High on a hilltop surrounded by residential neighborhoods sits this lovely cemetery, that’s perpetually green due to the frequent rain.
In 1811, John Jacob Astor of the Pacific Fur Company founded a trading post called Fort Astor (or Fort George) near the mouth of the Columbia River. It was the first permanent American settlement on the Pacific Coast. Over the next two decades the fort would be bought by two other companies, including the Montreal-owned North West Company, making it the first British owned port on the North American Pacific Coast. The town of Astoria grew around the fort. It featured a rough and tumble population of adventurers from places as diverse as Scotland, Hawaii, Canada and America.
Over the years, Astoria grew into a prominent port city, attracting a new wave of settlers from Norway, Sweden, Finland, England, China, Ireland, and Germany. It was incorporated in 1876. The Pioneer Cemetery was deeded to the city by a man named James Welch on April 22, 1865. It became the most popular burial site in town, boasting 498 burials by 1891. Prominent early leaders were buried here, as were paupers who were interred in unmarked graves. Due to the frequent migration of settlers, many smaller cemeteries were abandoned during this time. Their bodies were moved here, where they would not be built over or forgotten. By the turn of century, the cemetery was no longer used for burials. Many of the more prominent families disinterred their relatives and removed their headstones.
Today, the Astoria Pioneer Cemetery, with its flat lawn and sparse headstones, can feel more like a park than a graveyard.