A sense of history through cemeteries

When we recently took off for the Oregon coast, among the guidebooks we carried with us was, of course, Mad as the Mist and Snow: Exploring Oregon Through Its Cemeteries. As author Johan Mathiesen points out in the book, cemeteries are so much more than they seem. They are parks and museums. They offer history and spectacular views. They offer a sense of the region that is just a little different from what the everyday travel guide offers … and this is what’s so great about the book. (If you haven’t already, check out Johan’s recent article in The Oregonian — and learn about five secret Oregon cemeteries.)

We visited the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery in Coos Bay (and I’d post pictures here if I had any that weren’t completely rain-spattered) — and then, when the sun reappeared, we discovered the Cape Blanco Pioneer Cemetery.

Cape Blanco Pioneer Cemetery is a tiny but inviting little cemetery near where Patrick and Jane Hughes set up their homestead in the 1860s. (Just down the road is the house they built, which is open for tours April through October.) Both the location of the house as well as this quiet little cemetery offer a sense of what life was like back in the nineteenth century, working on raw, windswept land in an area both beautiful and harsh.

Cape Blanco also has sweeping beaches and a gorgeous, well-maintained lighthouse — but it’s the cemetery and homestead that completes the picture of the region’s history. So the next time you’re traveling through a new place, don’t neglect to visit the cemeteries…they’re well worth the visit.

1 thought on “A sense of history through cemeteries”

  1. How amazing! I think cemeteries are intriguing – there’s nothing quite like reading a headstone and wondering what the life of that person was like. The most haunting headstones are those of children. When I lived in Winthrop, I’d walk to the local library all the time to get new books to read. On the way I passed this amazingly crowded, yet small, cemetery. Dates from the 1700s. Amazing. I ALWAYS stopped to read some of the headstones.

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