Cordelia church has a pioneer cemetery established in 1883 by the members of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, Cordelia, Nez Perce County, Idaho Territory. 

Isakson, Larson and Johnston headstones

Rokke Plot and Pehrson headstone

Table of Contents

Marked Graves in the Cemetery

Pete E. Isakson

Peter Eric Isakson passed away on Jan. 14, 2020 in his adopted hometown of Moscow, Idaho, having lived most of his life in the Inland Northwest. His 48 years were filled with family, fun, laughter, sports and a passion for helping others.

Pete E Isakson

Pete was born on Oct. 27, 1971 in Richland, Wash. to Gretchen and Dave Isakson and is survived by his mother, wife Kelly, children Cody, Connor and Kendall; sister Kristin VanSant and brother-in-law Chris VanSant, nephew Jake and Tyler VanSant; in-laws Mike and Barb Mahoney, Molly Mahoney, Mickey and Mary Mahoney and Duffy and Leah Mahoney and nieces Bailey, Piper and Millie Mahoney. He was preceded in death by his father.

Pete was the Senior Development Director for the University of Idaho Foundation at the time of his death, but before that served as the interim Athletic Director at UI and worked in development at the College of Engineering and in athletics at Washington State University.

A 1990 graduate of Richland High School, Pete was a three-sport athlete for the Bombers and was always a larger-than-life figure, competing his entire senior year in football, basketball and baseball while sporting a mohawk and serving as a devout snow-removal specialist for the Richland Lutheran Church.

Pete’s colorful, gregarious style would always be a calling card. He completed his undergraduate degree at Eastern Washington University, where he met his future wife, the then Kelly Mahoney. They met while both worked for Lakeland Village, a habilitation community for adults with developmental disabilities. Though he doubted his ability to work in the field at first, he eventually gained confidence and the work would be a continuing passion for the Isaksons long after they left the position.

Pete began his athletics administration career at the University of Idaho as a marketing assistant and eventually moved on to Ashland University in Ohio and Northern Iowa University, where Kelly would join him. They married on July 17, 1999. Pete began coaching youth sports on the Palouse long before his children were born, but once Cody, Connor and Kendall were old enough to participate, Pete became a fixture at Moscow youth sports events, first at the Parks and Recreation level before he started a local AAU Basketball program that gave dozens of youth athletes opportunities to compete across the Northwest. He gave endlessly of his time to children and coaches well beyond his household. If you’ve ever seen a Moscow kid wearing a black-and-red Sharks shirt, jersey, hoodie or beanie, you saw one of the countless youngsters mentored by Pete.

Pete was always among the most colorful characters in any gym or field, often packing a 44-ounce Diet Mountain Dew at any time of the day — 7 in the morning or 11 at night, didn’t matter. He was a great storyteller in hotel lobbies during travel tournaments, full of energy and committed to enjoying the experience, no matter what. He once coached teams to championship games that were happening at the same time in the same gym, separated by a curtain. Pete coached both older son Cody and youngest son Connor’s teams in those games and both teams lost, but the memory is pure Pete.

Baseball was his favorite sport and one of his last coaching assignments was the Moscow Thunder Cal Ripken baseball team, where daughter Kendall was the only girl in the entire league.  He also coached her in basketball and was an avid fan of her gymnastics.

Though all of his children and so many of those he coached have excelled in sports, Pete never lost sight of those whose disabilities meant they would not have the same opportunities. Annually Pete and Kelly would host the Sharks Basketball Camp for special needs athletes: “This is my favorite day of the year,” Pete would say, without fail.

Pete returned to the University of Idaho after some time at Washington State University, serving as Senior Associate AD and then eventually interim AD. He was a tireless advocate for university student experience and always connected with college students wherever he went. 

Pete was a devoted son and husband, and spoke often about how he “married up,” but his first joy was being a dad. He loved being a dad and connecting with people. He filled every room with laughter and an ever-present smile that was undeniable.

A memorial service took place at 11 a.m. Monday January 20, 2020 at the Moscow Church of the Nazarene. A “post-game” gathering followed at the Latah County Fairgrounds and Events Center. Friends honored Pete’s memory by wearing the gear of his favorite teams: The Moscow Sharks, Idaho Vandals or Moscow Bears. 

