Fun Walks Through Historic Cemeteries

Fun Walks Through Historic Cemeteries

While no one needs an excuse to take a drive in the beautiful countryside, a trio of local historic cemeteries offers more than an excuse; they offer a destination. From one corner of the Rogue Valley to the next, three local graveyards offer a unique ambiance and history lesson coupled with fall’s remaining colors and crisp temperatures. One of the Rogue Valley’s oldest, and most interesting, is the historic Jacksonville Cemetery. Donated in 1859 by early landowner J.N.T. Miller, the heavily wooded hilltop graveyard appears stuck in time, overlooking sprawling orchards and Mt. McLoughlin, almost oblivious to the tiny gold rush town below.

Divided by religious and civic affiliations, the graveyard is the final resting spot for everyone from merchants and Chinese miners to victims of the Indian wars and children who died from measles, diphtheria and small pox.

Interestingly, residents who died prior to the establishment of the cemetery were relocated there after it was dedicated in 1860, however, Chinese miners were dug up by family members in the 1920s and returned to their homelands for proper burials.

Early settlers buried in the old graveyard include General John E. Ross, an interpreter for the American Indians and early Senator; Peter Britt, well-known pioneer photographer; and early banker Cornelius C. Beekman.

Across the valley, the Rock Point Cemetery just outside Gold Hill has an air of curiosity and wonder due to its close proximity to the Oregon Vortex. This cemetery is all that remains of Rock Point, a stage stop established in the 1850s.

Each spring, daffodils add a peaceful quaintness, though caretakers will admit to at least a few ghosts who’ve yet to settle into eternity. The site is filled with miners, veterans and a slew of rough-and-tumble pioneers.

“There are so many interesting people buried there… and some of them are still around,” said one of two caretakers, Gold Hill resident Joyce Wayland.

Established in the 1850s, Rock Point’s 26-acre cemetery was designated by Rock Point’s first postmaster, John B. White. Though the stage stop once boasted a store, blacksmith shop, post office, school, church and hotel, it was eventually bypassed by the railroad for nearby Gold Hill.

Names long associated with the Rock Point–Gold Hill community include L.J. White, who established the nearby Rock Point Stage Station (now home to the Del Rio Vineyards nearby); Mary Helms, wife of early orchardist A.D. Helms; and Margaret Patrick, a long-time teacher for whom Patrick School was named and sister of the man who named the town of Gold Hill.

Down the road a bit, the Central Point Cemetery is brimming with all the charm of an old country cemetery, despite a rapidly growing city nearby.

From the road, it appears to be a small, abandoned graveyard. A drive inside reveals a 7-acre site and the final story of some 1900 former Rogue Valley residents dating back to 1868.

Early residents buried in the graveyard include Granville Sears, one of the earliest known settlers to Southern Oregon; William Constant Leever, a former mayor and hardware store owner; and family members of Mary Takao, the author of Reflections, Memoirs of a Japanese American Woman in Minnesota, who grew up in Central Point before Pearl Harbor.

“We’ve got people in there that come from all the various wars this country’s been involved in,” says caretaker and Central Point mason Bill Best.

So if you’re interested in history, combined with a lovely walk on a crisp fall day, why not visit the local cemeteries and discover some of the fascinating people who founded the valley.



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