Oct. 11, 2013
Salem Pioneer Cemetery, the historic Odd Fellows Rural Cemetery in Salem, is among Oregon's
latest entries in the National Register of Historic Places.
The cemetery, established in 1854 by Chemeketa Lodge No. 1, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, is among the very oldest fraternal society burial grounds in Oregon. Located on South Commercial Street, the historical alignment of the territorial road, the cemetery rises upslope toward the west, to a point overlooking the Willamette Valley to the east.
By 1890 the cemetery had been enlarged to its current size of 17.05 acres, representing the
city's only example of a cemetery in the Rural Cemetery tradition. It is known as the final resting
place of Samuel R. Thurston, Oregon's first delegate to the Congress of the United States, and
as the burial ground of many other significant figures in early Oregon government and the founding of the capital city's educational, social and commercial institutions. The Salem Pioneer Cemetery Association, organized in 1949, changed the cemetery's name before disbanding in 1954. Today the cemetery is under the on-going stewardship of the City of Salem and the Friends of Pioneer Cemetery. It remains an active burial ground for the descendants of original plot owners.
Oregon's State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation recommended the cemetery's
nomination in their June 2013 meeting. The cemetery and its adjacent neighbor, City View Cemetery, make up a significant scenic and historical open space in south Salem. Salem Pioneer Cemetery is among 23 Oregon cemeteries presently listed in the National Register, which is maintained by the National Park Service under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
More information about the National Register and recent Oregon lists is online at www.oregonheritage.org (click on "National Register" at left of page).