The Family suggested memorials be made to the Dave Isakson Memorial Scholarship Fund c/o Emmanuel Lutheran Church 1036 W. A St. Moscow, ID 83843, To ensure as many of our community’s children as possible have the opportunity to attend a Lutherhaven Camp or to the Moscow Bear Boosters to continue their support of Moscow High School Athletics.

Eric Johnston

Eric Cameron Johnston, 42, of Bozeman, loving husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend, took his life on Aug. 17, 2013, in Laurel, Mont. He was born on May 4, 1971, in Milwaukee, Wis., to Cameron and Jeanette (Westberg) Johnston. He grew up in Waukesha, Wis. and enjoyed spending time at the family cabin in northern Wisconsin. He graduated in 1989 from Waukesha North High School and went on to study at Carroll University, Nicolet Area Technical College, and Montana State University-Bozeman. Eric also spent several years living, working, and experiencing the outdoors in northern Idaho.

Eric C Johnston

Eric met Erin Catherine Meyer, the love of his life, on Dec. 26, 2004. They relocated to Montana in August 2005. They were married on Sept. 8, 2012, at Cordelia Lutheran Church in Genesee, Idaho, surrounded by family. The ceremony was officiated by Eric's father.

Eric is survived by his wife, Erin Meyer of Bozeman; parents, Cameron and Jeanette Johnston of Moscow, Idaho; sister, Siri (Randy) Ward of Troy, Idaho; sister, Mia Johnston Ellsworth of Moscow, Idaho; uncle, Delwyn Westberg of Colorado Springs, Colo.; aunt, Olive Blake of Campton, N.H.; niece and nephews, Gabriel, Britta, and Skylar Wright of Troy, Idaho, and Forrest and Reed Ellsworth of Moscow, Idaho; father and mother-in-law, Greg and Teri Lyn Meyer of Rhinelander, Wis.; sister-in-law, Leslie Meyer of Duluth, Minn.; and brother-in-law, Benjamin Meyer (Jessi Havel) of San Francisco, Calif.

He was preceded in death by paternal grandparents, Cameron Johnston and Myrtle (Berg) Johnston; maternal grandparents, Per Olof Westberg and Nellie (Peterson) Westberg; uncles, Rollyn Johnston, Henning Westberg, Arthur Westberg, Walter Westberg, Hilding Westberg; and aunt, MaryAnn Michelsen.

Eric was a passionate, funny, and gentle person, and appreciated the beauty and humor in everything around him including nature, knowledge, music, art, and people. He was an athlete, musician, philosopher, outdoorsman, and animal lover. To know Eric was to love him. He saw the best in everyone he met and his sense of empathy and justice was unparalleled. He dearly loved his two rescue cats, Cheryl and Joan.

John Larson

John Peter Larson was born in Norway July 26, 1870 to Lars and Maria (Mary Erichson) Larson.  No record could be found to indicate why Maria came to Lenville, Idaho, and there was no record of Lars living in Latah County.     

Maria married Peter Nelson February 10, 1889 at Cordelia.  Paperwork was officially filed March 2, 1889.  John Larson would have been 19 years old.  Peter was homesteading 40 acres in Section 8 of Township 38-N and Range 4-W at the time.  Marriage records indicated Maria was born February 20, 1840, although Cordelia and 1900 Census records indicated it was February 22, 1838 in Wánnland, Sweden.  She immigrated to America in 1882 based on Cordelia records, but the 1900 census indicated it was in 1888. 

Peter O. Nelson was born April 17, 1851 in Hatsingburg, Sweden.  Cordelia records indicated he came to America in 1869, but 1900 Census records indicated it was 1871.  Peter filed for a homestead in 1885 in Section 8 of Township 38-N and Range 4-W located about 1.5 mile southeast of Cordelia. He joined Cordelia November 12, 1886.  

In October 1889, Maria filed to homestead 160 acres in Section 8 of Township 39-N and Range 2-W, which was located south of Dry Ridge between Troy and Deary, Idaho, and 15 miles northwest of Peter's homestead.  The land had some timber for harvest and good grass for grazing and haying.   

Peter obtained the title to his homestead in 1890 and Maria obtained title to her homestead in 1894.  The 1900 Census indicated Peter and Maria lived in rural Troy, Idaho and Peter was still farming, but John Larson was not listed as living in Latah County, nor in adjacent counties.  

