On the crest of the hill above Astoria is a beautiful, if somewhat strange, cemetery called Astoria Pioneer Cemetery. The part I find strange is that there are so few stones, and among them are a couple of rather bizarre slabs that defy logical explanation.
The marker above gives a brief history of the cemetery. I was glad it was there, answering some of my questions. It says:
"Astoria Pioneer Cemetery. Deeded by James Welch to Astoria on April 22, 1865. By 1891, 498 burials were recorded. There were also numerous unlisted interments. Bodies from abandoned cemeteries were brought here. Many graves and markers were later removed by the families. Use was discontinued around 1900."
The fact that this information is delivered on a grave marker gives an eerie sense that the location is more like a theme park than a real cemetery. The park, like so many older cemeteries, is a peaceful and beautiful place to visit. But unlike so many older cemeteries, there is very little to see or read here. Most of the ground simply looks like a park with grass and trees, robins and squirrels. There are few markers, and no flat headstones at paced intervals. There's an attractive split-rail fence surrounding the green. The short history makes me think of the Catacombs of Paris, and the city's small cemeteries being emptied out for reasons of overcrowding. Our own little cemetery is one more thing on my research list. I expect that bodies were moved here for many reasons, including, perhaps, a lack of regulation in this frontier town in the early days. Unfortunately, many of the few remaining markers are almost impossible to read, or at least they were almost impossible in the low light when I visited one evening.
I was happy to find this wonderful page online, part of a much larger web site called "findagrave.com." The Astoria Pioneer Cemetery page shows several photos of the cemetery and gives a complete list of the people interred there with photos and descriptions of the markers. A woman named Renee did a remarkable job of supplying information and photos to add to the history of Astoria's pioneers.