I must admit that I like cemeteries and not just on Halloween. I am not so fond of new or overly manicured cemeteries, I prefer older cemeteries, ones where the dead have withstood the test of time. Today I visited such a cemetery, the Jacksonville Historical Cemetery in Southern Oregon. I haven't been here for quite sometime. This is a cemetery that house dead folks from the War of 1812 through the Gulf War. There are large family plots, unmarked "potters field" graves, and old headstones that are quite literally cracking at the seams.
The ambiance is peaceful. Indeed I am not the only person to feel this. There is a small interpretative center with guest book, I noted that more than one cemetery "guest" observed a peaceful atmosphere in this cemetery. This is a cemetery where one might observe the term "killed by Indians" on a number of headstones. Then there are the mother, father, son, daughter, baby plots with no names. It is easy to think that "back then" human life wasn't as valuable as it is today, after all people had so many children. The ornateness of many of the infant, toddler, and child headstones make me question this assumption. It seems as though people grieved much for their lost little ones back then, much as they would today.
This cemetery is housed on 32 acres. It is divided into seven sections, six of which represent religious or fraternal organizations: Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Catholic, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Independent (German) and Improved Orders of Red Men, and Jewish. The seventh and largest section is the City of Jacksonville's portion which includes a Potter's Field.
Some of the more notable stories include those of Regina Dorland-Robinson (1892-1917), William Green T'Vault (1806-1869), and Mary Ann Harris Chambers (1821-1882). Regina Robinson was a promising young artist who committed suicide at a very young age, William T'Vault was a newspaper editor who died in the Smallpox epidemic of 1869, and Mary Ann Chambers held down the fort during an Indian attack on her homestead, she died later of natural causes. One could learn the whole history of an area, a history that would be much more interesting than what could be found in a textbook, just by following the stories of the dead.
I think that John Lieshman sums up my feeling about cemeteries the best, "A cemetery tells the history of its people, and through its people, the history of its town."