06 April 2010

[Out 122nd Way] Powell Grove Cemetery - In The Curl Of The Off Ramp

Time for another look Out 122nd Way, my favorite road in the world, this time a little north of Rossi Farm, where NE Sandy Blvd and NE 122nd Avenue cross.

Sandy Blvd and 122nd Avenue do not meet at grade.

The streets flow into each other by on- and off-ramps, southbound is accessed from NE 121st Place (watch for the sign – its easy to miss) and northbound from a curving "on-ramp" that forms a sort of a "jug-handle" on the northwest corner of the 122nd and Sandy Kmart store.

When you see it on a map, it's kind of unbelievable that there would be a cemetery there. But you go there, and there is. In the curl of the  offramp, industry and shopping and apartments and shabby residences as far as the eye can see, but it's there, all right.

There isn't much for parking, to be sure. Wide shoulders on the south side of Sandy provide some pullout; a wide pullout area on the north side is better, but none of that feels particularly safe.

Powell Grove Cemetery has been in operation (not necessarily on this site; reading I've done suggest that it might have been moved at some point) for about 163 years at the time of this writing. That's a significant percentage of the recorded history of the Oregon Country. Wherever it was originally founded, it was miles away from the nearest town, of course though, as things happen, the city came out to meet it.

Still, it's a cemetery in the traditional mode. Old headstones, trees, cenotaphs, family plots, and a sort of sereneness obtains despite it being bounded on all sides by traffic.

Some of the markets are quite old, even for this area. They suggests a fairly grim, if vigorous, story of those who have lived out 122nd Way before we did – or even before it was 122nd. The Reynolds family seems to figure prominently …

There were obelisks and markers and cenotaphs that were each of interest, but by far the Reynolds family marker stands above the rest, if only for that amazing typography:

There's something very "Roaring 20's" in that typography for me. The Reynolds marker designer knew something of design; the common typography ties the entire assembly together:

"Baby" Reynolds didn't even make it to 1881.

Lillian D Reynolds was only with us for 22 years.

John Reynolds made it to age 75. He was born 203 years ago this year, whenever it was he was born. He was undoubtedly the family patriarch.

I have heard, all my life, about how short the average lifespan is for our grandparents and great-grand's generations, and I've looked at the stats just like everyone does, but what really drove it home was the number of childrens' graves I saw there, which were, by my informal survey, a total of "More Than I Expected". They sure seemed easy to find. Eddie Dunbar only was with us for 13 years and 6 months;

His last words were I'm in heaven, now. They just don't do that sort of thing on headstones any more.

His little sister Allie outlasted him by just one single day. Her last words: I love everybody. I love Jesus. I don't have historical research chops, but I wonder if 1882 was a significant year for some sort of epidemic of flu or something in these parts.

"Edward F.", for whom fate held the rather cruel riposte of making his last name illegible via weathering and decay, only made it to age 18, and also died in 1882, though later in the year than the Dunbar children. His marker has a pious poem for an epitaph, but what made it so beautiful to look at for me was the way the type was slanted backwards, a fashion that is never used today, but seemed to be rather popular towards the end of the 19th Century.

The verse reads: Dearest brother, thou has left us/Now, this loss we deeply feel/But 'tis God that hath bereft us/He can all our sorrows heal.

Like I said, they just don't do things like that anymore.

The Bagans are the "youngsters", if one wills, in this group. Heck, one of 'em's still alive!

Eugene Allen Bagan would be in his 70s now.

And, just at the foot of all this, is the jughandle ramp, leading Sandy traffic down to 122nd:

122nd exults in the generic "Boulevard" on some of the signs from Sandy on north. This is not a universal marker, some of them say "Avenue".

That's life and death on NE 122nd Avenue … graveyard on my right, Kmart on my left:

… and traffic all around.

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