In an earlier post I wrote of how my three times great Uncle Alvin was one of the “founding fathers” of Lake Tapps.  In the 1880’s he, along with his younger brother Darwin (also my three times great uncle), and their father Daniel (my three time great grandfather), donated land, materials and other services to establish the community of Lake Tapps in what was then Washington Territory.

At that time there were many little communities being established, and their founders vied with other founders for county and state money to build their roads and fund their schools or for the federal government to authorize their post office.  These entrepreneurs fought “tooth and nail”, trying to outfox one another to locate a county office in their little hamlet or to induce the railroad to stop at their village.

Uncle Alvin was such an entrepreneur and so was his nemesis, Joe Dieringer, for whom the nearby town of Dieringer was named.  This story is not about why the Orcutt family hated Joe Dieringer (I’ll tell that story in a later posting), just accept the fact they were bitter enemies … and know that while Lake Tapps still exists the former town of Dieringer is now site of the defunct Sumner Meadows Golf Links.

As the population of Lake Tapps grew it became obvious a local cemetery was necessary, so my three times great grandfather, Daniel Orcutt, gifted one acre of land to Pierce County to be used as a “public burying ground”.  For the next fifty years Daniel’s gift became the final resting place for many residents of the Lake, but time passed … families moved away … blackberry vines grew and the little cemetery was forgotten … and then lost.

Sometime in 2008 a hiker discovered a few gravestones hidden in the undergrowth.  He posted pictures and the GPS coordinates on a website called, which describes itself as a site for “marking interesting locations around the world”.  The hiker himself must have been lost because he called it Dieringer Pioneer Cemetery – after the town named for my family’s enemy!  A few years later a Scout Troop took on the cemetery as a project and cleared the black berry vines and trash from the tombstones.  One of the scouts did some research and discovered the erroneous Waymarking post and believing it erected a sign over the cemetery engraved “Dieringer Pioneer Cemetery”.

While all of this was going on I knew nothing about my family’s involvement with early-day Lake Tapps.  It was several years before I discovered that history and our feud with Joe Dieringer … then I found the sign.  It-just-wouldn’t-work to have OUR donation named for THAT man.  Orcutt’s must have been spinning in their graves as if on a Dieringer powered centrifuge and I had to do something!

I found Pierce County had assigned responsibility for abandoned cemeteries to their Department of Parks and Recreation, so I contacted them thinking I could just explain the mistake and get the sign corrected.   Speaking with a department planner I argued Dieringer was five miles distant and clearly this was the Lake Tapps Pioneer Cemetery, but when dealing with any government office nothing is so simple.  Apparently the existing sign trumped geography, and I needed to prove the Boy Scouts wrong to get the sign changed.

I contacted the nearby Bonney Lake Historical Society, who took an interest and sent a letter to Parks & Rec supporting my stance – not nearly enough!  So I had to roll up my sleeves.

In the State Archives I found Daniel’s original 1889 Warranty Deed, transferring ownership of that one acre to Pierce County.  At the Bureau of Land Management’s website I found a survey locating the graveyard on the east side of the lake, and then I found an 1890 map of Pierce County hanging on the wall at the Tacoma Historical Society that clearly located the now non-existent town of Dieringer five miles west of the lake.  I found an 1892 Polk’s Directory identifying the separate towns of Lake Tapps and Dieringer and then I found a survey from thirty years ago conducted by the Pierce County Office of Community Development identifying the cemetery as the “Lake Tapps Cemetery”.  The final bit of evidence was in the Pierce County Assessor’s Office on a quarter-section map, calling the property the “Lake Tapps Cemetery”.

Armed with this proof, I attended the October 2013 meeting of the Parks & Rec board and made a presentation.  The wise members of the board accepted my argument and agreed the sign should change, but that wasn’t the end of my quest.  Parks & Rec had to post their findings and give the public 60 days for comment … but they had no money left in their 2013 budget, so the notice couldn’t be posted until January.

In early 2014, with their coffers again filled, Parks & Rec made the appropriate postings and notifications and the 60 day period passed without comment … but then the department had no money in their sign budget.  So I paid for the sign!   New Sign (002).jpg  lake tapps

On June 4, 2014 – almost two years after I began my quest – a ceremony was held at the little cemetery my great-great-great grandfather had donated to Lake Tapps 125 years earlier.  The old Dieringer sign came down and a new sign was posted over the entrance to the Lake Tapps Pioneer Cemetery.