glass at the cemetery before the deputy arrived.

“I believe the suspects are most likely teenagers doing the damage at night,” Hoover said.

Hoover told the reporting party he would send out an extra patrol e-mail to all county units as well as the Chewelah Police Department. A second reporting party was also able to contact Hoover by phone, mentioning tire tracks on the backside of the cemetery. The deputy went back to the cemetery and found more headstones that were vandalized.

The nearby St. Mary of the Rosary Cemetery had one gravestone tipped over as well.

The Pioneer Cemetery Association recently dissolved due to lack of interest and participation. Beyond the board members, there was no attendance of the cemetery’s twice-a-year meetings and the number of people helping maintain the cemetery dwindled as board members got older.

“It was sad we had to disband but it’s just a fact of life,” said Louis Kluckner, formerly of the Chewelah Pioneer Cemetery Association.

Despite this, members of the community – including Tom and Jennie Swiger, Ron Christian, Bea Webb, John Johnson, Rob Dreyer and many more spent this past weekend working on headstones and graves that could be put back in place.

Sety’s Ace Hardware donated materials to repair the stones while Christian and Swiger measured, drilled and filled stones with materials to reinforce them and hold them together.

“My husband and I came to visit [my daughter’s grave] this past weekend and were sickened by the condition of the cemetery,” wrote Virginia Caseday to The Independent. “It had been vandalized beyond belief. It looked like a war zone.”

Four of Caseday’s family headstones were tipped over and she counted 54 others that had been tipped. Caseday said this was the second time in three years that her daughter’s grave had been vandalized.

“The first time by a psycho who was arrested but never punished and now this,” Caseday said.

Several headstones are broken and will need to be replaced including gravestones of veterans.

By Brandon Hansen / The Independent Staff  (Courtesy Photos)

1462207485669_IMG_20160429_141211_889 (2)