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History of Cornelius Cemetery
"History of Cornelius Cemetery" by Lester Mooberry
Go through any part of the country at this time of year, and you will see well-kept cemeteries with groups of people at work shaping things up for Memorial Day. Long ago all of this work was done on their lunches and spent the day in working. By late afternoon the cemeteries were well cleaned and graves covered with old-fashioned flowers such as peonies, iris, pinks, snowballs, sweet williams and lilacs. Roses were not as plentiful then as they are now nor did they have varieties that are common today. There was a white rose called the Martha Washington, a large double rose we called the cabbage rose that could be seen in rather compact clusters.
People not only had their own family graves to care for but often there were the graves of friends or relatives whose families had moved away. There was always a friendly feeling among the people working here and shovels, rakes and scythes were passed around visiting during breathing spells, and before going home, everyone tried to make the rounds of the cemetery to see what had been done.
Often stories concerning the dead were retold and the wording on the tombstones took on a new meaning. As you walked about you might hear snatches of conversation relating to the long ago such as "Oh, she was his second wife," or "Well, I never knew that before." In this way family histories were kept alive.
People felt perfectly secure in those days if the cemetery was under the management of some church or lodge. Most of the cemeteries today are well cared for but there are still small burial spots that have grown up to brush and the graves can scarcely be located with any degree of certainty. Some of these burial places were private and on farms that passed to other owners and in many cases the new owners felt no responsibility for upkeep.
No vandalism then...we had never heard of vandalism in a cemetery then. Drinking parties were not held in these isolated places then with an aftermath of upsetting and breaking tombstones. One caretaker recently told me he had retrieved and replaced the same stone three times. It had been knocked from its base and rolled down the hill. Other stones had been upset and some broken beyond repair while others had beer bottles broken over them.
While the Methodist church cemetery at Cornelius is not one of the oldest cemeteries in the county it is typical of many of the cemeteries of that date. Here we find names of families who lived in or near Cornelius, Corum, Baily, Blanchard, Buchannan, Buford, Noland, Neep, Phillips, Porter, Schoen, Shaw, Talbot, Tibbits, Townsend, Watters, Wilcox, Wren, Sturdevant, and many more not so well known perhaps.
Flags for soldiers... As in other cemeteries, you will find the graves of soldiers of the various wars here and there was a day when the Civil War veterans conducted memorial exercises for their comrades but as they, too, departed one by one, the custom was abandoned although patriotic organizations still visit the cemetery on or before Memorial day and place flags on all soldiers graves.
Here are found the resting place of people of all ages and from all walks of life. Some were but a few hours old and other lived far beyond their allotted three score years and ten. Then oldest was an early pioneer who lived to be 102 and the next oldest was a lady born in Washington County and lacked but a short time of reach- her 100th year. Here in one family lot are the graves of four reared three daughters but all of their sons died in infancy.
Farmers, merchants, blacksmiths, at least one doctor, teachers, ministers and bartenders each had a designated plot. Here is the grave of a young woman, a singer, who contracted flu while singing to entertain the soldiers in one of their camps during the war. A short distance away is a family plot containing the grave of a young man who had his life taken from him because he took the life of another.
Five of the graves in this cemetery hold the bodies of people who were drowned. One was a small girl drowned in a mill pond, another of a young boy drowned in the Tualatin river, the third a young man drowned in Gales Creek and the last, that of a man who was drowned in either the Columbia or the Willamette River.
At least two people were killed as a result of railroad accidents. One a small boy and the other a lady, a telegraph operator working in Washington who started to crawl under a standing freight train when on her way home from work, only to have the train start and injure her so she died from wounds and shock.
This cemetery had always been under the care of some organization. The land was bought by the Odd Fellows Lodge, then located in Cornelius, in 1875 for cemetery purposes and the first grave in the cemetery was that of Thomas Francis, one of their members, a bachelor, who died on Christmas Day, 1876. Later when the lodge disbanded and the members united with either the Hillsboro Lodge or the Gaston Lodge they sold the land to the Methodist church for $100. At that time a lot 40 feet long and 10 feet wide was sold for $10 and a four-foot space for a single grave sold for $1. The original cemetery contained 120 lots but has been added to a different times since then. No one thought of a cemetery as an investment venture and there was no provision for permanent upkeep. At present the cemetery is cleaned once or twice a year from funds donated by lot owners.
