The first cemetery in Southern Curry County, now known as Pioneer Cemetery, was established about 1860. It is located at the east end of East Benham Lane, south of Harbor. Best estimates are that about 100 people are buried there, both Indians and whites. The last white person interred was Wes Hatfield, on May 28, 1912. A descendent of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys of Missouri fame, he came here and was later drowned in a boating accident at the mouth of the Chetco River. In the mid-1970s, the cemetery was in a bad state of neglect and the Hatfield grave was the only one that could be identified.
A little farther north, near the east end of East Hoffeldt Lane, is the old abandoned Van Pelt Family Cemetery. As this is written, thirteen are buried there, the first one being that of Thomas Van Pelt, who was murdered in 1898. The last burial in this cemetery was that of one of Thomas Van Pelt's sons, John Van Pelt, who died in 1950.
A bit farther south and west, near Pedroli Lane, is the old Cooley Family Cemetery with three graves. The first burial there was that of Francis Cooley in 1897; the last is that of Elizabeth Cooley in 1916.
The oldest cemetery in Brookings is the burial ground on Old County Road south of Hasset Street. This cemetery was primarily used during the early days of Brookings, from about 1915 until 1930. The bodies of 30 persons lay there, initially, but there have been additional burials at the site. There were plans to move them into the William James Ward Memorial Cemetery, maintained as an Endowed Care Cemetery.
This cemetery, located at the end of Seventh Street, borders the northern city limits of Brookings. William J. Ward was for some years the forester and the purchasing agent for real estate for the Brookings Lumber & Box Company and its affiliate, the Brookings Land and Townsite Company. He set aside a three-acre tract of land overlooking the town of Brookings as a family cemetery plot. The Ward family later donated the cemetery to the city.
Mr. Ward, who died in 1936, was the first person buried in the cemetery. Today, as in 1979, it is supported and maintained by the Southern Curry Cemetery Maintenance District. Over 500 graves were there as of 1979, with ample room for expansion to meet the needs of the area for many years to come.
As a result of the untiring efforts of a few men serving as a board of directors, about 15 acres have been added to the cemetery property, and the site has been greatly improved. Well-planned roads, sidewalks, rock walls, rock entrance pillars and an attractive entrance gate have been installed.
The beauty of this well-kept public cemetery is of solace to families and friends and provides a quiet spot for remembering loved ones there resting in peace.
First Cemetery Association Board Members included: