Beautiful and secluded, the nearly 150 year old Sitka National Cemetery is nestled in the mountains of Sitka, Alaska, a town only accessible by air, marine highway, or weekly ferry from Seattle, Washington. Once nearly abandoned, the cemetery is now the resting place of "The World's Fastest Human" and is attached to an old romantic legend. Just outside the heart of town, the cemetery is one of many historic spots to visit in Sitka.


  • A view of the headstones.
    A view of the headstones.
  • The cemetery's amazing view of Mount Verstovia.
    The cemetery's amazing view of Mount Verstovia.
  • The town of Sitka, Alaska.
    The town of Sitka, Alaska.

Sometime between 1868 and 1870, General Jefferson C. Davis, first commander of the Department of Alaska, laid out the cemetery within the breathtaking mountains of Sitka, Alaska. But by 1912, it was essentially abandoned and the land completely overgrown. It wasn't until 1921, after an appeal to the Secretary of the Navy, that any reconditioning of the site began. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge officially designated it a National Cemetery, and in 2012 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

One particular headstone in the cemetery is connected to an old Sitka legend involving a romantic entanglement. According to the story, two close friends, a captain and a lieutenant, were both courting a beautiful Russian girl that lived in the town. One day the friends left on a hunting trip together but only the captain returned, carrying the lifeless body of his friend. The captain claimed there had been a horrible accident and the lieutenant had shot himself by mistake. Soon after, the captain was also found dead, lying atop a note that explained what really happened: he had challenged his dear friend to a duel over who would win the Russian girl. But she refused him and after already murdering his friend, the captain no longer wanted to live. The slain lieutenant is said to be one of Sitka National Cemetery's first burials.

Now sprawled over 4.3 acres, the cemetery houses a few other interesting and notable burials. John Green Brady, governor of the Territory of Alaska from 1897 to 1906, is buried here. Staff Sergeant Archie Van Winkle, a Medal of Honor recipient, has a memorial headstone in the historical section of the cemetery. Charles William Paddock, an Olympic Gold Medalist and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, also known as "The World's Fastest Human," was also laid to rest here after a military plane crash in 1943. There are two cannons serving as a memorial for all those interred.

"Sitka National Cemetery," National Cemetery Administration, accessed May 18, 2015, http://www.cem.va.gov/CEMs/nchp/sitka.asp. "Sitka National Cemetery," Wikipedia, last modified January 8, 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitka_National_Cemetery.