Rusty Rae/News-Register##Malone Cemetery, a tiny lot in McMinnville dating back to the mid-19th century.
Guest Writer star pointer grew up in Reedsport, on the south coast of Oregon. She came to McMinnville to attend Linfield University and never left. While at Linfield, she studied journalism, served as editor of the school newspaper, and landed an internship at the News-Register. She then joined the News-Register team full-time.
A longtime resident of Carlton, she worked with volunteers Joan Buccino and Janis Stoven to tell the story of Malone Cemetery
That’s what volunteers worked on this year to donate Malone Cemetery, a tiny plot in McMinnville that dates back to the 1850s. And they did it, cleaning up storm damage, removing old planks and debris, replacing the door, restoring the tombstones and adding roses and other plants.
It all started when Joan Buccino noticed the crumbling fence crushed by a fallen tree during the February ice storm. The more she looked at the site, adjacent to the Wilco Farm Store on Highway 99W, the more signs of neglect she noticed.
Joined by his neighbor Janis Stoven, Buccino decides to lead the charge by repairing the historic site. The women began by attacking the plot with weed killer and other tools.
They applied for a state grant to cover more repairs, but were refused. Undeterred, they opened an account to collect the money themselves.
Along the way, they enlisted members of the Sunrise Rotary Club and the wider community, who also understood the need to make the cemetery a place where the dead could truly rest in peace.
“You have to have respect for the people who crossed the country to settle on this land,” said Rotary contingent member Mark Pauletto of Carlton.
Pauletto, owner of My Hauler with Claw, brought his shovel and tray to clear pieces of the broken concrete fence. He thought of early settlers in Yamhill County as he worked.
“The risks that people took!” he said. “We have to respect that.”
Malone Cemetery, the first in Yamhill County, was dedicated in 1850 by Madison Malone, who chose an oak grove in a corner of his farmland as the burial place of his first wife, Virginia.
The young couple—probably in their mid-twenties at the time, with a one-year-old daughter named Margaret—came to Oregon on a wagon train during the Great Migration of 1843. McMinnville founder William T. Newby, also crossed the prairies and mountains that year. , as did Joel Hembree, SamualCozine and others whose names have become familiar to local residents.
At the end of a grueling five-month journey, the Malones found what they were looking for: their own land and a better life in the Yamhill Valley.
They filed a gift land claim with the Provisional Government of Oregon, which in the 1840s would give them 640 acres for free. Their claim was surrounded by those of other familiar McMinnville settlers – John Gordon Baker and Joseph Young, in addition to Newby and Hembree.
They built a log house on what is now Lafayette Avenue, just north of the crossing, according to Buccino’s research.
The Malones welcomed three more children to this home – Robert, Millie and William. Some accounts say that Virginia died in childbirth when William was born in 1847, but the baby survived.
Robert and Millie would later be buried next to their mother in the family plot. Madison Malone was also buried there in 1880.
He and his second wife Margaret Eaton Malone were married in 1852 and had five children – Virginia, Mary, Riley, Annie and Hoyt.
Margaret and two of her children, Riley and Virginia, are also buried in the small cemetery. Young Virginia’s burial in 1938 is the last of about 25 recorded there.
Descendants sold Malone’s land in the 1940s, according to Buccino’s research. All that remains is the 5,000 square foot cemetery, now surrounded by the modern signs of transportation and commerce – shops, restaurants and the busy 99W highway.
Buccino and Stoven believe the Malone family burial site endured because pioneer cemeteries are protected by state law. But local people and members of the Yamhill County Historical Society have also helped out over the years.
In 1967, local business leader Ralph Wortman paid to have a block wall and iron gates built around the site. In 1985, 12-year-old Aaron McClure focused his Eagle Scout project on cleaning up the cemetery, and other Scouts participated, as well as adults.
In 2002, Chantelle Fredrickson and her mother began cutting weeds and otherwise caring for the burial grounds. When a car accident damaged the wall, they recruited Larry Gannaway and his son to rebuild it.
In 2015, Wilco employees cleaned up and added a bench. In 2018, volunteers from the Northwest Christian Church organized another clean-up campaign.
The latest effort, which Buccino and Stoven launched in the spring, was truly a community collaboration.
Pauletto, Dean Klaus and other Sunrise Rotary members removed a pile of debris and did other cleanups in addition to carrying the fallen wall,
Other volunteers made sure the graves were clearly visible. Barend Van Zanten built frames around the graves to protect them from mowers and weed eaters.
Buccino, Stoven and others continue their search for the people buried there. A local artist is preparing a mural reminiscent of the area in the mid-19th century.
Wilco provided water access and First Federal provided the Malone Cemetery Fund with a $1,200 grant. Individuals and organizations have also contributed, and the city and county have provided support.
Dean Moxley, whose hobby is blacksmithing, straightened the cemetery gates. A volunteer at Antique Powerland and the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center, he had been eager to take on this task since his first visit to the historic site.
Moxley took the doors apart, straightened the bent parts and reassembled them. Then Morris Brothers of Yamhill sandblasted and powder coated the iron, restoring the historic appearance.
The blacksmith’s wife, Colleen Moxley, created wreaths to hang on these doors for the holidays.
She and Dean are both intrigued by cemeteries, especially old ones, she said. When they heard about Malone’s site from Stoven and Buccino, they knew, she said, “that we could use our skills to help, we would.”
Her husband noted, “We have to show respect to those who came before us.