Accident mangles arm...It would be interesting if we knew the life story of each person resting here. Off in the corner of the cemetery is the grave of Andrew Houck, a one-armed man who had a small farm a short distance north of the cemetery. He lived alone on his small farm and one day his team ran away with him, dragging him for some distance and mangling his arm so badly the doctors had to remove the injured part. A young man happened along just after the accident and helped him to get to the doctor in Hillsboro. This young man was Albert Tozier, one of Hillsboro's early day settlers.
Mr. Houck had been a carpenter back in New York and his wife ran a boarding house. They had a daughter who became a famous soprano singer and sang in all of the opera houses in Europe. She married a German nobleman and they lived in Switzerland. After the death of his wife, Mr. Houck came to Cornelius and settled on a small farm. The daughter and husband visited him in 1894 and urged him to return to Switzerland with them. He refused to do so but he never lacked financial assistance to make his life comfortable. He sold his farm and moved to Cornelius where he lived at a hotel until he died.
Here is another stone bearing the name of Donald McKenzie and giving us only his dates, 1822 and 1914. Stones are mute things when it comes to revealing personal history but I knew Donald McKenzie very well as he was my landlord for three years and a near neighbor for a year longer. When I first heard of him he was living on a small farm between Cornelius and Forest Grove. The story was told of his complaining about his farm, how worthless the soil was and how little he could do with it. It so happened that the man he was talking to had come to see about the place and when Mr. McKenzie discovered this he had nothing but praise for his acreage. However, he sold the farm and moved to Cornelius where he had two houses, one he lived in and the other he rented.
It was while my mother and I were renting his house that I became well acquainted with him. I had no business dealings with him other than paying him the six dollars each month for rent. I had the feeling he held me in arrears if it were not paid before noon on the day it fell due. On the whole, he was a good neighbor and agreeable landlord.
He wanted us to be comfortable and was always puttering about the place, tightening a board here or there, oiling a hinge or driving more nails in the board walks. It seemed to take him hours to drive a few nails and all the while he was sucking in or blowing out a dismal, breathless little tune that lacked both melody and force. His puttering about annoyed my mother and she said his whistle was as tiresome as a Nebraska wind. It must have given him some satisfaction to be heard if not seen.
I frequently handed him the rent money over the garden fence that separated the two places and invariably he affected surprise that rent day had rolled around again. He had a large old cavernous pocketbook with three or four compartments which he drew out of his hip pocket and poked the bills into its depths with the middle finger of his right hand.
"Meet your obligations when due and always keep your credit good," was one of his many admonitions when I paid him. About the only topic of conversation for us was to discuss our gardens or the condition of the weather. He was in his late eighties and I in my early twenties so topics of mutual interest were limited.
Donald McKenzie never depreciated what you had or what you did. He had a more subtle way of making you depreciate you efforts in comparison with what he had and what he had done. I was a school teacher but he had been a member of the Queens Guards. "All big fine looking men they were," he would say "broad of shoulder, tall and straight as an arrow."
I was showing him a row of beets in my garden and boasting a bit perhaps over their uniform size and shape and the lush tops that they had produced. I felt that I had achieved something in growing them but not so with Donald McKenzie.
Good year for beets... " 'Tis a good year for beets," he responded, "but beets need plenty of water. Now, I have a row of beets over there by my back porch where I wash my hands. Everyday I throw my wash water over them and they are enormous, simply enormous. Why there is one beet there," he went on enthusiastically, "that is fully as big," and he began spreading out his hands to demonstrate its size, "yes, it is every bit as big as my wife's leg."
But now he was stooped and his hair was no longer sandy but the white wisps stuck out from beneath his heavy cap which he wore both winter and summer. No longer could he swing along with a firm tread almost insolent in his abounding health. Now his pace was as measured and as monotonous as his whistling.
