Salem Pioneer Cemetery has been Nationally Recognized as a Historic Place!

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Salem Pioneer Cemetery Historical Marker
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The nucleus of Salemís largest historic cemetery is a family burial plot on the claim of Methodist missionary David Leslie that probably was first used in 1853 or 1854 upon the deaths of two young daughters of Reverend Leslie and his second wife, Adelia Judson Leslie.

Occupying an elevated site at the intersection of South Commercial and Hoyt Streets, the cemetery overlooks the capital city and the Willamette Valley spreading out to the north and east. Shaded by native oaks, madrones, and conifers, the cemetery grew to its present size of approximately 16 Ĺ acres after the Independent Order of Odd Fellows purchased adjoining land for community burials beginning in the 1850s.

The earliest death commemorated in the cemetery is that of Leslieís first wife, Mary A. Kinney Leslie, who died at the mission in 1841.

The City of Salem, through its Parks agency, agreed to become legal titleholder and steward of the cemetery in 1985, the year Friends of Pioneer Cemetery was organized to support maintenance and restoration efforts. In 1986, the deed was officially transferred by Salemís Chemeketa Lodge No. 1, the mother lodge of the I.O.O.F. in Oregon.

The Methodist Mission in Oregon was founded by the Reverend Jason Lee in 1834. It was the first mission to Indians to be established in the Pacific Northwest. After the end of the mission period, overland immigrants poured into the Willamette Valley, drawn by entitlement to free land under provisions of the Donation Land Act of 1850. Along with other former missionaries, the Rev. David Leslie stayed to settle a claim of 640 acres.

The house Leslie built for his family stood in what is today south Salem, atop the knoll on Mission Street now occupied by the Asahel Bush Historic House Museum. A member of the missionís second reinforcing party of 1837, David Leslie became Jason Leeís principal assistant. He was a leader in the movement to organize the provisional government of Oregon, and he was a lifelong trustee of the Methodistsí Oregon Institute, which was chartered as Willamette University by the Territorial legislature in 1854.

This statement from Elisabeth Walton Potter, Friends of Pioneer Cemetery and Mission Mill Museum Association Cemetery Tour Itinerary, September 7, 2002.

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