Peter Nelson likely transferred membership to First Lutheran Church in Moscow, Idaho about 1902 based on the location of his name in the First Lutheran membership list, but it could have been as early as 1897.  Immediately following Peter's name in the First Lutheran Church record book were the names Oscar W. Nelson, Theodore Nelson, Carl Edward Nelson, and Hjalmar Nelson.  

Oscar's obituary indicated he came to Moscow at age 12, but did not list his parents.  His Minnesota Birth Certificate indicated his parents were Peter and Ann, but his father was 10 years younger than the Peter of this history. 

In 1910, John Larson was working in Pierce, Idaho as a common laborer on the Northern Pacific Railroad and not married.  Pierce was the first town in Idaho to have a gold rush boom, and became a gold bust town by 1900.  The town struggled after the bust, but still had four general stores, a sawmill, two blacksmith shops, a meat market, a drugstore, two lodging houses, and three saloons.  A stage coach ran between Greer and Pierce six days a week.  In 1910, a new branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad was being extended to Pierce from Orofino, Idaho.    

There were three versions of John Peter Larson's death in historic records.  The only consistent fact that matched the headstone was his name and the death date of December 6, 1910.   All three records showed he died in Walla Walla, Washington at St. Mary Hospital. The Northern Pacific Railroad had a contract with the hospital to care for sick employees.  St. Mary Hospital had an early form of medical insurance known as tickets and could be purchased for $10 a year.  The ticket entitled holders to free medicine, care, and board. 

The excruciating pain of pancreatitis started November 16, and he sought medical help (location unknown).  The treatment would have been pain management with morphine, and drinking a lot of water.  After a few days of pain, he was sent to St. Mary's hospital in Walla Walla, Washington for further care.  The trip would have required a two-day train ride    He checked into the hospital November 27.  Although St. Mary's Hospital was known for its care, they were unable to help John and he died December 6, 1910.  The official Washington certificate indicated the cause of death was acute pancreatitis (gallstones) with typhoid fever as a contributing factor.  

His body was returned to Moscow for burial at Cordelia. His tombstone, translated from Swedish to English, reads: “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.”

St. Mary Hospital in Walla Walla, WA


The 1916-1917 R. L. Polk Directory indicated Peter and Maria were living on rural route 3 of Moscow, Idaho, and Peter's land and home were assessed for $2,078.  Rural route 3 delivered mail to the homestead near Cordelia.

Maria died February 20, 1922.  At the time of her death, Peter purchased 6 cemetery plots (3 wide and 2 deep) in Moscow's Cemetery.  Maria was buried in the northwest plot.  At that time, Cordelia Church was not actively holding services and the building and land were for sale, so burial next to her son was not advised.  Why did he purchase six plots when he needed only two?  There may have been more relatives living in the area, or the cemetery may have sold plots in blocks of six.

Peter O. Nelson married Retta Allen March 1, 1924.  Retta (Rita) Allen was born in 1889 to Joseph and Melody Jabbora.  The family was from Syria and her obituary indicated she was born in Syria.  However, the 1940 census indicated her birth place was Greece and her parents were from Greece, but her native language was Syrian.  It indicated she was not a citizen of the United States, and widowed.  The first marriage date was 1907, but further information was not found.  Her obituary indicated she moved to Moscow, Idaho in 1922.  History suggested her parents and brother, James, came at the same time.  

Peter died October 24, 1925 and was buried next to his first wife in Moscow Cemetery.  

The 1940 census indicated Rita was living at 405 Veatch Street in Moscow, Idaho with James Jabbora (brother) and Amelia Allen (daughter).  Her occupation was listed as a housewife and the home was valued as $1,500.  In 1952, Rita moved to Spokane, Washington to be closer to her daughter, Amelia, and son-in-law, Alton D. Sheffield.  Rita died September 25, 1954 at age 65.  She was buried next to Peter in Moscow's Cemetery.  

