Whispers from the past — Camp Polk Cemetery


Last updated 5/11/2022 at Noon

Cobb ancestor Jan Hodgers. PHOTO PROVIDED

New headstone for the Cobb family will be dedicated on May 14 at the close of the cemetery tour led

On a hill above the lush Camp Polk Meadow, where Whychus Creek has been restored to its original meander, is the historic Camp Polk Cemetery, final resting place for many of Sisters’ early residents and some more recent citizens.

On Sunday, May 14, at 2 p.m., Jan Hodgers, president of the Three Sisters Historical Society and Museum, will lead a guided tour through the cemetery in celebration of National Historical Preservation Month, which occurs every May. The tour will end with the dedication of a new headstone for the Cobb family, some of Hodgers’ nine ancestors buried in the cemetery.

The cemetery is older than the town of Sisters. Soldiers from Polk County, Company A, 1st Regiment of Oregon Infantry Volunteers were sent over the mountains in 1865 to establish a camp to protect settlers and travelers from Indian attacks, which never occurred. The soldiers built eight log cabins in which they spent the winter, but they abandoned the camp the next spring when they could make their way back over the mountains to the Willamette Valley.

Samuel Hindman homesteaded the meadow in 1873 and established a post office called Camp Polk in 1875. The Hindman homestead became an important stage stop on the wagon road between the Willamette Valley and Prineville and the first community in the Sisters area. As the number of settlers grew in the area, a place was needed to bury their dead. In 1880, the Hindman family set aside a portion of their homestead as a two-acre cemetery, which also took the name of Camp Polk.

There are currently somewhere between 170-200 gravesites in the cemetery, although there may well be other unmarked graves there as well. Nine commemorative markers recognize individuals who are believed to be buried at the site, although their graves have not been located.

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The oldest known grave is that of Thomas Summers, who was interred July 8, 1880. No one seemed to know who he was. In November of that same year, three-and-a-half-year-old Nellie Claypool was buried there. Her family was living at the Fish Lake way station when Nellie became very ill. The nearest doctor was in Prineville, necessitating a trip by horse and wagon. By the time they reached the Hindman place, Nellie was too ill to travel farther and died soon after they arrived.

The Hindmans cared for the Claypool family at this sad time. They built a little casket, lined it with cloth, and helped the family bury Nellie in the Camp Polk cemetery, where her marker is still visible.

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A stroll through the cemetery, taking time to read the headstones and handwritten notes, gives rise to multitudes of questions and amazement at the local history that is revealed. One marker simply says COWBOY 19 YRS HORSE KICKED. The story goes that he was carried into the local Sisters saloon for aid and the bartender thought he was just drunk. He died, and since no one knew him, he was buried nameless.

Another stone marks the resting place for Robert H. Krug 1849-1919 murdered by A. J. Weston. That’s another story for another time.

Marker for three-and-a-half-year-old Nellie Claypool who died in 1880. PHOTO PROVIDED

For the tour, meet at the entrance of the cemetery, which is located off Camp Polk Road at the end of Cemetery Road, which runs along the north side of Camp Polk Meadow. For more information, contact Jan Hodgers, 541-788-0274.

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