Rebecca Ebey Monument
Sunnyside Cemetery, 1999
Photo by Theresa Trebon
In the history of Sunnyside Cemetery—and Whidbey Island—there are two burial lots that hold special significance, those of the Ebey family, both located in the Ebey Grave Yard at Sunnyside. Isaac was the first to arrive on Whidbey when he staked his claim in September 1850. His wife, Rebecca, and their two sons, Eason and Ellison, joined him in the fall of 1851. In October 1854, the rest of his family followed: Isaac's parents, Jacob and Sarah, siblings, Mary, Winfield, and Ruth, Mary's two children, Almira and Polk Wright, and a cousin, George Beam.
The original Ebey Grave Yard was located down on Ebey's Prairie, on the bluff near Isaac and Rebecca's home. [See map]. They were interred in that location as was their daughter, Hetty, born in 1853, Isaac's parents, and his sister, Ruth. When Isaac's sister, Mary, started the second Ebey Grave Yard on Sunnyside Farm in 1865, she stated, "I intend having the others brought there this spring." She does not appear to have accomplished that prior to her own death in 1876. Given that Mary desired to "be buried with my parents and brothers and sisters", it is striking that the graves of her brother Isaac, and his family, are located approximately fifty feet from the first Ebey lot at Sunnyside. Additionally, an 1887 letter from Isaac's son, Eason, refers to the first Ebey Grave Yard still in its original location down on the prairie. As of this date, no evidence has been found proving when the earlier graveyard was actually exhumed, or if that was even possible: pioneers recalled the first Ebey Burying Ground being plagued by extremely wet conditions and there was a decades-long time lapse between the Ebey deaths in the 1850s and the period after Eason Ebey's letter. At any rate, the two monuments that once stood in the first Ebey Grave Yard, one for Isaac, Rebecca, and Hetty's grave, and one for those of Jacob, Sarah, and Ruth Ebey, stand today in the Ebey lots at Sunnyside Cemetery. In an 1873 letter to his Aunt Mary Bozarth, Eason Ebey reported the purchase of his parents and sister's monument from carver N. C. Merges of Olympia. The cost was $200.00.
Winfield Ebey Lot
Jacob, Sarah, and Ruth Ebey
Photo by Theresa Trebon
The first Ebey lot is located on top of the hillside [surrounded by cement curbing], and contains a single row of graves: the centermost one is the oldest in Sunnyside Cemetery, that of Winfield Scott Ebey. He is flanked on the right by his cousin, George Beam, who died at age thirty-four from tuberculosis, just one year after Winfield died from the same disease. To the right of George Beam's grave is a single monument commemorating Jacob and Sarah Ebey, and their daughter Ruth. Sarah Ebey died following a stroke in 1859. Jacob died after a long illness in February 1862. Seven months later, Ruth Ebey [a deaf mute], died from injuries received after she fell from the top of Blowers Bluff, the tall cliff marking the northeast entrance to Penn Cove.
To the left of Winfield Ebey lies Urban and Mary Bozarth. Mary Ebey Wright, Winfield's sister, met Urban while crossing the Oregon Trail in 1854. Following her 1857 divorce from her first husband, Thomas [who never lived on Whidbey Island], she married Urban in December 1859. To the left of Mary lies her daughter, Almira Wright Beam Enos. Almira married the previously-mentioned George Beam [the son of Jacob Ebey's sister, Rosannah Ebey Beam] in 1859, and together they had three children. Following his death, Almira moved to California in 1868 and there married Abraham Enos the following year. Her mother, Mary, eventually joined her in California and, following her death in 1876, Almira shipped Mary's remains home to Whidbey for burial at Sunnyside. Over the next three decades Almira often returned to the island, staying in her grandparents home at Sunnyside which she inherited. The last member of the Ebey family to have settled on Whidbey in the 1850s, she was keenly aware of the family's place in history and carefully safeguarded the Ebey family diaries and correspondence. In 1909, shortly after coming to Whidbey for the summer season, Almira died of heart failure "in the room where she was married, and where her second child was born". Missing from this burial lot is her brother, James "Polk" Wright. Following a head injury he became mentally unstable and was taken by Urban Bozarth to the California State Insane Asylum in December 1869. Urban returned to Whidbey one month later and died there on February 14, 1870. Polk passed away in the asylum at Stockholm on November 8, 1871, and was presumably buried there.
Isaac Ebey Grave Lot
The Isaac and Rebecca Ebey Graveyard is located southeast of the aforementioned Ebey lot and surrounded by a white picket fence. There are two rows of markers here. The first row contains a monument to Isaac and Rebecca [Davis] Ebey, and their young daughter Rebecca Harriet [Hetty], who died of tuberculosis at age seven in 1861. To the left of this monument is the grave of Edward Ellison Ebey, who died at age three in 1889. He was the son of Isaac and Rebecca's second child, Ellison Ebey, who is buried at the end of this row, with his wife Mary. Both Ellison [1846-1890], and his young son died of tuberculosis. In the next row are the graves of Ellison and Mary's son Harold Ebey [1881-1945], a well-known West Coast shipping executive. Harold's wife, Frances [1880-1863] is next to him, followed by Frances' mother, L. Maude Tumleson. Missing from this burial lot is Isaac and Rebecca Ebey's eldest child, Eason Ebey [1844-1893]. He died at age forty, also of tuberculosis, and is buried at the Lynden Cemetery, Lynden, Washington, next to his parents-in-law, Holden and Phoebe Judson, the founders of that town.