Albin Pehrson

Albin Peteree Pehrson was born February 1, 1890 and died December 12, 1890.  Family history showed his father, Nils Peter Pehrson, was born June 19, 1855 in Grefvie Sorken in the county of Skåne, Sweden to Per and Karstna.  The surname was listed in Cordelia records as Perhson, in the 1900 census as Persen, Latah County as Person and Persen, and he was buried as Pearson.  Nils's first homestead title was issued to Persen and the second to Person.  He came to the United States in 1875 leaving his parents in Sweden.  Nils went to California prior to arriving in Nez Perce County in 1878 or 1879.  Nils received title for his 160-acre homestead in Section 29 of Township 38-N and Range 4-W on October 30, 1882.  The homestead was 5 miles south of Cordelia.  On May 1, 1881, Nils became a member of Cordelia and in 1883, he donated $5.00 toward church construction.  

Albin's mother, Johanna A. Ruberg, daughter of Andrew and Mary Ruberg, was born in Sweden in July 1864.  After coming to the United States her family belonged to East Sveadahl Lutheran Church, a country church just north of  St. James in south-central Minnesota near Mankato, prior to coming to Idaho.  In October 1884 she became a member of Cordelia.  Nils married Johanna in 1885 at his homestead.  They had 9 children, and 7 of them were baptized at Cordelia. Wilhelm Klaford was born January 13, 1886;  Naemi Lydia was born May 17, 1887;  Walter Ebeneser was born September 1, 1888; and Albin Peteree was born  February 1, 1890.  Albin died December 12, 1890 and was buried at Cordelia.  Nils started to homestead his second 160-acre claim next to the old homestead in 1890.  Ester Maria was born August 2, 1891 and Adolf Natanael in October 1893.  Nils received title for the second property June 29, 1894.  Edla Christina was born  January 10, 1896. 

Cordelia records do not show further information about the family after 1896.  None of the children were confirmed at Cordelia, indicating the family may have transferred membership to Troy, Idaho.  Census records indicated Clara was born in July 1899, and they were living on the section 29 homestead in 1900.  Latah County Biographical Sketches indicated Joseph, their youngest son, was born in 1900.  In 1900, Nils purchased a third farm on Burnt Ridge, located southeast of Troy, Idaho.  Nils tragically died at age 50 in 1905, and was buried at Burnt Ridge Cemetery.  Walter died in 1921 and his sister, Clara, died in 1922.  Both were buried near their father.  Johanna lived until 1945 and was also buried at the Burnt Ridge Cemetery.

Rokke Family Plot.

Ole Johan Rykkja “John Hagen Rokke” was born in Fjaerplassen, Norway in 1860 to Hágen and Karen Johanna Røkke.  Their surname refers to a place in Norway known as Rokke, Rykke, Rykkja, or Røkke.  The spelling appeared to be interchangeable in the Norwegian records.  Records showed there were 10 children.  A complete history of the Rokke children may be found at www.satrum.net. Their mother died in 1875 and their father in 1887.  John and his brother, Oluf, immigrated to the United States in 1878, and their sister, Berit, came in 1881.  Joline, another sister, also came to the United States, but the date is not known.  Upon entry into the United States, Ole changed his name to John Hagen Rokke and Oluf added Hagen as a middle name.  The 1880 Census indicated John and Oluf were farm laborers working on farms near Wanamingo (southeastern Minnesota), and single.  Berit married John Svee in 1885 and died in 1931.  Oluf married Lena Martha Paulson (date not found) and died in 1939.  

Rokke Family Home in Norway (Jon Satrum, Great Grandson of Hagen Fjaerplassen Rykkja - www.satrum.net 2005)

Joanna (Johanna) Matilda Run was born to Carl J. and Helena in December of 1863 in Sweden.  The family moved to North Branch, Minnesota in 1869 and ultimately settled in Duluth, Minnesota.  Fish Lake Swedish Lutheran Church cemetery records in Stark, Minnesota showed she had an older brother (Peter) who lived to be 60, and a sister (name not found).

John and Joanna were married on January 22, 1886 in Cambridge, Minnesota (45 miles north of Minneapolis).  They moved to Minneapolis. Henry was born on February 11, 1887.  The family moved to Palouse, Washington, where Charles was born on August 14, 1888.  They moved again to Latah County where Joseph was born on November 1, 1890.  Leif was born on May 1, 1892 in Moscow, Idaho.  

In 1892, John began the process of homesteading 80 acres of land on Section 5 of Township 38n and Range 4W (NE of Cordelia about 1 mile).  The online search of Geni.com (A My Heritage Company) indicated John H. Rokke died in 1893, but it lacked supportive evidence.  Price Nathannael was born on the homestead on September 29, 1894.  

