Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday

Josephine County has many historic cemeteries, some dating back before statehood. In the case of Waldo Cemetery, it's the only thing left of a boomtown whose residents weren't even sure whether they were in Oregon or California.

The cemetery sits on a hill, beneath huge old trees. Jennie Weston lies here with her sons George and Philip, victims of an epidemic in 1865. The Bennett brothers, Frank and Edward, lie nearby, dead from another epidemic twenty years later.

Down the hill from the cemetery are the empty graves of Waldo's Chinese miners. As it was dishonorable to be buried in a foreign country, these miners were buried only long enough for the flesh to fall from the bones. They were then disinterred and the bones shipped to their ancestral village in China.

Just outside the gates of the cemetery is a small homemade concrete marker: the tombstone of Kitty Messenger. She was a Native American, married to Samuel Chauncey Messenger, and she died in 1896.

Because she was an Indian, the residents of Waldo wouldn't allow her to be buried in the "white" cemetery. But they did allow her to be buried closer than the Chinese.

Originally written by Jean Boling for the JPR series, As It Was.

Josephine County, Oregon Cemeteries, Vol 1 by K W Phillips, 1991; and personal conversations with same.

Do you have information about tombstones or cemeteries you'd like to share?
Please email us at info@sohs.org

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