An Historic Pioneer Cemetery

Luper Pioneer Cemetery

By Peter Thurston

Luper Cemetery is one of the oldest pioneer cemeteries in the southern Willamette Valley. It is located west of River Road and north of West Beacon Drive on rich farm lands a couple feet higher than the surrounding Willamette/McKenzie floodplain. It is this rich soil that drew many of the pioneers who are buried in the cemetery to the Willamette Valley in the mid-1800s. Most of the records, and markers that remain, indicate that interments occurred from the 1850s into the early 1900s.

In the mid-1800s, pioneers were arriving in the Willamette Valley primarily by wagon train on the Oregon Trail, through Oregon City, through Dallas in the western part of the valley, and some from the south, along the Applegate Trail from California. A couple wagon trains in the 1850s made it across the central part of Oregon on the "cut off" from the Oregon Trail and arrived in Lane County by way of the Willamette Pass area, through what is now Oakridge, Lowell, and Pleasant Hill. There were over fifty families comprising several hundred people on these pioneer wagon trains, and they settled mostly in the southern Willamette Valley. According to the by laws of the McClure Clan over the Oregon Trail: "The destination of this company is the fertile valley of the Willamette, located between the Cascade Mountains on the east and the Coast range on the west. Upon arrival at the end of the journey, and when a suitable place is located upon which to establish homes, age will take precedence. The oldest will have first choice of the land and so on down the line to the youngest member of the company to hold a claim. The same procedure also to apply to the erection of a habitation.” The arrival of the 1853 wagon train effectively doubled the population of white settlers in the southern Willamette region. Many of the family names listed in Luper Cemetery records are the same families that came on these wagon trains.

A large number of these pioneers formed small communities and established churches, schools, and other community services in what is now described by the boundaries of Benton, Linn, Douglas and Lane Counties. Cities such as Eugene were incorporated, and now are part of the urban center. Some of the small communities incorporated later but most of the original farming communities dissolved and remain today only as "places" on the map, such as Alvador, River View, Pleasant Hill, and Irving. The community of Irving was located on the westerly edge of what is now Santa Clara, at about the junction of Irvington Drive and Northwest Expressway. It was not incorporated as a city, so there are no exact boundaries. Luper Cemetery was also known as the Irving Cemetery, and referred to at some time as Baker Cemetery.

The six month ordeal of crossing the plains, struggling to secure land claims, constructing habitats and communities brought these families close together. The names in the early records show many marriages among the pioneer families. There were large families that in turn married, raised families and were buried in Luper Cemetery, and the other pioneer cemeteries at Franklin, Junction City, Richardson Butte, Pleasant Hill, Eugene, and others.

Many of the residents of Irving, and family members from surrounding farming communities, were the first to be interred at Luper Cemetery, which is the name listed in state pioneer cemetery records. The Luper Cemetery organization that is currently overseeing restoration and maintenance of the cemetery is interested in telling the stories of the people who lived their lives in the communities near Irving and are now buried in the Luper Cemetery. A web site is established at as a means of collecting history that will enlarge the picture of life in the latter half of the 1800s.

Historical Diaries, Journals, Genealogy Information

Click here for the Hettie McClure Bond diary describing life in the Southern Willamette Valley in the late 1800's.

Click here for the journal of the 1858 gold prospecting trip up the Middle Fork Willamette River to east of the Cascade Mountains in search of the "Blue Bucket Mine" that Andrew McClure participated in. Transcribed from the original by Nancy Wilson.

Click here for an extract from James McClure's journal covering one month on the 1853 wagon train on the cut-off from the Malheur River.

Click here for the supply list made by Col. John Kline for his trip west that concluded on the Lost Wagon Train. The agreement with his cattle drovers is also included. Kline was the man known for giving away his cattle to the starving emigrants who no longer had any food left. Kline had 9 kids on the Lost Wagon Train. Elisha and Harriet Wadsworth were hired to take care of his kids after his 2nd wife died just a few days before they took the Lost Wagon cutoff. Although Col. Kline is not buried here, there are 17 other members of the Lost Wagon Train interred here including Harriet Wadsworth.

Click here for John Hamilton McClure's poem "How We Came To Oregon". John was 8 years old when he crossed the plains and wrote this poem about the trip when he was 70.

Click here for a history of the Bruce family. Major William Bruce wrote this family history about their lives in Knox County, Indiana and Kentucky when he was 75 years old. He had 25 children!

Click here for information on McClure and Bond family members.

Click here for the marker dedication and biography of Elizabeth Crawley Adkins Bushnell.

Click here for the narrative of John Corydon Bushnell about their migration to Oregon. It begins with family genealogy and their history in the east, 

Click here for autobiography for James Addison Bushnell about his early life in Ohio and his trip to Oregon and California in 1852 in search of riches. Upon arriving home via ship and the Isthmus of Panama he found that his family had left by wagon train for the west. He finally found them in the Willamette Valley. Very interesting story of his life and accomplishments!

