Pointer: Cemetery restoration project a show of respect

Rusty Rae/News-Register##The Malone Cemetery, a tiny McMinnville plot that dates from the mid-19th century.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##The Malone Cemetery, a tiny McMinnville plot that dates from the mid-19th century.

Guest writer Starla Pointer grew up in Reedsport, on the Southern Oregon coast. She came to McMinnville to attend Linfield University and never left. During her time at Linfield, she studied journalism, served as editor of the school paper and landed an internship with the News-Register. She subsequently joined the News-Register staff on a full-time basis.

A longtime resident of Carlton, she worked with volunteers Joan Buccino and Janis Stoven to tell the Malone Cemetery story


That’s what volunteers worked this year to give the Malone Cemetery, a tiny plot in McMinnville that dates from the 1850s. And they did, clearing away storm damage, removing old boards and debris, replacing the gate, restoring grave markers and adding roses and other plants.

It started when Joan Buccino noticed the crumbling fence crushed by a tree that fell during the February ice storm. The more she looked at the site, adjacent to the Wilco Farm Store on Highway 99W, the more signs of neglect she noticed.

Joined by neighbor Janis Stoven, Buccino decided to lead the charge in repairing the historic site. The women began by attacking the plot with a weed eater and other tools.

They applied for a state grant to cover more repairs but were turned down. Undeterred, they started an account to raise the money on their own.

Along the way, they enlisted members of the Sunrise Rotary Club and larger community, who also embraced the need to make the cemetery a place where the dead could truly rest in peace.

“You have to have respect for the people who came across the country to settle this ground,” said Mark Pauletto of Carlton, a member of the Rotary contingent.

Pauletto, who owns My Hauler with Claw, brought in his excavator and flatbed to clear pieces of the broken concrete fence. He thought of early Yamhill County settlers as he worked.

“The risks people took!” he said. “We need to respect that.”

The Malone Cemetery, the first in Yamhill County, was dedicated in 1850 by Madison Malone, who chose an oak grove on a corner of his farmland as the burial site for his first wife, Virginia.

The young couple — probably in their mid-20s then, with a year-old daughter named Margaret— came to Oregon on a wagon train during the great migration of 1843. McMinnville founder William T. Newby also came across the prairies and mountains that year, as did Joel Hembree, SamualCozine and others whose names have become familiar to local residents.

At the end of a grueling five-month trip, the Malones found what they were looking for — land of their own and a better life in the Yamhill Valley.

They filed a donation land claim with Oregon’s provisional government, which in the 1840s would give them 640 acres free of charge. Their claim was surrounded by those of other familiar McMinnville settlers — John Gordon Baker and Joseph Young, in addition to Newby and Hembree.

They built a log house on what is now Lafayette Avenue, just north the railroad crossing, according to Buccino’s research.

The Malones welcomed three more children into that house — Robert, Millie and William. Some accounts say Virginia died in childbirth when William was born in 1847, but the baby survived.

Robert and Millie later would be buried next to their mother in the family plot. Madison Malone was buried there as well, in 1880.

He and second wife Margaret Eaton Malone married in 1852 and had five children — Virginia, Mary, Riley, Annie and Hoyt.

Margaret and two of her children, Riley and Virginia, also lie in the little cemetery. The younger Virginia’s burial in 1938 is the last one of about 25 recorded there.

Descendants sold off the Malone land in the 1940s, Buccino’s research indicates. All that remains is the 5,000-square-foot cemetery, now surrounded by the modern signs of transportation and commerce — stores, restaurants and busy Highway 99W.

Buccino and Stoven figure the Malone family burial site has lasted because pioneer cemeteries are protected by state law. But local people and members of the Yamhill County Historical Society have helped as well over the years.

In 1967, local business leader Ralph Wortman paid to have a block wall and iron gates built around the site. In 1985, Aaron McClure, 12, focused his Eagle Scout project on cleaning up the cemetery, and fellow Scouts pitched in, along with adults.

In 2002, Chantelle Fredrickson and her mother began cutting weeds and otherwise caring for the gravesites. When a car wreck damaged the wall, they recruited Larry Gannaway and his son to rebuild it.

In 2015, Wilco employees conducted a cleanup and added a bench. In 2018, Northwest Christian Church volunteers organized another cleanup campaign.

The latest effort, which Buccino and Stoven launched in the spring, has truly been a community collaboration.

Pauletto, Dean Klaus and other Sunrise Rotary members removed a stack of debris and did other cleaning in addition to carting away the fallen wall,

Other volunteers made sure the graves were clearly visible. Barend Van Zanten built frames around the graves to protect them from mowers and weed eaters.

Buccino, Stoven and others are continuing their research into the people buried there. A local artist is planning a mural reminiscent of the area in the mid-19th century.

Wilco provided access to water and First Federal awarded the Malone Cemetery Fund a $1,200 grant. Individuals and organizations have contributed as well, and the city and county have been supportive.

Dean Moxley, whose hobby is blacksmithing, straightened the cemetery gates. A volunteer at Antique Powerland and the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center, he’d been itching to take on that task since first viewing the historic site.

Moxley took the gates apart, straightened the bent pieces and reassembled them. Then Morris Brothers of Yamhill sandblasted and powder coated the iron, restoring the historic appearance.

The blacksmith’s wife, Colleen Moxley, created wreaths to hang on those gates for the holidays.

Both she and Dean are intrigued by cemeteries, especially old ones, she said. When they learned about the Malone site from Stoven and Buccino, they knew, she said, “that any way we could use our skills to help, we would.”

Her husband noted, “We need to show respect to those who’ve gone before us.”


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