Cordelia Church records showed the family join Cordelia on April 20, 1896.  They had been on the homestead about a mile from the church for four years prior to joining and were the second-to-last family to join Cordelia.  At that time the family may have needed some supportive help which only a church community could provide.  

On December 8, 1987, John received title to his homestead property.  The 1900 Census recorded Joanna as head of household, married for 14 years, and occupation as farmer.  John was not listed in the census.  It is interesting the occupation of the wife of other farm households was never listed.    

Ancestry.com indicated John H. Rokke died in 1896, but supportive evidence was not given.  Cordelia records had a check mark in the column denoting his death, but the date was not  listed.  There was no indication of a burial site, and the death was not recorded in Latah County, nor in other western states. 

Price Nathanneal Rokke died on January 3, 1902 at age 7.  The cause of death was not known.  He was buried in the center plot at Cordelia.  

The family moved to Moscow, Idaho in 1906 where the children could gain a better education and employment, and life in town was easier.  In preparation for the move Johanna found she could not sell the land because John was the official owner.  

Without John, or proof of his death, she did not own the property nor have custody of the children.  The only legal solution was to file for divorce, which she did on June 4, 1906.  The filing papers indicated “That on or about the 12th day of October, A.D. 1898, in Latah County, Idaho, the said defendant (John), disregarding the solemnity of his marriage vow, willfully and without cause deserted and abandoned the plaintiff (Johanna) and ever since and still continues so to desert and abandon the said plaintiff, and lives separate and apart from her, without any sufficient cause or reasons, and against her will, and without her consent.”

Latah County Court summoned him to appear by advertising in the Troy, Idaho Weekly Newspaper on June 8, 1906.  The Troy Weekly News, operated between 1897 and 1933 with a circulation of less than 200, was owned by B. M. Schick.  The summons and other documents indicated Johanna was looking for three actions: 1) bonds of matrimony now existing between her and John be dissolved, 2) the homestead be decreed to her and 3) she be given the custody and control of their four minor children.

John H. Rokke never appeared, and the divorce was granted on December 11, 1906.  To this day, John H. Rokke has been lost to history.  It does not appear he returned to Minnesota, nor went further west or to California.  There is no evidence, but he may have been among the 100,000 prospectors headed to Alaska with gold rush fever in 1989, hoping to become rich. 

Loth Carlson's wife died October 22, 1907 at age 40.  Johanna married Loth on November 16, 1910.  Her homestead was next to his.  Loth donated the wood and built the pews for Cordelia. 

Henry Rokke died from typhoid fever on November 20, 1912 in Saint Joe City, Idaho.  Typhoid fever was a common bacterial disease transmitted by ingestion of food or water contaminated by feces of an infected person.  Death was usually a result of dehydration due to the diarrhea.  His body was transported back to Moscow and arrived on November 25, and the funeral was held the next day at First Lutheran in Moscow, Idaho with burial at Cordelia.  He was buried in the north space of the family plot.

St. Joe City was located in then Kootenai County, now Benewah County.  The town was established by the Milwaukee Railroad and Land Company in 1889 when they were unable to establish a route through Ferrell, Idaho.  Ferrell's land developer was hoping to receive $100,000 for his right-of-way but the railroad bypassed it with a bridge and began selling land for their new town site.  St. Joe City became both a railroad stop and a regular stop on the steam ferry that traveled between Coeur d'Alene and Harrison, Idaho.  It was a company town with a saw mill, general store, school and post office which served the needs of the area loggers and their families.  The Rose Lake Lumber Company stopped operations at St. Joe City in 1926, and the post office closed in 1927.  

Docks at St. Joe City, Idaho

Idaho Hospital at St Joe City, Idaho

The concrete border and head stone pads were added in 1913 to define the plot area.  Head and foot stones were ordered and placed for both Henry and Price.  Both stones are similar in design to ones found in the Moscow City Cemetery, so the source was local although the stones were not. 

Joseph Rokke died on February 6, 1915 at age 24 after a long battle with the white plague, also called consumption or tuberculosis, an infectious disease caused by bacteria that attack the lungs.  Funeral services for Joseph were held at First Lutheran in Moscow, Idaho and the remains were buried at Lenville, Idaho.  A specific burial site was not reported, but likely is the south space of the family plot as there is evidence it is occupied.

