Preserving the Past
Salem Pioneer Cemetery
Salem’s Pioneer Cemetery, founded in 1854, is one of the oldest burial grounds in Oregon. Its markers represent missionaries and politicians dating back to Oregon’s territorial period and early statehood. And while these men played star roles in the development of both Oregon and its capital city, there are many more stories of common working folks—merchants, farmers, and teachers—all of whom contributed to Salem’s early character.
Oregon’s “Founding Fathers” and So Much More
Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated Friends of Pioneer Cemetery group, it’s not just the typical politicians and businessmen whose lives are memorialized. Stories of more typical citizens too are highlighted at the cemetery. Interpretative signage and other records recount the stories of:
- Hiram Gorman who was born in Missouri to enslaved parents. Hiram served in the Union Army and, afterward, came to Oregon in 1871. He was a long-term employee of the Oregon Statesman.
- Roy Fukada, a Japanese merchant who operated a store in the Lake Labish area. Fukada survived a housefire in which he lost all his possessions, only to rebuild and prosper.
- Tabitha Brown crossed the Oregon Trail at age 60, began an orphanage near Salem, and made and sold gloves to support the children.
- James Veatch brought his family west during the Civil War and helped build a more modern version of Salem as one of its earliest cement contractors.
The stories of countless more citizens like these are represented among the graves, and are available for discovery at the cemetery itself, or through the robust website the summarizes the countless hours of research that have been spent in documenting their lives (scroll down for more website information).
Thanks to a recent Lottery-funded Parks grant, Salem’s Pioneer Cemetery will be able to plan and institute a maintenance plan and fence repairs to help preserve this serene and historically important site for future generations.
A Rediscovered Chinese Shrine
Like many west coast cities, Salem once had a thriving Chinatown. Today, however, there is little evidence of this community that contributed so much labor to building the city. Even the historic Pioneer Cemetery has only a handful of tombstones to document the presence of the Chinese in Salem.
In 2017, the city launched an effort to locate the remains of a Chinese shrine believed to have once existed in the cemetery. With the help of preservation experts, the shrine’s remaining concrete slab and “curb” were located and excavated. Today, “QingMing” ceremonies are held there to pay respect to Salem’s forgotten Chinese ancestors.
In the Internet Age
Historic Cemeteries as Research Tools
Tombstones have always provided important clues to those researching local history or tracing their genealogy; unfortunately, most provide little more than a name and the set of dates that served as the bookends of that person’s life. But in the internet age, cemeteries and their associated websites have evolved into important research tools, often providing far more information than can be chiseled in stone.
Salem’s Pioneer Cemetery is a case in point. The Friends of Pioneer Cemetery have created one of the most comprehensive cemetery websites available. Their search engine allows users to enter the name of any individual buried in the cemetery and returns far more than just birth and death dates. Biographical sketches, obituaries, newspaper articles and more are often available, providing a remarkably rich picture of that person’s life and times.
Check out at the Salem Pioneer Cemetery website at the link above.
A Park for Adventurers
Rugged and vast, Cottonwood Canyon is one of Oregon’s largest state parks at over 8,000 acres. Bordered by another 10,000 acres of federally-maintained public lands, this special place gives a new depth of meaning to the phrase “getting away from it all”. Before white settlers took hold of this land, the river was known as the Mah Hah to the Native Americans. In the 19th Century it was renamed the John Day River as part of a privately-owned cattle ranch. Between 1964 and 2008, the canyon and surrounding property were purchased by Oregon State Parks and the Western Rivers Conservancy. Seeking to protect the canyon while allowing the public to access the breathtaking area, Cottonwood Canyon became an Oregon State Park in 2013. With help from Oregon Lottery dollars, it’s been transformed into a unique wilderness and recreation experience for Oregonians and visitors alike. In 2019, more than $2 million in lottery dollars helped fund a learning center, cabins and restrooms, making it easier for visitors to set up a base camp from which to explore all Cottonwood Canyon has to offer. Plans are in the works to build a boat launch for easier access to the clear and open waters of the John Day, the largest free flowing river in the western United States. This undammed waterway is home to a year-round angler’s delight. Winter native steelhead, catfish and summer small-mouth bass mean the fish are constantly biting. Down the road, there’ll be even more ways to access the wild, back country of Cottonwood Canyon. Whether you choose to visit when spring turns the hills green or in winter when snow blankets the cliffs, just make sure you go to this unique and special place. It’s a perfect sample of the natural beauty of Oregon.
Peer-to-Peer Support for Veterans
At Project ABLE, veterans receive training to help fellow veterans with behavioral health. Thanks to a grant of lottery dollars, Salem-based Project ABLE will train veterans as peer support specialists for other veterans with behavioral health issues. In peer support, an individual provides support to another who shares similar life experiences. Fellow veterans will be trained as support specialists because those who’ve also taken the Oath of Enlistment best understand military related trauma. This sort of support, along with additional wellness classes and services, can provide veterans-in-need with a much brighter future. Thanks to Lottery support, Project ABLE’s training will benefit veterans in six northwest Oregon counties.
Legal Aid for Veterans
St. Andrew Legal Clinic (SALC), based in Portland, provides legal protections for some of the community’s most vulnerable people. Specializing in family law, SALC provides legal advocacy on matters like adoptions, divorce, child custody and support, and more. Thanks to a grant of lottery dollars, SALC will now be able to leverage their legal expertise for the benefit of Oregon veterans, with a focus on economic stability and housing security. With the support of lottery dollars, SALC will provide veterans in five Oregon counties with access to the legal services they might need as they return to civilian life.
Solving Veteran Homelessness in Southern Oregon
KLCAS, a Local agency, helps homeless veterans and those at risk for homelessness. Military veterans can be particularly vulnerable to a housing crisis for a variety of reasons. In southern Oregon, Klamath-Lake Community Action Services (KLCAS) is using a grant of lottery dollars to help prevent low-income veterans and their families from falling into homelessness—or to rapidly re-house already homeless veterans. Assistance might take the form of help finding and accessing a rental, childcare assistance, utility assistance, and other types of support services veterans need to obtain housing and stay housed. With the help of the ODVA, your lottery dollars are distributed to local organizations like KLCAS where they can do targeted good for Oregon veterans.
BMCC Veterans’ Resource Center
Lottery funds are being used to create veterans’ resource centers at Oregon’s public colleges and universities. Blue Mountain Community College’s center is already serving military veterans and performing community outreach in eastern Oregon.
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