Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Cristilla Pioneer Cemetery

I passed by this little cemetery today; beautiful, deserted spot.

It's located on the side of a small hilltop east of what used to be a town called "Happy Valley", now a sprawl of subdivisions in northern Clackastan (as we urban hipsters refer to Clackamas County).

Here's a brief description of the place, from the Happy Valley historical page:
"From the very beginning the settlers needed a place to bury their dead, and such a place was found near the summit of a neighboring knoll now called "Scouters' Mountain." The first to be laid in it was an unknown man who had arrived in the same wagon train with the Deardorff's and who died in 1852, shortly after reaching the valley."

(My guess is that this guy's name wasn't "Covered Wagon Pioneer" and that Deardorffs or whoever planted him knew that name. But the original grave was probably marked by a wooden plank; that's the best they had at the time. By the time anyone bothered to lug a stone up this hill the old plank - and the poor bastard's name - had long since rotted. So there he is today, nameless forever.)

Anyway, to continue:
"John M. Deardorff donated five acres of his land on the mountain for the cemetery, only one acre of which has actually been used. This is where twenty-seven graves, mostly of the Deardorff's and their relatives, are found in a fenced off area surrounded by a wilderness of tall trees, and adorned by clumps of wild flowers in springtime. Most of the headstones have been restored; a few had to be replaced by newer ones. The first grave is that of the wagon pioneer, the last is that of Edith Guidi, 1932. Twelve of the graves are of children and infants. Prominent, old fashioned headstones mark the resting places of the original pioneers: Christian and Matilda Deardorff, John M. and Rachel Deardorff, John Bennet and Clara Deardorff. The cemetery has been closed since the burial of Edith Guidi. It can be reached by means of a trail leading down from the Boy Scout Lodge on top of the mountain and by another trail from the approach road to the lodge."
Mind you, the old lodge is long since gone, and the place has been taken over by the regional government to turn into a natural area and wild land. So James Deardorff and his kin and the nameless guy who barely made the end of the Oregon Trail can sleep quietly on the sunny hill where only my footsteps disturb the song of the juncos and the distant hum of the highway.


Lisa said...

Cemeteries -- odd things. Places of sanctuary, as you note, yet a waste of space, in another sense.

Do they remind us or our mortality? Very few ever visit. Would we be tempted to merely tarmac over everything should we not set certain areas off as sacrosanct? We are so into the pomp, but so many graves have no names, and for many paupers, no mourners, so why did we plant them in the ground?

Don't we have interesting rituals?

FDChief said...

What these places always make me think, Lisa, is just exactly how little "difference" we make in the larger sense. We're the center of our own universe and yet, when that universe goes dark, how long does it take until we're forgotten. How many people remember ol' Jim Deardorff, gone to soil under his stone these years gone? How many people stop to think of him, or even take the lonely hike up to sit by his monument, the last little bit of his physical existence, to talk with his shade and remember him to the extent they can?

So often we have vanished within a single lifetime. Only the deserted stone momentos remain.

So, yes; we do have odd and interesting rituals, in both our lives and our deaths.

David Hauntz said...

A few weeks ago I was in Montpelier, Idaho, and visited the Oregon-California Trail Museum. The folks that came across the prairie were tough.

Lisa said...


Yes -- how little difference!

When I wrote obits during an internship, I realized how similar and inconsequential was everyone: He was a (pipefitter?) and a (Presbyterian?) who leaves behind a loving wife and two kids and (xxx) grandkids. Flowers/in lieu of flowers may be sent to (xxx).

So many vanish well before taking their last breath, and they needlessly take up space in a vault or the ground; the headstone will soon enough be washed flat erasing all memory, and really, no one will visit "you" here, anyway.

How to make it matter, and does that even matter? I have some thoughts, but buying the pricey vault or the granite stone cover isn't justified by any life. IMHO.

Podunk Paul said...

What takes the wind out of my sails even more than the anonymity of death is the immensity of our surroundings – a universe than appears to be infinite in extension and intensity, with perhaps as many every tinier subatomic particles as there are suns. And neither the galactic stuff nor the particles obey the Newtonian billiard-ball laws that we intuitively understand. Measured by what we observe and what we understand, our level of ignorance increases with each new discovery.

Lisa said...


Humbling, no? I fancy we operate like giant majorana fermions, both creating and destroying ourselves. Gives us something to do, I s'pose ;)