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In 1882 Jesse James Evans and his family were one of the last pioneers to follow the Oregon trail by Wagon, pulled by mules, intending to settle in the Puget Sound area. Instead they ended up joining a half-dozen or so early settlers on Swauk Prairie in Kittitas County. They sent word back to Missouri to neighbors and relatives and eventually most of the early settlers on Swauk Prairie were connected in some way to the Evans.

This book was written because an Evans family historian, Mary Lou Dills, and a local Swauk historian, Wesley Engstrom, just happened to meet one day and decided that, by combining resources, a bit of local history could be preserved.

The result of that joint effort was a book that describes what conditions were like when settlers first arrived on Swauk Prairie. Who the people were, what the towns looked like, who claimed the land, where the schools and churches were built, where the dead were buried and, lastly, what the family stories were of those in the southwest corner of the Swauk Cemetery where Mary Malinda Evans and her unborn child were buried in June of 1884.

The Swauk Cemetery is a community heirloom. It started without any formal organization or plan, just a place where neighbors buried their dead. Now, to comply with state law, there is a non-profit corporation to administer its affairs. It is still a non-endowed cemetery without a fund for its perpetual care where the descendants of those buried there are expect-ed to take care of the graves.

Swauk Cemetery is a place of serenity and beauty befitting of the hardy pioneers resting there.

Publication Date



Wesley C. Engstrom


Ellensburg, WA


Swauk Prairie, Washington(state), Pioneers


United States History


Physical copy of this work is available in Brooks Library Archives and Special Collections.

Spatial Coverage (for ex: Ellensburg, WA)

Ellensburg, WA

Whispers From the Grave: Stories of the Evans Family and Other Early Settlers on Swauk Prairie