SOLV Program Uncovers Hidden Graves on Central Oregon Coast

Published May 2009

Nancy Edwards pulls a stubborn vine from the ground at Saturday’s cleanup of the historic South Beach Cemetery.

(Newport, Oregon) – Two new gravesites were found at a south Newport cemetery this weekend, leading to further speculation there could be many more such forgotten burial plots at this rather ancient place.

The gravesites were discovered at South Beach Cemetery Saturday, May 9 as part of Take Care of Oregon, a community cleanup program held in conjunction with SOLV and as part of the celebration of Oregon’s 150th anniversary of statehood. An entire dumpster full of garbage and debris was removed from the spot as well.

The identity of those buried in the graves is not known, as the metal markers were actually made to host paper placards with the names of the deceased. Those had decayed long ago, said Loretta Harrison, executive director of the Lincoln County Historical Society.

“They were covered by brush and debris,” Harrison said.

The Burrows House near its beginnings, where the historical society now resides.

South Beach Cemetery contains about 20 or so known gravesites, and it is one of the earliest in the county. The first recorded burial on the cemetery grounds, located on Lemuel and Mary Davis’ property, was their daughter Fanny Ann whose gravestone reads: “Died Oct. 22, 1869, aged 4 yrs., 5 mos. and 25 days.”

Earlier burials probably included two seamen who were lost at sea, but these have not been found yet.

The last known burial there happened around 1930, so whoever was buried in those two unknown sites were laid to rest there between then and 1870.

Harrison said there could be as many as 70 gravesites at the cemetery, leading to the possibility nearly 50 have not been found yet, which had Harrison perceptively excited.

“It’s an historical site where the earliest families of the area are buried,” Harrison said.

Earlier historical research on the area in the 70’s produced a map of sorts. Harrison said they’re hoping to dig deeper into that and maybe come up with more clues about further gravesites and the identities.

Several Civil War veterans are buried in the cemetery along with other early community members. Because of this there’s considerable interest by the American Legion.

Future plans for the cemetery include some interpretive signage to assist tourists in their discovery of this part of the Oregon coast.

“It’s of historical significance because it says more about Newport history,” Harrison said.

Newport's Yaquina Head: another hidden cemetary lays tucked away where the headland meets the highway.

About 15 community members assisted with the historic cemetery cleanup. The people who registered for the event included Stan McGarran, Justin McGarran, Kenny Coffield, and Kaleb Coffield, American Legion; Paula Wenell, Eureka Cemetery Association; Lee Fries, Long View Hills Fishing Club; Nancy Edwards and Julie Pointek, DAR; Ed Jones, community member; Carol Jones, John Baker, Jo An McAdams, Joyce Palmer, Rich Sullivan, and Loretta Harrison, Lincoln County Historical Society.

“We had a very successful turnout and succeeded in clearing a lot of underbrush and debris from the site,” said Harrison, who was coordinator of Saturday’s event and was there. “I want to extend my gratitude to all of those who helped with this Take Care of Oregon event.”

Lincoln County and the Lincoln County Historical Society in cooperation with the Yaquina Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Eureka Cemetery Association have mounted an effort to restore and maintain the historic cemetery.

To contact the Historical Society regarding the cemetery or to volunteer for future work on the cemetery, call 541-265-7509.

The Lincoln County Historical Society, which administers the Burrows House and Log Cabin museums, is located at 545 SW Ninth Street in Newport. The museums are free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Lincoln County Historical Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the history of Lincoln County and the Central Oregon Coast.

More about Newport below and at the Newport, Oregon Virtual Tour, Map.

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