|Search This Record Series:|
This index contains the names of people whose bodies were moved off McNeil Island and buried in Trinity, Parkland. These names were found on a single sheet of paper.
A History of McNeil Island
The first documented settlers on McNeil Island were the Meeker family, who in 1853, established their homestead on the east shore across from Steilacoom, on the future site of the Territorial Prison. The island had an abundance of building materials and soil adequate for farming, but it was remote. After about a year, Ezra Meeker moved his family to Steilacoom and became a merchant.
In 1870 Jay Emmons Smith, who had purchased the former Meeker homestead, offered to donate 27 acres of his holdings along the shoreline to the Washington Territorial government for a prison site. Construction of the prison began in 1871.
By the early 1880s, other settlers established themselves on McNeil Island. There were 15 landowners living on small farms. By the turn of the century, the island had a small general store, brickyard, lumber company, small library, schools, two post offices and a cemetery. Eventually three communities were established on the island: Bee, Gertrude and Meridian. Because of the difficulty in reaching the mainland, the recording of births, deaths, and burials were handled locally, including the deaths and burials of the prison inmates.
Between 1925 and 1936, the U.S. government purchased all the privately owned land and many of the civilians moved off the island. The Bureau of Prisons appropriated additional funds to move the bodies of 86 pioneers off the island to cemeteries of the families' choice. McNeil Island became the largest prison reservation in the United States.
By 1976 the Bureau of Prisons decided to phase out the 107-year-old federal penitentiary. In February 1981 the prison was acquired by the State of Washington.
In March 1981, the last of the federal prisoners were transferred out and the first state prisoners moved into the penitentiary. Control of McNeil Island was formally turned over to Washington State Department of Corrections on July 1, 1981. When the institution transferred to state control, most of the records were transferred to either the U.S. Bureau of Prisons or to the National Archives, Seattle Branch. However, the birth and death and burial records were left behind in a vault and were found by Washington State Correction officials just a few years ago.
For information about this index, email the Historical Records Project at email@example.com or the Washington State Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Database: Pierce County Disinterment Permits Issued During April 1938. ONLINE. 2004. Washington Secretary of State. Transcribed and Proofread by Curtis Hoffman, Department of Corrections. Available: http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov
Source: Pierce County Disinterment Permits Issued During April 1938. Department of Corrections, McNeil Island Correction Center.
Original material held by Department of Corrections, McNeil Island Correction Center.