jacksonville cemetery (jacksonville, or)
1859 - "The original acreage that the cemetery sits on was part of a government land grant given to J.N.T Miller who later sold portions of it to various organizations
to be used as their sections in the cemetery." (From the Friends of Jacksonville Cemetery website.)

There are, I would contend, three iconic, non-Native American cemeteries in the state of Oregon: Lone Fir (Portland), Camp Polk (Sisters), and Jacksonville. There are numerous other delightful, rustic graveyards scattered throughout the state—we are blessed—many of which excel in one manner or another, but those three are unmatched for size and variety of monuments. These three say “Oregon” loud and clear. Not big. Not showy. Not elaborate. Just ours, thank you, ours. A little off-center. A little left foot. The box has yet to show up that we’re suppose to think outside of. We don’t march to our own drummer. We have no drum.

But enough about me.

Jacksonville goes out of its way to get you to visit their cemetery, beginning with a spiffy, black and white sign out on the main drag, and a wrought iron entrance arch visible from the drag, as well. Their cemetery is the town’s crown jewell, and other than the Britt Festival, it’s arguably the best reason to visit this preserved town. Certainly, the community thinks highly of it and a stroll around the grounds offers ample testimony to their involvement, not the least of which being an “interpretive center” established there in 1991, amplified by several other interpretive signs located throughout the cemetery. There’s a lot of story here to tell and a lot of it is told through the cemetery. Its unusual size and complexity for what became a forgotten by-place, alert one right off the bat that this community had its greater glory days. Notably, the cemetery is an amalgam of six separate cemeteries: city; Catholic; Masonic; Odd Fellows; and Red Men, both Improved and Independent Orders; and Jewish. Combining cemeteries is common, but to have so many sections for such a tiny town attests to its erstwhile luster. The Masons and Odd Fellows and Catholics sprinkled cemeteries all through the state; their appearance here along with a municipal plot would attest to a certain stature Jacksonville had in the past; while the rare appearance of the Orders of Red Men boosts that claim considerably; but the clincher is the Jewish section. You don’t find Jewish cemeteries unless there’s money. I’m sorry if saying that offends anyone and I don’t mean it in a crass or derogatory way; I’m only pointing out that Jews only show up where there is significant commerce, and the existence of a Jewish cemetery is a guarantee that, at one time at least, wherever place you’re at once had clout. Albany, Oregon, once had clout. So did Jacksonville. (Portland has seven Jewish cemeteries; Portland still has clout.)

But the Jacksonville Cemetery, it’s important to note, is not a cemetery frozen in time as, say, is that of Myrtle Creek; and while the proliferation of relatively old stones (for the West Coast) is the advertised draw here, in my mind it’s largely the active new stuff that merits attention. Admittedly, this place doesn’t have quite the exuberant insouciance of Camp Polk, but it’s a close second; and don’t come here without expecting to spend a lot of time. I advise sandwiches, something to drink. The six sections must cover at least fifteen acres crawling up a madrone covered ridge. The newer stuff tends to be lower on the hill, but not necessarily. The Jewish section has considerably more activity than either than fraternal orders or the Catholics.

In 1972 the movie The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, which stared, among others, Robert Duvall as Jessie James, was filmed in Jacksonville, thanks to the period architecture. I must say that the mountains of Northfield never looked better. Or bigger.

For some inexplicable reason, the USGS, and hence ePodunk, don’t list this cemetery. They do list a Jacksonville Cemetery in Jackson County, but it’s considerably north of here and I haven’t tracked it down yet.

There are a lot of reasons to detour to Jacksonville, should you ever find yourself drifting up this way, even were there no cemetery; but this is a must-see. You’re gonna love it.

Directions:

From downtown Jacksonville, head north on N. Oregon St. When you hit E St. (three blocks up), turn west. The drive to the cemetery is at the end of the street, one short block.
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