Residents uncover history at pioneer cemetery

COQUILLE, Ore. -- For many years, the Pioneer Cemetery in Coquille had been vandalized, overgrown with weeds, and used as a dog park.

Three residents have decided to take matters into their own hands, and have uncovered a part of history as well.

In just five short weeks, Susan Heaton and Pam and Dave Smith have transformed the cemetery.

"There were some old headstones there and I thought it was part of Coquille's history. I didn't realize how much a part of Coquille history," Susan said.

Buried there are familiar names like Collier, Sturdivant, and Nosler, and war veterans going all the way back to the Civil War.

Susan said, "We found a man who had served during the Spanish American War, that's charging up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt!"

After Odd Fellows gave the city control of the cemetery, it was neglected. The entire southwest corner was overgrown with weeds and vines, some even nine inches thick.

Pam Smith drove by the cemetery for seven years and knew something had to be done.

"It was disrespectful. It was a pioneer cemetery, those people started this town. There are a lot of those families still in the area and I just felt that it wasn't right," Pam said.

Susan and the Smiths want to fill the area with benches and flowers, add a fence, and upgrade the sign.

They hope it will be a place for people to relax, reminisce, and to learn about the city's history.