the kind who visit cemeteries and take photographs of headstones.
So, what sparked this trip to the cemetery?
Well… I have a photograph of my father with his grandfather and uncle that was taken c. 1930 in Brownsville, Oregon. I love the photograph as much for its family history, as for its composition. The imposing figure of my great-grandfather who, as a church pastor, loomed large in family lore, my great uncle with his boyish nonchalance, graceful fingers gently poised over the Collie dog, and the mysteriously resolute curly haired moppet, my father, holding a “golden apple” are as endearing as they are enigmatic to me.
And so it was, after a lifetime of knowing I had family in the area, I decided to make the pilgrimage to Crawfordsville, the location of the Union Cemetery where the earliest members of my family to come to Oregon from Rockingham County, Virginia are buried.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve driven up and down Interstate 5 past the exits to Brownsville and never once stopped to explore the area. I had not heard of Crawfordsville until my research into my family history. It’s a quiet, quaint and beautiful place tucked away along the Calapooia River.
It was in Crawfordsville that I found the headstone of my forebear, Henry Ralph Geil. The headstone read, “A Man who walked with God.”
To my surprise I found another headstone for my great great grandparents. I had no idea they were buried here.
John S. Geil, 1859, and Alice (Shank) Geil, 1864, who came to Oregon from Rockingham County, Virginia. Alice (Shank) Geil was the daughter of Gabriel Shank, a Lt. in the 10th Virginia Regiment who carried his regimental flag in every major battle of the Civil War.
After visiting the cemetery we drove into Brownsville. It is a beautifully preserved little town that I will surely go back and visit again.