Detecting the dead: Halsey Pioneer Cemetery

County tax assessors want their maps to be accurate too.

When planning a trip into Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I often browse Google Maps to see what pioneer cemeteries I might visit on the way. I noticed a one-star review of the Halsey Pioneer Cemetery listing because the reviewer thought the location was incorrect: “It is actually about 6 miles west of Halsey on West American Drive,” the reviewer said. (That’s incorrect; it’s Pine Grove Cemetery that’s 6 miles west of Halsey on West American Drive.) So where is the Halsey Pioneer Cemetery really?

When I go looking for a cemetery, I consult several sources, including (but not limited to) Google Earth, Google Maps, topo maps (online and paper), the “Big Blue Book of the Dead” (as I call it), Findagrave, Billiongraves, and various genealogical websites. Somebody posted photos on Findagrave, so someone has actually been there. In the case of Halsey Pioneer Cemetery, it’s easy to see where the confusion arises as the location is described slightly differently by different sources, yet the pin always seems to land on the map in the same place.

But there’s another source of data that rarely lets me down: tax assessor maps on county websites. You better believe the counties want every cent of property tax they can possibly assess, so they have a vested interest in making sure the county maps are correct.

Once I dug down into the data on the Linn County GIS maps online, I discovered this prize, a section map.

And if you zoom in a lot more, you find this:

Which corresponds pretty neatly with the satellite layer results:

Which is definitely aligned with what I found on Google Maps in the first place:

So the grumpy reviewer was probably disappointed that Halsey Pioneer is on private property, and left a one-star review that reflects his ignorance instead of an incorrect listing. I’m pretty confident that the Halsey Pioneer Cemetery really is in that cluster of trees on someone’s farm. If I’m polite and considerate, and ask permission of the landowner, I might still be able to visit the cemetery someday.

Stump and Lamb explores personal growth and meaning via travels to pioneer cemeteries of the West.

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