Why Are There So Many Cemeteries on Bainbridge?

By Valerie Reinke

We Are Used To abundance here—we get plenty of rain, copious amounts of produce from local gardens, and an ample daily dose of beauty from our natural surroundings. But what does it mean to have an abundance of cemeteries? Bainbridge boasts five of them.

Should we be worried? Not if we consider when these cemeteries were established, according to Hank Helm, executive director of the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

By the late 19th century, newcomers had settled on the island perimeter, close to the water like the native people before them.

The interior was a forest primeval, dense and difficult to cross, so people did their living—and dying—in the geographically isolated regional outposts. As a result, our cemetery names read like a map of the far reaches of the island: Seabold, Port Blakely, Port Madison and Fletcher Bay (now known as Island Center).

It makes sense that cemetery number five, Hillcrest, a relative newcomer in 1959, is the most inland.

Not included in this cemetery roster is the oldest and most intriguing: Dead Man’s Island (now called Treasure Island) in Port Madison Bay. In 1855, it seemed like an elegant solution for that community; the deceased could be close, but not too close. However, much to the general dismay, the isle slowly eroded, exposing coffins and, according to one account, a skeleton, prompting citizens to hastily relocate the whole enterprise to the new Port Madison cemetery on higher ground.