Rainier, Oregon Historical Museum

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Old Graveyard Sparks Interest At Site of Basement Excavation
by Mrs. Ervin Abraham
October 1963
Copied from Eleanor H. Abraham's book "Reflections" (see note below)

RAINIER (A) - Tentative identification was made this week of the human remains in two of three wooden coffins unearthed during excavation of a basement for a new home on the outskirts of Rainier.

The home is to be constructed for Mr. and Mrs. Hans Hovland on view property half a mile from the Rainier business district along Fern Hill road in the area known as the Highway Addition. The property formerly belonged to the father of Ralph Morgan, local service station operator, and had been taken over by the county and sold to the Hovlands.

Tractor operator Kenneth Vance found the frail remains of two coffins and bone fragments while excavating the final foot of the six-foot-deep basement. He notified the Hovlands, who summoned Columbia county authorities.

Further search turned up parts of a skull and a thigh or upper arm bone plus a porcelain button. County officials told Mrs. Hovland not enough remains had been uncovered to warrant reburial.

A third coffin was uncovered while shoveling loose dirt over the bank. They were narrow at the ends and wider in the center in the fashion of the old time coffin construction.

Much speculation ensued on the identification of the occupants of the graves. Some claimed a Chinaman had been murdered. A man with a black beard was thought to have been buried there. Others said a pioneer cemetery was once located at the spot.

Finally Mrs. Virlie McCaskey, who has lived in this area more than 65 years, said she remembered two men being interred on the land which at the turn of the century belonged to Dean Blanchard.

Blanchard owned much property including a store, sawmill, tugboats and a pile driver. An employee working on the pile driver was decapitated in an accident and buried by Blanchard near a large uprooted tree on the present Hovland property.

Another man, also nameless now, is believed to have drowned soon afterward and been interred nearby. Mrs. McCaskey knows nothing of the third grave, but she remembers the area being known as "Blanchard's cemetery."

Ralph Morgan said there at least seven graves at the spot, including five white men and two Indians. It was the local "potter's field" for persons without known relatives, friends or money.

Mrs. Hovland admits the whole situation is "kind of erie" but said it will not deter construction plans.

Note: Eleanor H. Abraham had granted permission to reprint articles from her book. She passed away in 2012.

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