Searching for John McGraw

JH holds the letterbox that we found in a Seattle cemetery.

Our quest was over. After a few twists and a wrong turn, we found John McGraw, Washington’s second governor, gently tucked away in an evergreen bush on a Seattle hilltop neighborhood. In a cemetery. Inside a letterbox.

My friend JH had just introduced me to a hide-and-seek activity known as letterboxing. Armed with a set of clues provided by the individual who planted the box, we arrived at the cemetery ready to search for John McGraw. We located some grave markers mentioned in the clues then followed a hedgerow until we spotted the bush.

Hidden within its branches was the coveted box containing a stamp of John McGraw. JH gently removed the box then retreated to a quiet spot in the cemetery to claim her prize. She pulled out her letterboxing kit: an ink pad, journal, some colored pens, and her personal stamp.

Stamped image of John McGraw
John McGraw is memorialized on a rubber stamp.

Her reward? Besides a magnificent view of the Cascade peaks from this vantage point, JH “collected” the stamp of John McGraw by imprinting it in her journal. She also affixed her personal stamp and the date in the logbook that was included in the letterbox—proof that she had been there. Finished, JH put the items back in the plastic container and returned it to its hiding spot in the bushes. It was ready to be found by the next adventurous letterboxer.

The roots of letterboxing can be traced to Victorian England. It remained a largely English pastime until 1998, when Smithsonian magazine introduced it to Americans in its publication. The activity gained a foothold here and, with the aid of the internet, has a rapidly growing community.

JH is a veteran member of the letterboxing community. She has collected over 100 stamps and has created and planted her own letterboxes for others to find. Besides hunting for letterboxes near her home, she consults the internet to see what treasures might be discovered when she is traveling. That is how I found myself with JH, during her recent visit to Seattle, hunting for an obscure bush in a cemetery.

Ready to give letterboxing a try or want to learn more about it? These websites are excellent resources:

Atlas Quest

Letterboxing North America


4 thoughts on “Searching for John McGraw

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  1. Please do not give a picture of the stamps you find. Other treasure seekers like to be surprised by what they find in the box…. good or bad. Hope you continue to seek treasure and post about your adventures here. I’ve visited Washington last year and had the opportunity to stop long enough to collect “I-5 Lady Liberty”


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