carson cemetery
Hwy. 101 is an ocean-side carney ride almost without let up from California to the Washington border. Any time of the year the traffic can be maddening, but in summer it’s insane. Tacky gift shops, smoked salmon shacks, and seaside resorts mixed with auto glass places, outlet shopping malls, and used boat centers line the highway for miles on end, broken here and there by jutting headlands. Four thousand cafes serving bad clam chowder. It’s awesome.

Whereas a turn inland down almost any road will find one in an oft sparsely settled valley dripping with moss and drained by fast running streams. A few cows in the stream bottoms constitute a farm. People here drive pickups and wear mud boots. They live unseen by the conveyor belt of people lurching past the mouth of their valley. People not even aware the valley is there. Not aware that people live in the hills behind the mist.

The Yachats River Rd. reaches into one such valley. Some valleys, like those of the Alsea or the Umpqua, have roads that continue further, opening up to the interior; but the blacktop up the Yachats disappears into the maze of forest roads which web the Coast Range. There’s not much call for anyone besides residents and log-truck drivers to wend their way along this minor river. Yachats, named for a now-extinct Indian tribe and perfectly charming in its intimate location, will always draw its share of visitors; but the river road behind it will continue to be a local pathway only, save for two lesser, if quintessential attractions. One is a covered bridge crossing the Yachats about six or seven miles from town. Turn left at the T and the bridge is another mile or two upriver. By this point, the road is down to a one-lane dirt road, so drive carefully.

The other attraction, reached before the covered bridge, is the Carson Cemetery. As mentioned, it’s off Carson Creek Rd.; but Carson Creek Rd. is used by hardly anyone—even less than the Yachats River Rd.—so the chance of one accidentally running across the cemetery are practically nil. There is a sign for Carson Creek Rd., which runs north off Yachats River Rd., but I missed it on the ride up and didn’t see it till coming back down the road, after stopping for directions at a bed-and-breakfast run by Sam and Baerbel Morgan. Once you’re on Carson Creek Rd., the cemetery is the first drive to the right.

Asking at the bed-and-breakfast was the key. I was given directions by a pleasant and obviously knowledgeable lady with a slight accent, who I took to be Baerbel Morgan. At the entrance to the cemetery a sign explains that contributions to its upkeep can be sent in the cemetery’s name to the Yachats Lions Club (Box 66, Yachats, OR 97498—feel free), and that the caretaker is one Sam Morgan. Ah ha! the plot thickens.

It thickens further when one notices that a new and unusual stone marks the grave of one Sam Morgan (1938-1999). I would imagine it’s Baerbel, now, who does the maintenance. At least someone is keeping the brush at bay and providing the plastic flowers in this what looks for all the world like a Hobbits’ graveyard. It climbs a steep hillside through an uncleared forest and it doesn’t look like there’s room enough for whole bodies at most grave sites. At least not whole human bodies. While the underbrush has been replaced by rhodys and boxwoods, the forest floor is still a a tangle of roots that surely gives any gravedigger fits. The majority of the graves have either handmade markers, funeral home tags, or none at all. The cement, hand-lettered stone for James Ingram is typical. He was “born 1821 Tenn.” and “died 188[?]/ near here.” S. Traves has his name—no dates, no nothing else—held up by a curved length of rebar. Zanta Clarno’s (1888-1950) “A Saintly Lady” on metal plating set in black stone is an exception.

One feels that, were it not for the Morgans, this cemetery could well have been lost by now. Instead they’ve maintained a cemetery unique in our experience: one being built into the existing forest rather than having it cleared first. There’s a picnic bench and a couple of plastic chairs off to one side, and one has no doubt that social occasions obtain here from time to time. A white, quasi-bird house containing a glass-covered copy of LONGFELLOW’s “God’s Acre” centers on a sunny spot in this magical cemetery:


GOD'S ACRE

I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls
The burial-ground God's-Acre! It is just;
It consecrates each grave within its walls,
And breathes a benison o'er the sleeping dust.

God's-Acre! Yes, that blessed name imparts
Comfort to those, who in the grave have sown
The seed that they had garnered in their hearts,
Their bread of life, alas! no more their own.

Into its furrows shall we all be cast,
In the sure faith, that we shall rise again
At the great harvest, when the archangel's blast
Shall winnow, like a fan, the chaff and grain.

Then shall the good stand in immortal bloom,
In the fair gardens of that second birth;
And each bright blossom mingle its perfume
With that of flowers, which never bloomed on earth.

With thy rude ploughshare, Death, turn up the sod,
And spread the furrow for the seed we sow;
This is the field and Acre of our God,
This is the place where human harvests grow!


Pull up one of the lawn chairs and sit here in the evening. Make no sound and slow your breathing to a sigh. Wrap a blanket around your shoulders and wait for the little ones to come out. I’m sure they will. It’s that kind of place.

Directions:

Take Yachats River Rd. east out of Yachats. After 4.8 miles (according to my odometer) Carson Rd. will enter from the north (left). Take that. The cemetery is up the first drive to the right (east) off Carson Rd. I don’t recall if there’s a sign at the road or not, but I think not.
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