October is historic cemeteries month.
The combination of Halloween, foggy mornings, and falling leaves all create a mood perfect to visit one of the Northwest’s historic cemeteries. Full of atmosphere, take an early morning walk on a gray foggy day or perhaps you’d enjoy a crisp, sunny afternoon with leaves falling and birds chirping. Most of the Northwest’s early pioneer cemeteries date to the 1850s when families began arriving en mass from the Oregon Trail. The perilous journey, combined with limited medical care and a difficult life spent building new communities, is reflected in the many short lifespans seen etched onto headstones. Learn a little history by wandering a pioneer cemetery. You might recognize some of those names – many are the namesakes of area roads, towns, and creeks.
Here are a few cemeteries that would make for an interesting walk through history during this October month:
In Salem are two pioneer cemeteries and where you can find many of the founding fathers of the state and government leaders as well as early pioneers buried in two cemeteries in town, the Lee Mission Cemetery at 2104 D Street NE and the Salem Pioneer Cemetery at 2201 Commercial St SE.
In Sherwood Pleasant View Cemetery‘s oldest recorded burial dates to 1851, an infant who died just 5 months old. This large cemetery does offer pleasant views indeed looking out over the valley.
The Hill-Dunn Cemetery near Ashland was established in 1853. Originally a family burial ground, it was opened to accept the bodies of individuals killed in Indian-settler conflicts and then gradually enlarged.
Jacksonville Cemetery: its first official burial dates to 1859 and holds some of the earliest pioneer gravesites in southern Oregon. The large cemetery In Jacksonville has many different sections, each with their own stories.
Lone Fir Cemetery is a pioneer cemetery in the middle of Oregon’s largest city, Portland. Once named the Mt. Crawford cemetery, its first burial dates to 1846. Several other small cemeteries along the banks of Portland’s Willamette River were prone to flooding and occupants were reinterred in Lone Fir. Now filled with tall mature trees and ornate architecture, it is Portland’s second largest arboretum.
The Mosier Pioneer Cemetery probably began as a burial spot for Jane Mosier who died in 1865. The last known burial dates to 1901. The idyllic setting on a hilltop overlooking the town of Mosier is filled with widlflowers.
Oswego Pioneer Cemetery was once a company cemetery and many of its residents are former iron workers who worked the mines prior to Lake Oswego becoming the upscale residential area it is today.
Astoria Pioneer Cemetery holds a lot of the Northwest’s history. It was created in 1865 and by 1900 it was closed to further burials. It is possibly one of the oldest as many abandoned cemeteries had their contents moved to Pioneer Cemetery in the 1890s. This Astoria cemetery holds well known pioneers as well as paupers in unmarked graves.
Luper Pioneer Cemetery in Eugene is one of the oldest pioneer cemeteries dating to the mid 1800’s. Most of the pioneers came via the Oregon Trail and took the cut off through the McKenzie River pass which brought them to the Eugene area.
Mountainview Cemetery in Oregon City is a large cemetery with an old historic section where many of the state’s founding fathers are buried. The cemetery boasts quite a nice view of Mt. Hood as well.
A few of the famous names buried in Oregon:
Virgil Earp, a lawman and brother to Wyatt Earp, died in 1905 and was buried at River View Cemetery in Portland.
Jack Dempsey, boxer, buried in Mt Calvary Cemetery in Portland in 1895.
Early pioneer explorer Peter Skene Ogden was buried in 1854 at Mountain View Cemetery, Oregon City.
Kevin Hagen, an actor known best for his portrayal of Doc Baker on the series “Little House on the Prairie” among many other roles in movies and t.v. is buried in Hillcrest Memorial Park in Grants Pass.
John Beeson, early civil rights activist fighting for the rights of local Indians. Died in 1889 buried in Stearns Cemetery in Talent OR
John Pollard Gaines Governor of Oregon Territory from 1849-1853 before Oregon became a state. Died 1857 and buried in Salem Pioneer Cemetery.
Carl Barks, known for his illustrations of Donald Duck and the creator of Scrooge McDuck. He is buried in Hillcrest Memorial Park in Grants Pass.
Johnny Ray, musician. A popular singer from the 1950s who had 25 hits in the top 30 including “Walking My Baby Home” and “Candy Lips.” He is buried in Hopewell Cemetery in Dayton.