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How postmaster adopted a cemetery
By Errol Hogan
Statesman Journal, 21 Jun 1980 pgs A1&6

TURNER – Postmaster Richard Bates spends his hours on the job making certain names and addresses are put together right and keeping written communications straight.

This summer, as he has the last two summers, Bates will spend much of his spare time making certain names and dates are put aright in one of Marion counties oldest cemeteries.

Hunsaker Cemetery, on Parrish Gap Road 5 ½ miles south of Turner, was overgrown with brush and poison oak when Bates decided to adopt it as a personal project. The suggestion came from his wife, Lela, who heard the idea at a meeting of the Willamette Valley Genealogical Society.

Bakes isn’t sure why he has spent the last two summers working on the little cemetery. He drove by it, with little concern, for 13 years while traveling to and from work before he moved to Turner in 1871 and the job as local postmaster.

He’s not particularly interested in genealogical research though Lela has traced her own ancestors back to Germany . Research of that sort is, to Dick, “dullsville”. But something about the cemetery has “captured” him.

It’s just something I got started with and I can’t let go of it. I don’t know why. At least I don’t get any complaints out there”, said Bates.

Prior to Memorial Day this year Bates had already put in more than 40 hours working in the cemetery. He couldn’t count the number of hours he’s spent altogether. But he knows that he’s spent $1,800 on a riding mower, trailer to haul it, brush cutter and gas.

A 1978 cemetery survey developed by the Oregon Department of Transportation indicates that the Hunsaker cemetery, also known as Parrish Gap Cemetery , was established in 1850 and consists of five acres, with up to 100 graves.

Bates, however, has found gravestones dating back to 1848. According to the state survey, 1834 is the oldest gravesite recorded in Marion County . Most cemeteries were established after 1841.

The confusion in dates may be the result of an emergency burial, with dedication of the cemetery coming later. The Hunsaker Cemetery is part of the original Joseph and Elizabeth Hunsaker donation land claim, established in 1847. The first grave in the cemetery, is for a Lovina Davis. Bates has been unable to discover any other information about the person or the circumstances of her death.

Morris Hunsaker, Salem accountant, is the great-great- grandson of the original settlers. He said that Bates’ estimation of about two acres is closer to the actual size of the cemetery than the state’s estimate of five acres. Hunsaker continues to visit the burial site each year on Memorial Day and remembers when his father took him out to help clean the area on that day.

The Hunsakers no longer control the cemetery, though Morris Hunsaker still owns 100 acres of the original land claim nearby. According to Bates’ research, the cemetery was given to the Shilo Baptist Church of Turner in 1881, but he has been unable to find any further information on the church.

Apparently the county now holds the title to the property, though Bates said he had to prove to the county that it dies hold the deed through non-payment of taxes.

Vandalism has been something of a problem at the cemetery. Stones have been broken or stolen. One gravemarker was found at a farm in the area. The farmer had no idea how long it had been there, but the name matched the others in the cemetery. Six graves have noting but iron pipes to indicate their presence.

Lela said potential vandalism is “the only problem with publicity.”

Bates’ adoption is simply one of an effort and desire so far. But obviously it’s gotten into his blood, even though his wife says, “We don’t know a soul (who has been buried there).”

Ownership of cemetery is back in family's hands
By Capi Lynn
Statesman Journal, 25 Oct 2007

Jean Hunsaker and son Ron stroll through the hillside cemetery that bears their family name, grasping for a story to tell of those interred.

They practically apologize for the absence of someone famous among names etched on the 68 headstones.

"To my knowledge, there's nothing special about any of them," Jean says. "I think they were just common, ordinary farm folks."

But Jean, I remind her, the pioneers who settled in the Oregon Territory were anything but common and ordinary.

They were courageous and hardy. Heck, it took them a week in a wagon train to cover the distance we do today in a car in just an hour.

The more I learn about our early settlers, after visiting and researching many of the pioneer cemeteries in Marion and Polk counties, the more I want to tell their stories. Too often, however, their stories are buried with them.

I bet someone at Hunsaker Cemetery was famous, in their time.

Maybe it was Joseph Hunsaker, who came here in 1847 with his wife, Elizabeth. He died in 1869, at the age of 70, and was memorialized in an article in the "Pacific Christian Advocate."

"As a neighbor, he was kind and obliging; as a citizen, peaceable and philanthropic; as a Christian, consistent but reserved."

Maybe it was his wife, who died five years before him. Elizabeth 's resting place is marked by a large headstone with a 14-line epitaph. The tablet broke some years ago and a few lines were lost in the repair, but family records preserve it in its entirety:

Wife of Joseph Hunsaker
which she remained to
her death. As a companion she was
kind and attentive, as a mother she
was tender and affectionate, as a
neighbor she was esteemed most by
those who knew her best; as a
Christian she was devotedly pious
and dearly manifesting to the last
that she had lain up her treasure
in heaven. She has gone to her reward
Reader, are you prepared to meet her?
There remaineth therefore a rest to the
people of God.

Joseph and Elizabeth lie near the middle of the cemetery, along with at least 11 other Hunsakers. Adams, Edger, Farlow and Robbins also are common names among the markers.

The cemetery is nestled on a hillside about eight miles southeast of Salem off Parrish Gap Road . It is surrounded by a chain-link fence, and large fir trees and roadside growth cloak it from passers-by.

Descendants care for the two-acre site, which until recently was owned by Marion County . The county foreclosed on the property in 1966, and later leased the cemetery at no cost to the family.

The late Morris Hunsaker -- Jean's husband and Ron's dad -- formed the Hunsaker Cemetery Corp. in 1992 and created a maintenance fund.

Ron, the great-great-great-grandson of Joseph Hunsaker, led the charge to regain ownership of the cemetery. Oregon law allows a nonprofit organization to request to take over a county-owned cemetery property, according to deputy surveyor Phil Jones.

The Jory family went through a similar process several years ago to regain custody of its cemetery.

This past August, after a public hearing, Marion County Commissioners agreed to vacate Hunsaker Cemetery . The Hunsaker Cemetery Corp. paid a $1,000 fee to the county clerk's office to cover costs of the transfer.

Ron Hunsaker said nothing has really changed, except on paper.

There has been a whisper about re-opening the cemetery for future burials. Neighbors have made inquiries, and there appears to be plenty of space.

"It's hard enough just to maintain it," Ron said. "I'd kind of like to maintain the historical aspect."


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