Janet Boone McGarrigle gently put her hand on the old twin granite tombstones etched with moss in the Jacksonville Cemetery.

Janet Boone McGarrigle gently put her hand on the old twin granite tombstones etched with moss in the Jacksonville Cemetery.

"George Boone was our great-grandfather — Mourning Boone was our great-grandmother," she observed. "Their choice of burial probably would have been at Boones Point up on the Oregon Coast where they spent the majority of their lives."

But she will tell you the Oregon pioneers who spent their final years in Medford — he arrived in the Oregon Territory in 1848; she in 1847 — would have felt right at home in Jacksonville. He died in 1910, at the age of 84. She was 81 when she passed away in 1920.

"Jacksonville is so rich in pioneer history," McGarrigle said. "It's a fascinating area. There is so much history here, it is unbelievable."

McGarrigle, 66, of Portland, and her sister, Carolyn Boone Grenfell, 59, of Newberg, are co-presidents of the Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers. With McGarrigle in the lead, 27 members of the group are on a three-day visit to the Jacksonville area this week.

The organization has about 1,200 members worldwide, all direct descendants of pioneers who came to the Oregon Territory before statehood (Feb. 14, 1859), Grenfell explained in a telephone interview. She was unable to make the trip because of pending back surgery.

Oregon's original pioneers formed a group called the Oregon Pioneer Association in 1873, she said. As their ranks thinned, their descendants created the nonprofit Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers in 1901 to celebrate and keep alive the history of early-day Oregon.

"The more people who can expose their children to their roots, the better it is for Oregon," Grenfell said. "History is so important in our culture."

"We are trying to keep as much history alive as we can," McGarrigle said. "Carolyn and I are trying to get younger people involved in learning more about Oregon history."

Their family is steeped in state, as well as national, history.

The sisters' great-great-great-great-grandfather was Daniel Boone, the frontiersman. Their grandfather, Daniel Armstrong Boone, met and married their grandmother in Medford, and worked for the city's first water department in an era when wooden pipes carried water.

George Boone, the sisters' ancestor buried in Jacksonville, was the son of Alphonso Boone, the grandson of Daniel Boone and the first family member to come to the Oregon Territory. He arrived via the Applegate Trail in 1846 to settle in what is now Wilsonville, according to "Oregon Geographic Names," the encyclopedic chronicle of state history and place names.

Alphonso's son, Jesse V. Boone, began operating a ferry across the Willamette Valley around 1847, creating what became known as Boones Ferry. Jesse's daughter, Chloe D. Boone, married George L. Curry, a onetime governor of Oregon, for whom Curry County was named, the book recounts.

"We were exposed to history at a young age," Grenfell said. "We've always been interested in it."

She recalled a childhood visit to Jacksonville, which popped up like a mushroom shortly after the discovery of gold in the early 1850s.

"Jacksonville is so important to the history of Oregon," she said, noting she and her sister are concerned that local history could be lost forever if more Oregonians don't become active in helping to preserve local and state history.

"Knowing about history gives me a very good feeling," she said. "I can go down to Yaquina Bay where our family had its old homestead and feel the connection."

For more information on the Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers, visit the Web site at: www.oregonpioneers.com/sdop.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.