Sokol Lodge (Croatian) Cemetery

There are but two monumented burial sites right alongside of the road and one more further up the hill. The two on the road are dated 1918 and 1924. No other graves are to be seen here, but oldtimers say that there are several more uphill. Other than rock placements that may have outlined burial places, any other outward indications seem to have disappeared.

Deep in the pine woods, at the highest northwest corner of the Roslyn cemeteries, lies one of the smallest official graveyard in the cemetery complex. The informational kiosk at its entrance of the cemetery complex is seemingly larger than the Sokol burial ground itself.

The informational kiosk at the main entrance of the cemetery complex states that the lodge was founded in 1904 and the main purpose was to promote athletic skills and patriotism among its members. However, there is a picture of a group of young people shown on the kiosk who are identified as members of the ‘Sokola’ Lodge. This was organized in Ronald in 1914 for Yugoslavians. The Sokol sponsored men’s and women’s gymnastic teams that performed all around this area. During World War I these performances were fund raisers to aid those relatives suffering in the oppression of war in the old country.

Current research shows that the Sokola Lodge pictured on the kiosk is the same as the Sokol Lodge. Roslyn native, Fabian Kuchin, who heads the Roslyn Kiwanis Cemetery Committee, became a member of the Sokol Lodge in 1916. He remembers the emphasis on athletic prowess. He tells too of the “good tamobritza band”. Musically talented lodge members played the stringed instruments of the old country and performed at most lodge, and at many public, functions.

The meeting place, in 1916, was above Stove’s Drugstore, although later meetings were held at the Falcon Hall in Ronald. That hall fell victim, in 1928, to the fire caused by the explosion of a moonshine still nearby. The operator of that still was killed in the accident and is buried in the Roslyn’s Eagles Cemetery.

The Sokol Lodge required strict meeting attendance of its members if they expected to remain a member in good standing. Lodge ritual books show that a part of each formal meeting included the reading of the names of those whose membership was suspended or cancelled. This was common practice with most lodges of that day.

Excerpts from the Slovene Lodge ritual books from the year 1938 shows how intertwined were the lodge tenants and the ideals and plights of the working man. There was heavy emphasis on “freethought” and on defending worker’s rights. Members were also duty bound, as a group, to take part in lodge funerals. Besides showing respect for the deceased, lodge solidarity was shown to the rest of the community. Members were admonished to include statements about how hard working conditions and uncaring employers may have contributed to the death. These to be added after saying kind words about the deceased.

The current funeral ritual still reflects the labor heritage of the Slovanian people who immigrated here. The final official works are: Death is but a call to peace and rest after a worrisome task. The newer ritual’s manual, dated 1956, has no reference to working conditions – a tribute to the battles won by the labor unions by that time.

As with many of the early lodges the loss of a regular meeting place and the hard times of the depression years depleted the club rolls. Fabian Kuchin says there were only a dozen or so who maintained even a token membership in the lodge. Those were primarily for the retention of the sickness and burial benefits. Finally, in the late 1950’s the Sokol Lodge ceased to exist. Several members requested a transfer of their records to a Slovenian lodge in Enumclaw, while others, like Kuchin, opted to join with Cle Elum Croation Lodge #79.

The Cle Elum Croation Lodge is still active and Kuchin still pays his dues. Mitch Moschner, Jr. of Cle Elum, handles all of the lodge benefit transactions in his capacity as secretary/ treasurer. His mother, Elsie, held that office before he did. All of the monies go to the national lodge and all of the benefit monies come from the national lodge. This is very different than in the days when each local lodge has a Sickness Committee that personally investigated all requests for aid, made by people the personally knew. Their findings were duly noted at lodge meetings and applications were granted or denied at those local meetings.

Narratives generated from the cemetery research tell not only of the history of Upper Kittitas County, but also of the ongoing changes. There changes will continue as long as there is a Roslyn.

Updates – 2005: This has been a “non-winter” as the snowfall was so sparse as to be nearly nonexistent. The lack of snow, and because foliage hadn’t blossomed yet, areas that are usually hidden from sight came to view. While walking the cemeteries to take pictures and to update some of the stories I wrote nearly 20 years ago, I spotted a tombstone across the road and directly down the hill from the Sokol cemetery. Once I beat my way through the brush to get there I found it and a smaller marker on the other side. As the graves were in exact alignment with the Sokol Lodge sign and the two graves next to the road I concluded that they must have been part of the Sokol Cemetery. Therefore I am including these as part of the Sokol Lodge Cemetery. [KSW]