If you have been following the adventures of our guest writer Steven Michael, you know that the Southern Oregon Coast is full of mystery. The beautiful historical cemeteries in and around Coos Country are excellent places to uncover the fascinating history behind the community we are today.
In this post, guest writer Steven Michael of Steven Michael Photography shares more examples of the many interesting, scenic and historic cemeteries in Coos County we recommend exploring.
The Fairview Cemetery is a great example of what a well kept small country cemetery should look like. The volunteers who care for the cemetery take pride in the upkeep of the cemetery, keeping the site clean and well manicured at all times. The 168 people buried here are worth your visit.
Edward Neely died in 1898 at the age of 63. He and his family lived in the Fairview area working as Farmers. They Farmed in a time when life was much harder than it is today. Edward and much of his family are buried at the Fairview Cemetery, atop a hillside over looking the valley. A beautiful, peaceful and well kept pioneer cemetery. All of Neely’s family and relatives have very nice gravestones.
David Curtis Noah was born in 1949 and died in 2005. David was a PVT in the US Army. He served in Vietnam. There are several military Veterans in this cemetery.
The Fairview Cemetery has unofficially been the destination cemetery used for the “John & Jane Doe’s” in the county. It has been told that the “John Doe” cemetery started back in the 1950’s when a young man was found dead in the woods not far from Fairview. His cause of death was never determined, and no one claimed his body. He was buried in an unmarked grave under a tree. A few residence of Fairview know which tree he is buried under, but to a passing visitor, they’d never know. Several other “unknown’s” have been buried in the Fairview Cemetery.
The cemetery has an equal amount of the older upright headstone and the newer flat “lawn” style headstones. Make sure you visit the cemetery during the day, for the cemetery is on private property, but it is open to the public to visit anytime when the gate is open.
Nestled high atop a forested sand dune hill and quietly overlooking the campers on loop “C”, of the Bullards State Park campground, a lonely cemetery rests peacefully. This small family cemetery is well preserved and hidden amongst the Huckleberry, Salal, wild Rhododendron, Hemlock and large Shore Pines. If you were camping in loop “C” and didn’t adventure out on your own, you would never know a cemetery was near with headstones quietly standing, as if watching the activities of the campground below.
Robert W. Bullard, for whom the bridge is named, migrated to Coos County from Iowa, in 1877. In 1882 Bullard established a general store and ferry crossing that operated from the north bank of the Coquille River.
Today, the only visible trace of any sort of working community once existing in this area is the diminutive cemetery bearing the thirteen gravestones of three related pioneer families. Robert Bullard is buried here along with his wife, Malinda, a descendant of the Hamblocks and Longs, two of their six children, and other relatives.
To search out this cemetery on your own, it will be difficult to know where to find it. The Bullards State Park does not openly advertise the cemetery’s location in order to protect the delicate headstones from vandals. Though not advertized, it is open to the public to go visit. For directions, just stop by the campground registration booth, or the camp host for directions.
The Norway Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Coos County dating back to 1875. The Cemetery has an unusual distinction unlike any other cemetery in Coos County. There is a tremendous amount of infants and very young children buried here. In the early 1900’s and into the 1920’s, a variety of deadly diseases like diphtheria, smallpox, and measles swept through the Coquille River Valley killing a large portion of the children.
So many children were dying that a place for burial was needed immediately. With the location proximity between Coquille, Arago, and Myrtle Point, and that it only cost $50 to bury a child in the cemetery, the Norway Cemetery became the destination for immediate burials. The year 1920 was an especially deadly year for the families with infant children of the Coquille Valley.
One year-old Eleanor Endicott died of Dysentery in 1920, eleven month old William Barklow died of Influenza in 1920. According to the headstone belonging to the Johnston family, hardship of loss was severe and most likely, emotionally devastating. In 1905, the birth of a daughter named Opal was cut short when she died in the same year. Five years later, twin girls were born in 1910, but their lives were also cut short when both died in the same year of their birth. It is unclear of how the girls died.
The Norway Cemetery resides on a steep grassy hillside surrounded by a forest of Douglas Fir, Hemlock, and the rare Myrtlewood. This is not a cemetery for the weak of knees. The hill is steep and sliding or falling is common. Lawn mowing maintenance is tricky with such steep slopes, but the cemetery is kept up nicely.
Several names that played huge rolls in the development of the towns throughout the Coquille River Valley can be found throughout the cemetery grounds.
One of the finest examples of a small country cemetery being overtaken by the growth of a healthy forest would have to be the Gravelford Pioneer Cemetery established in 1884. From the gravel road, you can’t see the cemetery. It’s hidden up on a hillside underneath a dense canopy of a thriving forest. With the growth of the trees, less sunlight reaches the forest floor, keeping the place dark, damp, and mysterious. More and more of what was once new, is being embraced by the encroachment of the forest cycle.
The inscription on William Albert Bright’s headstone reads, “Lost to sight yet dear to memory”. Such words coincides with the grounds of the cemetery being lost in the forest.
To gain a sense of the harsh reality of what life was like in the county-side in the 1920’s, then this cemetery will reveal such struggles, and accidents, and hardships.
The dominate families in the cemetery are the Hobson’s, Bright’s and Shook’s. All these families struggled with unexpected losses. James Hobson died from a cerebral hemorrhage due to a gun shot wound, Members of the Bright family died from pneumonia and apoplexy; Morgan Shook died from drowning, Milo Shook died from blood poisoning and Carrie Shook died of chronic valvular heart disease.
Life on the farm was not easy and these families are witness to such hardships. Two-and-a-half year-old J.H. Chandler died in 1884, the same year the cemetery was established. Over the years, a healthy growing Douglas Fir’s roots have been encroaching upon the headstone, “hugging” it around its base.
The Coos County Cemeteries featured in this series of posts are listed and numbered in YELLOW. An additional seven Coos County Cemeteries are listed in BLUE that are just as historic, unique, and worth visiting. If you love cemeteries, then you’ll love all the cemeteries listed in yellow and in blue.
A cemetery can be a powerful place. Suddenly everything has perspective: our problems and mistakes, our challenges and dreams, our values and priorities. To walk amongst the headstones digesting that all we take with us are our deeds and who we have become, what potential we have realized and the value of our service to those we love. A cemetery is authoritative in its unassuming way of humbling us, and yet empowering in its wake-up call for us to appreciate what we have here and now and all the opportunities and pleasures life offers.
About the Author & Photographer:
Steven Michael is an award winning photographer, a published author, and illustrator who has lived on the Oregon Coast for most of his life. He has ventured and explored the entire length of the coast, photographing what he discovers. He is known as the Ambassador of the Southern Oregon Coast. If you would like to follow Steven Michael on one of his adventures or learn more about Steven Michael Photography, connect with him on his Facebook Page or visit his site, Pacific Northwest Adventures.
To learn more about Coos County Cemeteries, read Steven’s other posts: