Tualatin's DAR helps preserve history
The Tualatin chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) recently held a ceremony to dedicate a historical marker at the Robert Bird Pioneer Cemetery in Wilsonville. The organization's mission is to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism. This is the first historic marker the 61-year-old local organization has dedicated.
"For about three years, we spent our time trying to find some history we felt needed to be preserved, whether it be a place, building or person," said Joleen Sharp, who runs the historic preservation committee for the chapter, with fellow DAR member Marcia Cooper. "We found many already had markers on them from other organizations, which is good because we all have the same mission of preserving our history."
Sharp said one day she was talking with her friend, Barbara Robbins, who mentioned that her relatives came to the Willamette Valley via wagon train on the Oregon Trail and settled in the Willamette Valley. She said she and other family members maintain a cemetery in the Wilsonville area, the Robert Bird Pioneer Cemetery. Some members of Robbins' family were buried there.
"I'm always interested in pioneer cemeteries, so Barbara and I met out there one day," Sharp said. "As we are wandering through the cemetery, she tells me about some of the early pioneers buried there. ... I'm thinking to myself, there is a lot of history here in this little cemetery. If I wasn't there with Barbara, I would never have known any of this.
"I told Barbara that these pioneers need to be remembered and some of the history needs to be documented so others coming to the cemetery will know the importance of some of the people buried there."
Sharp asked Robbins to find out whether the cemetery's board of directors would approve of DAR placing a historic marker at the cemetery.
The board approved it, and Sharp took Cooper back to the cemetery. Cooper agreed that the cemetery was the right spot for the chapter to install its first historic marker.
The women began researching the cemetery, combing through U.S. Bureau of Land Management files, Donation Land Claim (DLC) records and any other documents they could think of.
"Four hours were spent in the surveyor's office one day," Sharp said. "We were trying to determine from the land description from the DLC records whether the cemetery was sitting on the Birds' DLC. It was."
In their research, they also discovered that Nathaniel Robbins — Barbara Robbins relative — had been one of the signatories of the Oregon State Constitution in 1857.
"We felt people needed to know about him and that he is buried there," Sharp said. "After a year and half we finally had what we wanted placed on the marker.
The marker reads:
"This marker is placed in memory of the early Oregon pioneers buried here.
Many were recipients of Donation Land Claims in Clackamas, Washington and Yamhill Counties, 1850-1855.
Among them is Nathaniel Robbins (1793-1863) Signatory of the Oregon State Constitution ratified in 1857.
This cemetery is located on a portion of the Donation Land Claim of Robert Bird (1776-1855) and Rachael Allen Bird (1780-1859). Pioneers of 1847 who traveled the Oregon Trail on the Jordan Sawyer Wagon Train.
Marked by the Tualatin Chapter, NSDAR 2019."
Sharp said DAR must approve a request to place a historic marker, and that the process is a long and arduous ordeal.
"The dossier we sent back had about 100 pages of documents," Sharp said. "Once an application is received (in the national office), it can take as much as six months to find out if they approve the placement of the marker. ... We were very happy that they felt, as we did, that this cemetery was very worthy of having a historic marker placed on it in memory of these early pioneers. We received approval in a month and a half."
The public is welcome to visit the cemetery and view the historic marker. The cemetery is located at the corner of Southwest Gage and Newland roads in Wilsonville.
Though the chapter's name includes Tualatin, the group has members from neighboring communities as well. The DAR is a volunteer women's service organization. Membership is open to any woman over 18 years old who can prove her lineage to the American Revolution.
To learn more, visit tualatindar.org.
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