Find one headstone in the shape of a tree stump and soon the cemeteries are sprouting a forest.
When Jacksonville's Larry Smith read the story of the concrete tree that marked a grave in Medford's Eastwood Cemetery ("Memories in concrete and stone," July 15, 2012), he remembered another tree in Jacksonville's historic hilltop cemetery.
A tree trunk in a cemetery symbolizes the shortness of life. A tree stump stands for life interrupted.
It turns out that stone trees and tree stumps are not that unusual. Throughout the late Victorian era and into the 1930s, tree monuments were so popular that families could buy them from the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs.
You can see the Obenchain tree immediately after entering the Jacksonville Cemetery. Look to your left.
The Wilson monument and graves are just to the left and uphill from the Robinson family plot. Drive straight onto the cemetery circle, continue to the left, and look to your left. You'll see a very white statue of a child looking up, as if in prayer. That's the Robinson plot.
Cimborsky's tree is in the Red Men section. Dirk Siedlecki will head up a tour of that section on Saturday, Sept. 8. The 90-minute tour, sponsored by Friends of the Jacksonville Cemetery, starts at 10 a.m. Meet at the Sexton's tool house at the top of the cemetery road. There is no charge, but donations are welcomed.
It's not as elegantly formed as its Medford counterpart, but from a distance it's certainly not a bad representation of a snag in the woods.
This massive stump marks the graves of Madison Obenchain, his wife, Minnie, and his mother-in-law, Dora Krach.
Mat, as he preferred to be called, had come west from Iowa to California with his mother, father and three brothers in 1861. A year later the clan moved near Butte Falls and took up ranching.
In about 1865, at age 12, Minnie Krach and her mother emigrated from Germany. Her father had died in the old country. They arrived in New York and then sailed around the Horn of South America to the West Coast.
In 1874, Mat married Minnie in Jacksonville and, six years later, he moved his wife, son and mother-in-law to Klamath County, where he started a large cattle ranch near Bly.
Just as his business began to thrive, he was stricken with an illness that forced him to return to Jacksonville. After three years as an invalid and just a month before his 51st birthday, he died there in 1896. Dora Krach had died in 1889, and Minnie survived until 1929.
Dirk Siedlecki, president of the Friends of the Historic Jacksonville Cemetery and chairman of the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries, added two more trees to our growing Jacksonville stone forest.
In 1870, Jesse Wilson, 73, came to the Rogue Valley from the Mississippi Valley with his 75-year-old wife, Rebecca. They had come to spend their final years with their sons, Arthur and Jesse Jr.
This "tree," bearing four names, wasn't placed until after Arthur and his wife, Ulcey, had died; she in 1898 and he in 1902. That may be why the stonecutter or relatives got Rebecca's death year wrong. Instead of the 1882 carved on the stone, her brief newspaper obituary says she died in 1878, 13 years before her husband, Jesse Sr.
Siedlecki's second suggestion is difficult to recognize as a tree, because its etchings are fading and most of its branches and leaves are found on its back side.
The monument honors Austrian immigrant John Cimborsky, who died in 1882. It was placed in an elaborate unveiling ceremony on Christmas Day, one year after Cimborsky's death, by members of the Improved Order of Red Men, a fraternal organization that dates back to the American Revolution.
Cimborsky had been a founding member of the local Red Men in 1870, and at one time had been "great sachem," or "chief," of the Oregon order.
Prayers were given, a choir sang, the Red Men tribe conducted their funeral rites, and Judge H.K. Hanna gave an eloquent main address.
To the left of Cimborsky's monument is a crudely etched marker for Cimborsky's wife, Harna, who died in 1902. Sadly, the stonecutter misspelled her last name as Cimbrosky.
Stone trees in a cemetery. How many more can there be? Chances are, we'll be finding out — very, very soon.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.