It started as a simple plan.
American Legion Post 10 commander Steve Adams set out to find burial sites of all the World War I veterans in Linn County cemeteries. Now that's “snowballed” into finding them for all county veterans, dating back to the Civil War (1861-1865) and Spanish-American War (1898).
“I got the idea a year ago at our convention in Florence,” Adams recalled. “The national organization asked us to find our World War I veterans memorials.”
The national goal is to compile that information by the the American Legion’s centennial anniversary on Sept. 16, 2019.
Adams said the only way to document burial sites is by walking row-by-row through each cemetery and looking for markings on headstones.
“Commissioner Will Tucker provided me with a map of cemeteries in the county,” he said. “There are between 50 to 60 registered cemeteries and we don’t know how many other small, private cemeteries.”
So you can see why Adams said the project has snowballed. But Adams notes that his wife disagrees with that assessment: “She says it’s a regular blizzard,” he said, and laughed.
He expanded his search after some Post 10 members asked him why he was only looking for WWI veterans and not World War II and Korean War soldiers as well. But Adams said he always likes a good challenge.
So far, he's found graves for a Civil War veteran in the Santiam Central Cemetery between Highway 20 and Knox Butte, plus sites for two Spanish-American War veterans in the Waverly Jewish Cemetery on Salem Avenue.
James Beebe was born on June 3, 1834, and died on June 8, 1918. In 1861 he served briefly in the Civil War, but Adams didn't know the circumstances of his short tenure.
Beebe is buried at the Santiam Central Cemetery east of Albany, along with his wife, Elizabeth (1839-1881), and their two young children, Frank (1870-1882) and Lily (1873-1882).
Adams said the passing of three family members in little more than a year is puzzling, although there may have been some form of epidemic.
Andrew Butts (March 27, 1868 to Jan. 30, 1954) is buried at the Waverly Cemetery, as is Willis Faxon (Nov. 7, 1873 to Nov. 24, 1953). Both served in the Spanish American War.
Butts was a private in Company K, the 4th Regiment, Ohio Infantry. Faxon also was a private, in Company I, the 1st California Infantry.
“So far, I’ve found 55 World War I veterans’ graves; 192 from World War II; 34 from Korea; 23 from Vietnam; and 12 from the Gulf wars,” Adams said.
Adams has visited 304 graves so far.
“When I get done, I’m going to visit with members of cemetery associations and get a list of everyone buried in their cemeteries so I can cross-check names,” he said.
Adams now realizes this project will take more than a year.
“Eventually, I’m going to meet with local funeral home directors and ask them to provide us with the names of veterans for whom they provide services,” he said. “We could develop a database and update it annually or more often.”
Adams encourages anyone with information about private cemeteries or veterans grave sites to call him at the Post 10 number, 541-926-0127.
“I’m learning a lot about local history,” he said. “People are also starting to volunteer to help at cemeteries in Brownsville and Sweet Home.”
Adams offers the following advice to anyone who wants to help: “There’s only one good way to do this, and that’s to walk every cemetery.”