Tuberculosis spread through air when people coughed or sneezed.  In urban areas in the 1900's, one in four deaths were attributed to tuberculosis.  Modern medicine uses vaccines for prevention and antibiotics for treatment, although it has again become a problem because of new drug resistant strains. 

In 1917, Loth and Johanna were living in Moscow Idaho.  R. L. Polk and Co.'s business directory indicated Johanna's assets as $3,275 and Loth's as $2,100.  The directory did not indicate their occupation.  Loth and Johanna were not listed in the 1930 directory.

Johanna died at age 72 on July 25, 1936 in Seattle, Washington.  Loth, died at age 94 on February 17, 1953 in Sedro-Woolly, Washington.  Information about burial sites was not found.

Leif Rokke  married Edith Mack, the daughter of Stephen Andrew and Mary (Robinson) Mack, on Wednesday, November 22, 1916 and resided in Joel, Idaho.  In October 2, 1919 their daughter was born.  In 1930, they moved to Longview, Washington.  Leif died on January 3, 1981 in Longview and was buried in Kelso, Washington.

Charles Rokke served in World War I, and lived in Portland, Oregon after discharge.  He married when he was 50 years old, but the marriage did not last.  He died on January 13, 1975 and was buried in the Willamette National Cemetery. 

Finding Unmarked Graves at Cordelia 

Traditional Christian burial plots are orientated east-west in a serpentine pattern, with the head at the western end of the grave. This layout follows the belief that at the coming of Christ on Judgment day (Eschaton) the person will arise facing the dawn (east). Early traditions also buried clergy in the opposite orientation so during the Resurrection they may rise facing, and ready to minister to, their people. The layout of Cordelia's cemetery is east-west with the head at the west end of the plot. Cordelia records showed on May 15, 1883, Andrew Olson promised to donated one acre of land for the Church and to sell the congregation an additional acre for $25 for a cemetery. The congregation was, in turn, to offer plots for burial to members for $5.00. Records showed plots were sold to Andrew Olson and Lath Carlson. Neither were buried at Cordelia.

Kathleen Probasco's 2008 survey of Cordelia's cemetery found four old headstones. She recorded headstones for John P. Larson, Alben P. Person, Henry and Price N. Rokke. A letter in Cordelia records told of the additional burial of an unknown black male who sought medical help at the Peterson homestead but did not survive. His name was not known and the grave was not marked. 

The newspaper reported Joseph Rokke died in 1915 at age 24. His funeral was at First Lutheran and the remains  buried at Lenville, Idaho. A specific burial site was not reported, but likely was the south space of the family plot as the headstone pedestal is settling, which is evidence of occupation.

There are additional clues of more graves, but finding a grave requires more than just digging through records. Homesteaders often used rock as grave markers. The stone marking where Cordelia stood is tipped toward Cordelia, and there is a basalt rock near it in an otherwise rock-free area. Basalt was a common substitute for a store bought headstone. In the spring two paired depressions about the size of a coffin were visible just to the north of the Rokke plots. These may not be occupied since Vernon Peterson remembered at age 6 (1926) he witnessed his grandfather being dug up and moved. Other decedents of Cordelia members indicated their relatives were also moved. Cordelia membership records indicated a dozen deaths before 1918, but did not indicate if they were buried at Cordelia or if they were moved in 1926.

Graves at Cordelia were hand dug. The soil in the cemetery area is fairly deep so the hole dimensions were likely 3 feet wide by 8 feet long and 6 feet deep. The length allowed for working both sides of the hole to obtain the correct depth. The soil was usually piled on the left side of the grave because diggers were right handed. Most diggers installed a trench box to keep the sides of the grave from collapsing while the grave was open. 

Burial vaults were rarely used prior to 1890, but were common practice after 1900. The vault's main function was to keep the grave from sinking and to keep chemicals used for embalming in, since in that era a half pound of arsenic was commonly used for each burial. Less toxic embalming solutions are used today, so the main function of the vault is to keep the grave from sinking. The trench box, which was not removed after the coffin was placed in the grave, also served as an indicator of grave location when an adjacent grave was dug. The movies depict simple pine coffins, but in the 1880's the true designs were fit for a king and could be purchased at several general stores in Moscow. Nearly all were wider at the shoulders and tapered at the feet and head. In the 1890, they were made from wood, or could be a woven basket. By 1910 most caskets were made either lined with, or covered in metal. If the casket was a basket, the lid was sewn shut prior to the funeral and the body viewed through a window on the top. The casket was lowered into the grave using straps.

