There was a light snow in the mountains and occasional rain below. Early December temperatures were surprisingly mild; almost an early breath of spring.
None of that would last.
Under a light overcast, Robert and Martha Hargadine were burying their youngest daughter, Katie, the first of their seven children to die. Barely 16 months old, Katie died Dec. 8, 1867. Because she was the first to be buried here, the subsequent cemetery would always be known as the Hargadine Cemetery.
The owner of the only store in Ashland Mills, a town of fewer than 20 families, Robert Hargadine was one of the first settlers in Southern Oregon. In 1852, he claimed 160 acres in what would become Ashland’s Railroad Addition.
Just months before Katie died, Robert had joined with others to form a company that set up the Ashland Woolen Mills. To supply it, Robert began purchasing sheep, and especially Angora goats. The goats’ long white hair brought him a dollar a pound in San Francisco.
Born in Delaware in 1829, Robert came west across the Isthmus of Panama to California in 1850. For nearly two years, his dreams of striking it rich in the northern gold fields were futile. He gave up and came to Oregon, where he became the largest stock and wool raiser in the county, and one of the largest property owners.
In 1856, he married Martha Washington Kilgore, who had crossed the Plains with her family two years earlier.
In December 1876, Robert traveled to Oakland, California, seeking medical treatment for a lingering ailment that some thought had been caused by a severe case of sunstroke. There, in January 1877, at age 47, he died of a probable heart attack. Because there was not yet a railroad in town, “the body of this gentleman arrived at Ashland by private conveyance.” He was the first of his family to be buried with daughter Katie. Martha joined her husband in 1905.
Landowner James Haworth deeded nearly one and a half acres of his property to Robert Hargadine and Allen Farnham for use as a family cemetery.
Farnham and his wife, Sarah, were owners of the Eagle Mills flour mill and lived just north of Ashland. Their 5-month-old son, Cuyler, died Dec. 21, 1867, just 13 days after Katie Hargadine had passed, and Cuyler was the second burial in the Hargadine Cemetery.
Allen Farnham was born in Maine in 1822, where he must have met Sarah Billings, who was also born in Maine in 1833. Allen left in 1850 for a very successful gold search on the Scotts River in Northern California, while Sarah completed her studies at the Charlestown Female Seminary in Massachusetts. They were married in 1858 and came to the Ashland area in 1864.
Ironically, Allen Farnham was also the first of his family to be buried with his child in the Hargadine Cemetery. His 1876 death came just five months before Robert Hargadine’s passing. After he died, Sarah continued to run the Farnham flour business until her death in 1888.
Over the years, maintaining the Hargadine Cemetery has been a problem. The Hargadine Cemetery Association struggled up to 1968, when the association relinquished control and transferred title to the city of Ashland. It wasn’t until 1989 that the state Legislature approved the transfer.
Now, with the help of dedicated volunteers, the final resting place of many Ashland pioneers is now secure under the cooling branches of the tall oaks, sturdy madrone, and Ponderosa pine.
Writer Bill Miller is the author of “History Snoopin’,” a collection of his previous history columns and stories. Reach him at email@example.com or WilliamMMiller.com.