brownsville pioneer cemetery
Brownsville is a special community. It was before Stand By Me was filmed there and it continues so today. It’s a little glitzier, a little more cutified than it once was, perhaps, but it’s no Jacksonville. There’s no Britt Festival here. Eugene likes to soak up atmosphere here, and there are a few places aimed at the tourist crowd, but underneath lives the same old Brownsville that’s always been here: Queen of the Calapooia.

I don’t know what it says about the Calapooia River, but both her small towns end in “-ville”: Brownsville and Crawdfordsville. Vainglorious hopes? Nonetheless, both towns have cemeteries out of proportion to their size. Brownsville, though, gets the most action and hogs the lion’s share (how’s that for a mixed metaphor) of the newly interred. It is, after all, the larger of the two communities and the one with the caché.

Noticeable right off the bat upon entering the cemetery (past the “cemetery parking” sign) is a chain-saw-carved bust of, one can only presume, Indian Lize, who has a neighboring stone in her honor as being the “Last of the Calapooyas” (that spelling), who died in 1921 “age about 100 years.” Next to her are two flat markers: one for Susan Indian (d. 1921), and one for L. B. “Alva” Indian (d. 1892). It goes without saying that markers honoring Indians are rare in pioneer cemeteries. Occasionally it’s gone the other way, where white people chose to be buried with the natives.

The Brownsville Cemetery is also unusual in having a matched pair of Woodman of the World tree-trunk markers, giving lie to my contention that no two WotW tree-trunks were alike. Furthermore, the cemetery has a number of homemade or hand-decorated grave sites of merit, including one very simple, very pure, very stainless-steel cross. There was a machinist in the family.

The Upper Willamette Valley has a cox’s comb of valleys protruding into the Cascades: the North and South Santiams and the Middle and Coast Forks of the Willamette, sandwiching the poor Calapooia between them. But being small and skinny and not on the road to much anyplace has its advantages. With seclusion comes serenity, and it’s no surprise that craftspeople and artisan farmers have found the place. What Crawfordsville has to worry about is that, if Brownsville gets gentrified, what happens to them next?


At the eastern end of Kirk St. in historic Brownsville. Kirk St. (there aren't many streets in town) is close to the river. Make sure you continue straight on Kirk St. when the main flow of traffic turns right.
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