Monday, November 27, 2017

The Mayville Cemetery

Oregon Ghost Towns

Once upon a time, the ghost town of Mayville was known as the town of Clyde--named after a local blacksmith.  The town served the many gold miners who were heading south to make their fortunes.  A hotel sprung up in the late 1800's.  Then a general store, a gristmill, a speakeasy (of course!), followed by a school, a church and post office.  Now they are all gone. 

And yet . . . the town lives on; not in its surviving inhabitants, but its dead ones.  The Mayville Cemetery is one of the most interesting pioneer cemeteries in this part of Oregon.  For one thing, it's a gorgeous setting.  I mean . . . who wouldn't want to be buried with a magnificent view of Mt. Hood in the distance?

The sad thing is, the many people who found their way here had no names.  Were they simply wandering through?  Had they died in a covered wagon on the Oregon Trail?  Or were they even more despised than a man named Henry Beck (1842-1899)?  The epitaph on Beck's tombstone is one of the sorriest I have ever come across.
Poorly born
Poorly lived
Poorly died,
and no one cried.

But what saddens me even more are the infants' tombstones.  Every pioneer cemetery is filled with such sweet sorrow.  The stones are beautifully carved with angels, lambs or doves.  It always sends shivers down my spine.  If I had been born one hundred years ago, I would not have lived beyond the tender age of ten.  Antibiotics, oxygen and good hospital care helped me survive double pneumonia and a collapsed lung.  Even in 1965, our family doctor told my parents to prepare for the worst.


So why do I keep seeking out such cemeteries if they make me so sad?  To celebrate life, that's why.  And to reconnect with my ancestors--those hearty pioneers who traveled across the country in search of  a piece of land to farm.  A family to raise.  Eternal love.  A sense of adventure.  And okay, flecks of gold and lots and lots of magic thrown in for good measure.  

All those things I find myself searching for today.  Centuries later.

The Mayville Cemetery is located on Highway 19, between Condon and Fossil, Oregon.

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