Married four times... he had been married four times. His first wife died after their marriage. He always spoke kindly of her and of his third wife but for his second wife he had not a word of commendation. "She was a Kentucky lady and a very devil of a woman," he would exclaim, smacking his hands together. "Not even the devil could live with her," he insisted with a wag of his forefinger.
He spoke well of his present wife partly because she kept a tidy house, made the best use of what he provided and was a good cook. She ad my mother were good friends, often walking home from church together and visiting back and forth. She was taken seriously ill while we were still living on his place and my mother did what she could for her. I don't recall that he ever called in a doctor but he did send for his son, Thomas, to come and assist him. Thomas was a fairly good cook and knew much about taking care of the house so the old man did not suffer any inconvenience during his wife's illness. Thomas was good to his stepmother and she appreciated it because Donald was not too sympathetic with her condition my mother gathered from little things she confided to her.
One night we were aroused by hearing someone prying boards from a partition in their barn. My mother was fearful that Mrs. McKenzie had died in the night. Her fears were confirmed for Thomas came over early to tell us that his step-mother had passed on during the night.
Thomas stayed on with his father and there began a succession of petty strifes between them. They were both religious men and read their bibles and sought to prove their contentions by the scriptures. They often come to the Methodist church where Donald occupied a seat near the front and Thomas slipped into a seat at the rear of the church. Donald was more generous with his "amens" than he was with his contributions. During a class meeting he spoke with both vigor and conviction and emphasized his points by hitting on the back of the seat ahead of him.
Psychiatrists might have told us that Thomas has been overdominated in his youth but his father said he was "foolish" and attributed the cause to the fact that Thomas had been struck on the head by a falling brick while he was casing up the bottom of a well. Thomas claimed to have visions and revelations and even some supernatural power. When he wanted to impress you with his mysterious knowledge he had a way of shutting one eye and sighting at you over the tops of his extended thumbs.
If it so happened that someone in the town had passed away and I told him about it, he would take his stance, stretch out his right fist considerably in advance of his left and getting his thumbs in a direct line would say, "Ah, I knew there was something doing. It was revealed to me last night and I have just been waiting to hear of it."
As Donald grew older, he was about 91 then, he became more irritable and inclined to argue more.
One sunny afternoon they were sitting out in their back yard and arguing heatedly. Donald roared out, "You are crazy, man, plumb crazy." We didn't know what the argument was about but Thomas began circling about his father, waving his arms and shouting, "Come out of him, thou evil one, come out of him thou spirit of the devil!"
But Donald was adamant and he shouted as he made his way into the house, "Thomas McKenzie you are murthering me, you are muthering me!"
Conditions went from bad to worse. The old gentlemen's mind began to weaken and he would wander away from the house and get lost. Often Thomas had to lock him in the house while he made a trip to the store for their mail and groceries. One day in the summer he was gone longer than usual and when he returned, his father was gone. A kitchen window was open and a tall rose bush growing there was flattened to the ground. Thomas' spread the word among the neighbors and then began a search. Some one had seen him passing by and Thomas found him heading for the river. He had on his winter gloves and heavy overcoat and was carrying an umbrella.
After that there was little more to his life than eating and sleeping. Thomas was telling me of one of his visions and I asked him what he thought it meant. "It may have been an angel of mercy or and angel of death. If it was the angel of death he is likely after father."
Thomas continued to care for his father until the old man died the following spring. Thomas made all of the funeral arrangements and soon had a monument placed at his father's grave.
Thomas continued to live on in the house for a time. He led a very lonely life. In order to have a little more income, he fixed up the chicken house and lived in that while he rented the house they lived in. This rent from both houses was all he had to live on but physically he did not seem to suffer from his way of living.
Had more dreams... He began to have more dreams and more visions and one evening while visiting a neighbor, he went into a trance, rousing at times and muttering things that they could not understand. A doctor was called the next day and he pronounced him insane and had him sent to the asylum. He was a model patient during the three of four years he was there and when he died his body was brought to the Cornelius cemetery and interred there beside his father and stepmother. No stone marks his resting place but those of us who knew him recall that he was a quiet unassuming man who harmed no one nor ever spoke ill of any one in our presence.
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