The grave was closed by shoveling some the dirt back into the hole and tamping to pack the dirt. Many diggers would periodically add a layer of rock or brick to prevent it from being accidentally dug up. At Cordelia, either lava rock from the stream or brick was used. If a headstone had been ordered, a foundation of small rock was added when the grave was filled in; otherwise a large rock was used to mark the grave. John Larson's grave had broken bricks for the headstone foundation. The Rokke family plot had the border and headstone pedestal made of concrete.

Traditionally finding a lost grave uses basic techniques of either probing or dowsing. Probing rods or probing drills are made of heavy-duty steel and have a T-shaped handle on top with either a blunt tip or small auger resembling a 1 to 2 inch in diameter drill. In the spring when the soil is wet, the probe is pushed or twisted until resistance is felt. The resistance typically signifies either a coffin in a grave, or in most cases a rock. Once an object is found, additional probing will indicate if the probe is hitting a rock or a potential grave.

Dowsing is the art of using divining rods. The most common method uses two bent metal rods, although wood from willow or witch hazel may be used. The type of metal (electromagnetic or not), length and the shape of the bend varies by user. Something as simple as a wire flag has been used to find buried metal pipe. Some dowsers walk straight lines while others walk in curves. There are a few who walk the field perimeter but do not enter it; others will dowse a paper map of the area of interest. The wide variation in method brings the question, “Does it work?” Dr. Wittaker of the University of Iowa conducted a replicated study in 2006. Results found practitioners could not locate graves with divining rods without visual cues of dips or mounds. Research debunking dowsing cannot offset the folklore of this simple technique, first published in 1656, and a great story will never allow rational discussion of its accuracy.

The Department of Defense provides the modern solution to finding buried objects with electromagnetic induction and ground penetrating radar technology. The basic principles for electromagnetic induction were discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831. He showed moving a metal rod into a moving magnetic field would induce (cause) the rod to generate electricity. Electromagnetic Induction instruments use a moving magnetic field to induce current in the earth. The induced soil responds with a secondary magnetic field that is measured to estimate conductivity of the soil under the instrument. Changes in soil conductivity indicate a buried feature under the soil but does not characterize features.

Electromagnetic induction was first used as an archaeological tool in 1961. By the early 1980's, it had replaced the need to probe for objects. It is a quick way to determine if the site warrants further survey with a ground penetrating radar. Units are light weight and the operator simply walks a grid pattern in the area to be surveyed.

The idea for radar was first patented by Christian Hülsmeyer in 1904, but the idea of using it to locate buried objects did not occur until 1910 when surface antennas improved. The basic technology of radar is to send microwave energy into the ground and use an antenna to measure the reflected energy when the microwave hits a hard object. The technology took a major leap in 1926 when the signal was pulsed and the return signal amplified to allow timing of the signal travel to calculate distance.

An early application of ground penetrating radar was to survey a glacier in Austria in 1929, but the technology was not perfected until the 1970's for the military application of detecting tunnels between North and South Korea. In 1985, the first civilian units became available for finding buried objects such as pipes and utility lines. They are commonplace at most archaeological digs but pricey enough that most universities rent high quality units by the day or week from consultants specializing in radar instruments. New return signal amplifiers and directional signal generators allow units to measure objects buried up to 60 feet. Increased precision and depth comes with greater power consumption, so portable ground penetrating radar units are generally used in small survey areas or focused areas where electromagnetic induction indicates a buried feature. Ground penetrating radar will show the shape and depth of a buried object. 

On August 10, 2015 the cemetery area was surveyed with an electromagnet induction instrument. 

Robert Heinse operating the Electromagnetic Induction instrument.

Data represent measurements in 3 depth layers of disturbance. Data were adjusted to a meter grid using statistically interpolation. Principle component analysis was used to merge the three layers into a single map showing disturbance. 