Click here for the diary of William Addison Bushnell, Co. K, 2nd Infantry. He was stationed at the Presidio, San Francisco and Fort Goodwin, Arizona Territory, 1864-1866.

Click here for the Esther Lyman Journal about their 1853 wagon trip to Oregon. There is a letter that Joseph Lyman wrote on November 11, 1853 when he arrived in Salem, Oregon. Also included is information about Rev. Josiah and Mary Brakeman and the Wadsworth families. 

Click here for the 1853 McClure Wagon Train Bylaws.

Click here for Daniel Owen's brochure about the Lost Wagon Train.

Click here for the Benjamin Franklin Owen diary describing his trip on the 1853 wagon train and the advance party trek.

Click here for information on Andrew and Lydia Simmons journey to Oregon and their land claim. Also the "Letter From Oregon" that Lydia sent to her mother. Click here for a picture of the Simmons farm in 1914.

Click here for a collection of information on the Zumwalt family and relatives connecting them to the Bond and Robertson families. Unfortunately some of the available documents were very poor copies and are difficult to read.

Click here for the article "Preserving the Past" from 5/21/2009 about the restoration project.

The following documents on some of the Luper families and their descendants were compiled by Linda VanOrden, Historical Researcher.

Click here for information on the Thomas Baker Jr. and Elizabeth (Robinson) Baker family.

Click here for information on the Syver N. and Inger Oline Fenne family.

Click here for information on the family of John Hostettler.

Click here for information on the William and Mollie (Stockton) Humphrey family.

Click here for information on the John and Otilia (Raok) Koepp family.

Click here for information on the James A. and Emma (Reimer) LeTellier family.

Click here for information on the John C. and Sarah Jane (Hickey) Maxwell family.

Click here for information on the family of 4 year old Ethel Moffitt.

Click here for information on the Henry and Lavina (Bridges) Moore family.

Click here for information on the Henry Frank & Mary E. (Miller) Newman family.

Click here for information on the Robinson family. More extensive family research has been donated to the Junction City Historical Society research library. Contact Linda VanOrden for more information. 

Click here for information on the Andrew A, & Lydia A. (Gardner) Simmons family.

The following is work done by Ben Stinnett at Luper Cemetery towards his Masters Degree at the University of Oregon. (large file)

Click here for Ben's paper "Luper Pioneer Cemetery: A Cultural Landscape Report" A terminal project on historic preservation presented to the U of O Graduate School for his Masters Degree in 2014.


Visit for an article on James A. Bushnell written by Tim Bergquist PhD, professor Emeritus at Bushnell University.

Visit for additional pictures and research information.

Visit for more local history and exhibits at the Lane County Museum.

Visit for information from the Oregon Historical Society and their museum.

Visit for an extensive collection about early pioneers.

Visit for information about the wagon train route across Oregon known as the Elliott Cutoff.

Visit for an obituary for Hettie McClure Bond. 

Guidelines when visiting the cemetery:

Please do not allow children to run in cemetery or climb on headstones. Uneven ground could cause injuries. Headstones can be damaged or fall causing serious injury. Be respectful of the memorial to the people buried here and avoid damage to the historical nature of their markers.


Please avoid bringing pets in the graveyard. Pets can cause damage by digging or by relieving themselves in the graveyard.


Please do not make rubbings or attempt to clean any headstones. This can cause damage and accelerates deterioration of the stones. If you are unable to read an inscription, you can make contact through to inquire about specific headstone information from site surveys that have been cataloged. Even though grave markers are made of stone, they are actually fragile and easily damaged! Over the years, headstones may become weathered and worn making inscriptions hard to read. Methods sometimes thought to be acceptable in deciphering inscriptions are known to cause damage. Rubbings, chalking, or cleaning done by untrained people, that may seem harmless and fun, have accelerated wear and staining of tombstones. Rubbing is abrasive to stones. It eventually will wear away the carving on stones and loosen tiny bits that cause flaking and breaking. A seemingly harmless foreign substance may become imbedded in the stone and cause portals for damage from freezing or be food for microorganisms that can grow in the stone causing expansion and cracking. Crayons, wax, shaving cream, chalk, or flour all can be very damaging. Examples of natural wear on stones are easy to find so anything that accelerates the process could cause a tombstone to become unreadable or unstable decades before nature would have taken its course. There are methods that can make a tombstone easier to read that use nothing more than a misting of clean water or light and mirrors but one of the easiest and safest ways is photography. With today‚Äôs technology, there are much more effective ways than rubbings, even for amateurs, to bring out detail with a photograph.


Please do not move any markers, stones, or items in the cemetery.


Please do not perform any maintenance on the property without prior approval from the Luper Board of Trustees. Headstones can be easily damaged by string trimmers, mowers, and other tools! Contact can be made through for more information. Volunteers are greatly appreciated on scheduled work days!