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Ball & Dodd Burial Relocation Project

From "A Design for Management of Cultural Resources in the Lake Roosevelt Basin of NE Washington", Jerry R Galm, Editor Eastern Washington University, 1994

Efforts to facilitate relocation of Indian graves to new cemeteries established by the BOR on the Colville and Spokane reservations were spearheaded by the tribes themselves with support provided by the Office of Indian Affairs (forerunner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Partially in response to this pressure, a federal contract was awarded to Ball & Dodd, funeral directors from Spokane, to remove and relocate approximately 600 to 800 graves from 33 known cemeteries. Mr Cull White and Indian informants were hired by the BOR to "locate all old burial grounds" (Spokesman-Review 1939a). The grave removal contract was released for bid in July 1939 and was awarded to Ball & Dodd for $10,728 in Sept of that year (Spokane Chronicle 1939); Spokesman-Review 1939a). Howard T. Ball supervised completion of most of the work in the fall of 1939.

Figure 3.1 - click to enlarge

Locations of 33 cemeteries comprising the original contract between Ball & Dodd and the BOR are presented in Figure 3.1. Subsequent to that contract, however, additional Interments were removed from cemeteries not included on this list, bringing the total number of cemeteries examined during this program to "over 50" (Gibby 1979). While an article on the project published just after completion of the work cites removal of 1,027 graves (Ball 1941); see also Chance 1970), Howard Ball later stated that a total of 1,388 graves were removed during this project. The latter figure comes from an interview with Mr Ball, conducted by Mr Lon Gibby in the late 1970's as part of the preparation of a documentary film on the project (Gibby 1979). The film entitled Echoes of the Past incorporates color film footage taken by Mr Ball during the Burial Relocation Project in 1939. Additional interments apparently were removed as part of an amended contract between Ball & Dodd and the BOR, although records documenting the revision have not been located. What is known, however, is that the number of cemeteries visited and the final number of graves relocated are far larger than the original estimates. Of the 17 or more cemeteries representing the difference between the original and modified contracts, only three can be indentified with any certainty. They consist of the cemeteries at Kettle Falls (Hayes) Island, originally part of 45FE35), Barnaby Island (45FE34) and Cayuse Spit (45ST21).

Towns to be inundated were located below the elevation of 1,310 feet. The communities of Bossburg, Cedonia, Hunters and Fruitland, as well as other small towns and Little Falls Dam on the Spokane River, avoided flooding only due to their higher elevations. Peach and Keller were to be the first towns flooded by the filling of the reservoir. As described in Jan of 1938, 'Under the schedule of concrete pouring adopted at the dam, the backwater will have inundated these towns by next summer" (Bankson 1938:1. It appears that progress at the dam did not keep to this projected work schedule, as an unattributed newspaper article, (Located in the Northwest Room of the Spokane Public Library) dated Dec 1938 declared: "Flames are scheduled soon to wipe out of existence the historic little community of Peach on the Columbia River near Lincoln.

Click map to enlarge

Having financially settled with property owners in the vicinity of Peach, BOR representatives instructed remaining residents to vacate their properties by 1 Jan 1939. Buildings and structures left standing at that time would then be burned by WPA crews as part of the general reservoir clearing project. Destruction of fruit trees within the reservoir lands was also a part of clearing activity. It was thought at the time that "if the trees were not killed and were left by their present owners after they vacated the property, insect infestations would gain a great foothold and would spread to trees and property not included in the [inundation] area" (Colville Examiner 1939a:7). A fate similar to that of Peach awaited both large and small towns located farther to the north as well.

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