Fernwood Pioneer Cemetery celebrates 140 years
Before Newberg as a city existed, there was Fernwood Pioneer Cemetery.
Established on Aug. 24, 1882, it is one of the last remnants of Fernwood, a former unincorporated community in one section of present-day Newberg that stretched east to Parrett Mountain, south to the Willamette River, west to Hess Creek and north to Highway 99W, running into Springbrook.
The Fernwood Grange and Fernwood Road are the only other remaining pieces of the former community.
The cemetery's first two occupants, Jane and Richard Everest, were also its original owners and one of Newberg's pioneer families.
Jane Everest died in 1880 and, with no place else for her to rest, she was buried on an unused portion of their land. Two years later, and just a few days before his own death, Richard Everest set aside the area as a cemetery for Fernwood pioneer families and their descendants.
Although the cemetery turned 140 years old this month, its founders are far from forgotten. In fact, on its anniversary this year, descendants of the Everests and other pioneer families gathered to celebrate.
The group, composed of roughly nine people, sat before Jane and Richard Everest's beautiful, pale gravestones, listening to stories about the founders and singing old hymns that the couple might have recognized while alive. Flutist Elizabeth Medley provided the background music.
"We are sitting in the exact same place in August of 1882 when Richard and the family gathered around Jane to honor her (two years after her death)," said Ron Parrish, the cemetery's historian. "They had the service to honor Jane and then five days later Richard passed away, so the family had to come again and honor Richard. Without those events happening, we wouldn't be here. All of us now in some way or other are looking at our loved ones that are here because of Jane."
Parrish, 83, who is distantly related to Richard Everest through the founder's sister, organized the anniversary celebration. He said he didn't want to wait another 10 years for the 150th anniversary, lest he not be alive to see it.
"Our hope is that every time you visit your loved ones that you also say thank you to Jane …," Parrish said. "It's a love story. It's a story of giving. It's a story of just 'look at us.'"
Parrish, who will be buried in the cemetery next to his parents, acted out what it would be like to meet other occupants in the afterlife.
"When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing it will be," he said. "'Oh, yeah, I know you, you were over in that part. Oh, yeah, you were over here by where I was.' It will be wonderful. So, say thank you to Jane."
Jane and Richard Everest were both born in March 1798 in Hever, Kent, England. They married in 1820 and worked for years at Hever Castle, where English Queens Anne Boleyn and Anne Cleves lived centuries before.
When economic hardship befell them, the Everests immigrated with their 10 children to Canada in 1835. Two years later they moved to Ohio, then again to Iowa before settling down in what would become Newberg. While alive, they owned 640 acres of farmland. The cemetery is situated on the farthest west acre and at the edge of the property.
"(Richard and Jane) are the foundation of what is now Newberg," Parrish said. "They're the beginning."
Parrish, who was born in Newberg and has lived most of his life here, said the event was "very special."
When he was a kid, Parrish said the grass around the cemetery was super high and each family maintained their own lot. If there was no family to tend a lot, the gravestones were left to ruin. Once the cemetery became a historical site, all that changed.
"Someone said the reason you like history is because the older you get, the closer you are to becoming a part of it," Parrish said.
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