Oh No, I’ve Turned Into One Of “Those” People…


the kind who visit cemeteries and take photographs of headstones.

Crawfordville, Oregon

Crawfordsville, Oregon

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.

Geil Men

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.

 Union Cemetery, Crawfordsville, Oregon

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.

Union Cemetery, Crawfordsville, Oregon

It was in Crawfordsville that I found the headstone of my forebear, Henry Ralph Geil. The headstone read, “A Man who walked with God.”

Henry Ralph Geil

To my surprise I found another headstone for my great great grandparents.  I had no idea they were buried here.

John S. Geil

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.

John S. Geil, Alice Shank Geil

After visiting the cemetery we drove into Brownsville.  It is a beautifully preserved little town that I will surely go back and visit again.

Brownsville, Oregon

Brownsville, Oregon

Brownsville, Orego

12 responses »

  1. I have lived in Brownsville all my life. My grandfather was John Ralph Geil and my great grandfather was Ralph. My name is Terry Geil and it is my Grandfather’s birthday today. Was delighted to see this story and was intrigued by the fact I have some relatives I didn’t know about.

    Thanks for writing this

    • Hi Terry, nice to meet you. I believe we share the great grandfather you referred to, except I was also told his name was Henry Ralph Geil. Are we talking about the same man in the photograph with the collie dog? I thought the younger man in the photo was named John (maybe your grandfather?), but I’m not too sure about that. And the little blond boy is my father standing with his Uncle and Grandfather. My grandfather was Russell Norman Geil, presumably a brother to your grandfather. There are lots of descendants all over Oregon… it was a large family with six children I think, but my knowledge is limited. Glad you enjoyed the chronicle of my adventure to the cemetery. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  2. Don’t know who you are, but you have, to be a cousin. As that’s MY grandpa Geil and my great grand parents. Welcome to the family.

    • Thank you for making contact. My father was Charles whose father was Russell whose father was Henry Ralph Geil who came from a large family. I have vague knowledge that Henry had sisters Glenna and Rachel and I think a brother Harold, but I’m not sure of the names of the others. So, I’m sure we’re connected somewhere along the way. What can you tell me?
      If you have a FB page, I’d be happy to connect there. 🙂 You can find me on FB at Kerri Jones – RemnantWorks.

  3. Hey Kerri! Long time. Welcome to the rewarding world of family history research in all it’s forms. I hope you gained many insights and deeper connection from this trip.

    • No, the family history on the paternal side has been done for me from the 1720’s up to my generation, but the tree is so large with so many branches that it didn’t capture my interest, except for the direct local line. I’ve known, at least superficially, about the various connections and have had these family photos forever, but. now that we live closer to Brownsville and Crawfordville, I thought it would be interesting to go and visit the area to see what was there.

      • I liked looking at your photos and seeing the difference in our countries! There was so much space in the graveyard. Even in our countryside cemeteries near to the village church the graves and headstones are still all close together.

        • Yes, that tends to be true. I’m not sure why, and it may be more like England in the east, but here in the west pioneer cemeteries are always located a ways out of town on a hill if possible. Of course, we find your church graveyards lovely and quaint.

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