Eason Ebey Tombstone
Son of Isaac and Rebecca
Lynden Cemetery, 2000
Photo by Theresa Trebon
Edmond Meany and Ebey Monument
Renowned University of Washington history professor, Edmond Meany, photographed next to the monument that marked the graves of Isaac, Rebecca, and Hetty Ebey. Meany was instrumental in the Ebey family papers being permanently deposited at the University of Washington.Sunnyside Cemetery, 1932
Photo courtesy of Island County Historical Society
The Isaac Ebey Mystery
A recurring theme in the historical lore of Whidbey Island is the fate of Isaac Ebey's head following his murder. Numerous histories state that it was buried in Ebey's grave following its return to the family in 1860, but that is contrary to the evidence in Ebey family documents. All that is certain is that Ebey's scalp was returned to the family in 1860, an important matter for it brought them some semblance of closure after that horrific night of August 11, 1857.
Following Ebey's murder, Kake Indians took the head with them as they headed north. Thereafter Isaac's brother, Winfield, tried numerous times to rouse Washington territorial officials to send a party north in pursuit of the Indians, or at the very least, his brother's head. Two years after the murder, disgusted by Washington Territory's failure to act, Winfield gathered petitions for the U. S. Army to take on the chore, but to no avail. On December 1, 1859, he heard that the Victoria newspapers were reporting his brother's scalp had been retrieved by Captain Charles Dodd of the Hudson's Bay Company: "It is said that the Indians scalped the Head at Smith's Island 1 + buried it + only took the scalp I think I shall know the hair if it is his". Dodd had purchased the scalp "after repeated applications" among the Indians of southeast Alaska, a dangerous task which, Dodd noted, threatened the safety of his steamer Labouchere. On October 8, 1859, Dodd anchored at Kake Village on Kupreanof Island and finally met success. He noted in the ships's journal: "Shortly after midnight, a canoe with three young men came off to the steamer with the scalp of Col. Ebey. (The unfortunate gentleman who was shot by Indians at Whitby Island) to sell to Capt. Dodd ... they have succumbed to their characteristic love of property and parted with their highly prized Trophy for the undermentioned articles, Six Blankets, 3 pipes, 1 cotton handkerchief, 6 heads of Tobacco, 1fthm. Cotton".
In January of 1860, the Washington Territorial Legislature publicly thanked Dodd by passing an official resolution which praised his "bravery, gallantry, and acts of humanity in having hazarded his own life, that of his crew, and the probable destruction of his vessel, in his untiring endeavors to procure the scalp of the lamented Col. Isaac N. Ebey". On April 5, 1860, Winfield Ebey noted in his diary the much awaited return of his brother's "poor head": "Captain Coupe got over from Port Townsend bringing my friend A. M. Poe Esquire. Mr. P. brings my brother's scalp which was recovered from the Northern Indians by Captain Dodd. At last this memento is received. At last a portion of the mutilated remains of my dear brother is returned. Near three years has elapsed since his murder and now his poor head [or a portion of it] returns to his home. The skin of the head is entire contained, the ears and most of the hair. The hair looks quite natural. It is a sad memento of the past".
Winfield Ebey Diary Entry, April 5, 1860
Courtesy of Special Collections,
University of Washington
Most anecdotes have Winfield Ebey immediately reburying the scalp with his brother at this point. But Winfield, a meticulous diarist, did not ever write of doing so. He mentions the subject only once more and that is two months later, on June 26, when he wrote, "I saw in the papers that Captain Dodd of the Hudson Bay Company is dead. I regret it much as I had hoped to have seen him and thank him personally for his kindness in recovering my brother's scalp." By 1865, Winfield Ebey was also deceased and at least five separate accounts maintain that his sister, Mary Ebey Bozarth, inherited the relic. Albert Kellogg, the son of Dr. John Kellogg, recalled visiting Bozarth "ten or twelve years" after the murder and "she showed the scalp lock still retaining the long black hair. It was the only thing of that kind I had ever seen and I remember it caused cold chills to run over me."
After Bozarth's death in 1876, Ebey's scalp passed to his niece, Almira Enos. The next mention of its location occurred in 1892 when Almira visited Whidbey, an event noted by the Island County Times. In their July 29th issue they reported that "Mrs. Enos visited the Times office. She was a resident of the Island ... when her uncle was killed and can relate things connected with that tragic affair as though it was but a recent incident." But Enos also visited an old friend, Hugh Crockett, who had "helped lay Ebey's headless body in his coffin and lower it in the grave." On August 19, the Times published a letter from Crockett in which he stated that Enos "told me only a few weeks ago that she has (the scalp) at her house in San Francisco." Those two articles are the most reliable accounts to date of where that "sad memento" of Isaac Ebey's death was kept. At this time only one other reference to the scalp's whereabouts has been found. On October 4, 1914, Phoebe Judson, the mother-in-law of Eason Ebey and author of A Pioneer's Search for an Ideal Home, wrote to Professor Edmond Meany of the University of Washington and discussed the subject. Judson's daughter, Annie, had married Eason Ebey in 1867 and, as Judson told Meany, the last her daughter had heard, Isaac Ebey's scalp was in the possession of the Almira Enos family in California.
1 Note: According to Canadian author B. A. McKelvie, this was not the Smith Island located just west of Whidbey Island, but the Smith Island located at the mouth of the Skeena River in British Columbia, just south of Prince Rupert.