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Francis Fletcher, one of three members of the Oregon ProvisionalGovernment buried here. (Publicdomain)
Joel Palmer donated the land for thecemetery. (Public domain)
Bruce Howard (at center) leads the OCHC day-long workshop at Brookside in July 2018.
Polly Porter Smith, mother of Riley Smith. Riley was the first burial in the cemetery. (Randy Fletchercontribution)
Brookside Cemetery is located at the south end of Third Street near the southeastern corner of the original town of Dayton. The street dead-ends at the cemetery. A steep drop-off to Palmer Creek below constitutes its southern border. Highway 221 borders the east side of the cemetery; an open field borders the west side. A forest of deciduous trees and conifers delineate the south and east edges. The cemetery rests on land first used in 1846 for the burial of Riley Smith (Marker 04.16), the son of Andrew D. and Polly Smith. In 1849, Riley’s brother, Almond, was also buried here (Marker 04.15). Both of these burials precede the date of 1850 which is given as the date Joel Palmer donated the land for use as a cemetery. It is surmised that prior to Palmer’s acquisition of a portion of Andrew Smith's Donation Land Claim (DLC) in 1850, the Smith family had used the area as a family burial ground. Andrew Smith, on whose original DLC (#47) the cemetery is located, was the older brother of Riley and Almond. In 1874, Palmer officially deeded the cemetery to the Dayton School District, the only governmental body in the community at the time, as the City of Dayton wasn’t incorporated until 1880. The deed specified that anyone in the community could be buried in the cemetery for free.
A number of pioneers, early Oregon notables, and members of Oregon's first provisional government are buried in Brookside Cemetery. The graves of Medorem Crawford (1819-1891) (Marker 04.02), Francis Fletcher (1814-1871) (Marker 09.06), and Pleasant Armstrong (1810-1853) (Marker 04.18) have all been specially marked by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), with the following badge: "To honor one of those patriots who on May 2, 1843 founded the provisional government at Champoeg, Oregon." Brookside Cemetery is also the final resting place of Joel Palmer (1810-1881), Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Oregon Territory, co-founder of the City of Dayton with Andrew Smith, and State Senator (Marker 08.14); Stephen Coffin (1807-1882), an early promoter of Portland (Marker 13.10); and Andrew D. Smith (1792-1852), a DLC settler southwest of Dayton and father of Andrew Smith, the co-founder of the City of Dayton with Joel Palmer (Marker 04.20). Christopher Taylor (Marker 06.22), a close associate of Palmer's, the leading merchant in Dayton's early years, and the first Free Mason initiated on the West Coast, is also buried at Brookside.
Down through the decades, new burials were handled by the School District’s deputy clerk. Dayton schools used the cemetery to teach state and local history, as well as, community service. From the 1950s through
the 1970s, Dayton Junior High students performed an annual clean-up at the cemetery before Memorial Day. The cemetery was officially closed to burials in 1956 (or soon thereafter). However, the last interment in the
cemetery dates to 1987, via petition by Janice B. Gabriel, bringing the total number of burials to 560.
There were several attempts to organize a “friends group” for the cemetery after the School District stopped using the property as a teaching tool. Lack of maintenance and vandalism took a toll on the cemetery. Daytonians were in a disgruntled mood over the cemetery condition, based on letters from the 1980s and 90s in the Association’s files. In 1993, Dayton’s mayor, Jo Windish, set up the Brookside C.A.R.E. group for the purpose of brush clearing, headstone cleaning, and general maintenance. As with many friends groups, the organization fizzled out over time.
In 2015, Kim Courtin and Mike Imlah crossed paths and discovered a mutual interest in cemetery preservation and historical research. Kim and Mike approached the Dayton school board about rebooting the Brookside Cemetery Association. They attended school board meetings and finally gained the board’s approval with the promise that it would cost the School District nothing. They gathered together a group of like-minded individuals in the community, reactivated the Association in 2016, and brought the cemetery group through to the present day. The School District, City, and Association continue to work cooperatively to preserve the cemetery as one of Dayton’s valuable historic resources. School District ownership is rare in Oregon with only a few cemeteries being owned by school districts, sometimes without their knowledge.
The City, as a Certified Local Government (CLG), with the help of the Association obtained a matching grant from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in 2017 to restore grave markers, create a new information sign, inventory the markers in the cemetery, and to create this 10-year preservation plan for the cemetery. In July 2018, the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries (OCHC) held their quarterly meeting in Dayton and held a day-long gravestone restoration workshop at the cemetery.
From the 1984 Dayton historic resources inventory form:
“Brookside Cemetery is significant as one of the oldest cemeteries in Yamhill County, containing the graves of many of Dayton's noteworthy citizens. First used in 1846, it was donated to the Dayton School District in 1874, by Joel Palmer. Many of the original tombstones remain intact, and for several of the settlers buried here, this is all that remains as a testimonial to the settler's contributions in Dayton, and Yamhill County. Brookside Cemetery is also significant as a cultural landscape.”
“Despite the normal exclusion of cemeteries, Brookside Cemetery meets National Register Criterion B, chiefly, because it is the final resting place of town founders and pioneers and members of the Provisional Government of Oregon for whom associated properties are no longer extant above ground. The cemetery is eligible under Criterion C as a compact cultural landscape reflecting 19th Century burial practices and containing an array of Victorian plant materials.” The cemetery was included in a Multiple Property Document for the significance properties of Dayton and listed on the National Register in 1987.
Army Corps aerial of the cemetery in 1944. Red border is theapproximate cemetery boundary (UO Map Library)
This Brookside Inventory 2018.pdf was completed as part of a grant-funded project in 2018. All of the images in the document were taken in July, 2018. Since the completion of this guide, all high and medium priority markers in Brookside have been repaired, also as part of a grant-funded project. This guide and all images are courtesy of Historic Preservation Northwest.
Find a Grave is another resource that can be used to locate markers in cemeteries all over our nation, including Brookside.
During the a recent Certified Local Government (CLG) grant cycle, the City hired the fantastic team at Historic Preservation Northwest to take inventory of the markers in Brookside, to assess the condition of each marker, and to develop a preservation plan. We were also able to repair several "high" priority markers during that grant cycle.
The complete Brookside Preservation plan is available here. (this is a large file containing many images)
During the current CLG grant cycle we have focused on implementing parts of the preservation plan. Among the recommended items we have been able to implement are: removal of diseased and dangerous trees and limbs (i.e. 'widow-makers'), restoration of water to the site, installation of 'dusk to dawn' sign, installation of 'danger - falling monuments' sign, completion of a care taking workshop for all Public Works staff, removal of ivy and bushes to allow clear vision to the cemetery from the road and more. Most significantly is that we have been able to have every "high" and "medium" priority marker in Brookside repaired/re-leveled or both. At the end of the project, 121 markers have been treated. When you gaze across the horizon of Brookside now, the site seems fuller and taller than before. We're incredibly pleased to have been able to help preserve this landmark to honor the pioneers or our past and to inspire the Daytonians of tomorrow.
The 2019 Brookside Report is available here.
Narrative and Photos Courtesy of Historic Preservation Northwest.
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