The top of the map is north, it has been gridded in 10 m intervals, and the location of the outhouse has been marked. John Larson's grave (red dot) and the Rokke family plot (blue square) are marked on the map for points of reference. Larger polygons represent differences in soil moisture. Smaller polygons are sites of potential interest as disturbed sites. Polygon A has high rodent digging activity and may be supportive of human digging. Rodents often take advantage of disturbance for easy burrow digging. Polygon B is missing data site. Polygon C appears to be large enough to identify the disturbance associated with 2 graves. Polygon D is of interest since it is away from Main Cemetery and could be the location of the unknown black person buried at Cordelia. 

The electromagnetic induction instrument only measures changes in conductivity of the soil often associated with disturbance. This helps narrow the search area using ground penetrating radar.

Cemetery inurnment Guidelines

The following guidelines have been established for new additions with a marker to the plot area of cemetery.  

Eligibility requirements

To be considered for a new addition with a marker to the plot area, the deceased must have been a Friend of Cordelia, or a direct decedent of a member of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, Cordelia, Nez Perce County, Idaho Territory and the remains must have been cremated. The Board of Directors of Friends of Cordelia must approve the request to be buried at Cordelia with a plot marker.   

Inurnment guidelines

New inurnments must be cremated remains. All inurnments (bury) and disurnments (dig up) will occur between April 15 and July 15. Inurnments and disurnments shall be arranged with the Cemetery Sexton or President of Friends of Cordelia (cordeliachurch@gmail.com ) upon notice of at least two weeks. The Cemetery Sexton will supervise the digging of the grave. 

Plots are 5 feet wide by 5 feet long and allocated in order of need. The cemetery allows as many as six inurnments in the same plot. For every inurnment, the remains shall be enclosed in a commercial urn/vault designed for cremated remains burial.  If multiple inurnments occur at the same time, a vault holding more than one set of remains may be used.  The vault will be buried at a depth greater than 3 feet.  

Alternative to inurnment

Ashes may be spread on an allocated plot at any time. The Cemetery Sexton will identify the location of the allocated plot upon the notice of at least two weeks.  


All inurnments and surface ashes shall include a marker/monument to indicate the allocated plot is occupied and the approximate locations of vaults.  The marker/monument design should reflect the traditions of a Lutheran heritage site.  The design of all monuments/markers must be approved by Friends of Cordelia Directors prior to their manufacture.  Friends of Cordelia reserves the right to prohibit the placement of any vault, monument, marker or other monumental work that may be considered by the Board of Directors of Friends of Cordelia as inappropriate either in material, workmanship, size or location or which might interfere with the general view or effect as a Lutheran heritage site.  The width including concrete foundation shall not exceed the width of the plot. The concrete foundation shall be at least 4 inches in depth and extend at least 3 inches larger than the markers/monuments.  There shall be no more than one marker per allocated grave and any marker not placed at the west edge of the plot shall be level with the surface of the ground. All concrete surfaces shall be aligned with other graves in the row. Long-lasting material such as granite, marble, stainless steel, or bronze must be used for markers/monuments.   All monument/marker placements will occur between June 15 and October 15 and should be done within 1 year of inurnment or ash spreading.  All placements of markers shall be approved by the Cemetery Sexton prior to placement. 

Flower pots, bronze vessels, flags, pinwheels, veteran’s markers and other small items of remembrance are encouraged. Friends and relatives placing these items should also maintain them. Should any memorial become unsightly, broken or a hazard to visitors, the Friends of Cordelia shall have the right to either correct the condition or remove the same.

The cemetery is a native grassland and introduced plants should enhance Palouse grassland ecology.  Living markers such as trees and shrubs are discouraged.  Annual and perennial flowers are welcome.  We have found native plants, daffodils, tulips, and snow drops work well, but friends and relatives will need to care for them.  For a list of native plants see http://palouseprairie.org/.  

Friends of Cordelia disclaim all responsibility for loss or damage caused by the elements, an act of God, common enemy, thieves, vandals, malicious mischief-makers, explosions, unavoidable accidents, invasions, insurrections, riots, or order of any military or civil authority, whether the damage is direct or collateral.

Monuments and bronze markers are the property of the deceased and thus the maintenance and care are the responsibility of the owner’s friends and relatives. We encourage families to become involved and participate in the care of the stones and markers and the graves of deceased friends and family members. To focus grave tending efforts, Friends of Cordelia traditionally has a grave tending when we have spring cleanup. Check our website for exact date and time.