Cemeteries: What’s In a Grave or A Cemetery?

You may know my penchant for exploring ‘pioneer’ cemeteries. History, nostalgia, intrigue, drama, the visuals all draw me into older cemeteries in my region of Oregon. I realize there is a deeper reality to burials and the means/methods of putting people to rest. But, I came upon the Bridal Veil Historic Cemetery and the historical reality of this little plot struck me.

BV Cem

BVHC SB 2014

It has not had a burial since 1934. It has suffered from neglect……

“The first known burial in the cemetery occurred in 1888, and the last in 1934. In 1958 the cemetery was described as being in “total neglect”, with only four observable headstones. In 1964 the blackberries were beaten back and the first field survey was conducted. At that time, thirty-one stones were discovered, and additional unmarked graves were documented from town records and obituaries. A recent field survey (May 2000) by the Genealogical Forum of Oregon revealed forty-three tombstones, and the locations were mapped. The cemetery has been assumed by Multnomah County and a major renovation took place in October 2000.” (X)


I always admire anyone that attempts to maintain the historical integrity of a location, especially if they have no vested familial interest in the site. Obviously, some went to the effort to salvage this cemetery. Others tried to salvage the town of Bridal Veil as a historical site (an amazing, intriguing history along with Palmer Mill) but eventually the town’s remaining structures were torn down.

Common everywhere, I am sure, is little is taught in schools about local history. What a shame. So much to be learned about values, journeys, ethics, mistakes, successes, failures, life and death. 



Simple metal stakes probably mark a gravesite…whose is unknown to the casual visitor


Some graves have a hub of sorts…the satellite family members propped up now…the visitor gets the idea of what was


J.M. & C.B. Were their names to long or the spelling confusing to include on the stone? Just initials….better in some way than a metal stake driven in the ground if a marker is to exist at all


There was one lasting effort at man made beauty

“It is upon such stones that men attempt to permanently etch history so they will not exist in a vacuum; it is the final statement after a lifetime of scratching out divisions upon the ground, over ephemeral time itself, merely to give their short journeys meaning, to tell others “I was here – do not forget me, do not let my brief blast dissolve into nothingness.” Rob Bignell

3 Responses to “Cemeteries: What’s In a Grave or A Cemetery?”

  1. January 27, 2014 at 15:36

    Well said! I am a huge fan of cemeteries and their history and art, even though I have no plan (or should I say plot??) to occupy one ever, as I’d rather be burned and tossed in a garden for good compost. But along with the marvelous parks that most cemeteries are for walking and quiet meditation, they hold so much of our collective history and the spirit of love and remembrance that they are well worth preserving and studying, in my estimation. Thanks for sharing this.


  2. 2 Stephen & Amy Haney
    January 26, 2014 at 09:01

    Very thought provoking Gary! Thank you. SH


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