Finding family for Memorial Day: 'There are a lot of stories out here'

JUNCTION CITY, Ore. -- One of the oldest pioneer cemeteries in the Willamette Valley is open Memorial Day weekend, giving people a glimpse into the region’s rich history.

Local historian Peter Thurston spent the weekend guiding visitors through the rustic headstones of Luper Pioneer Cemetery, pointing out grave plots of interest. One of his first stops is the marker for 17 people on the lost wagon train of 1853 who are buried in the pioneer cemetery.

"When that wagon train came up over the Oakridge part of the cascades and into the valley, it doubled the population of the southern part of the Willamette Valley,” said Thurston.

As president of the Luper Pioneer Cemetery, Thurston sees plenty of people looking for specific names within a lineage.

“Quite often people do come out they’re looking for a very specific name. ‘Um…gee I’m lookin’ for the Bushnell’s or the Bonds or the McClures," Thurston said. "That's the fun of it too … ‘cause there are a lot of stories out here."

 One of the curios visitors over Memorial Day weekend was Terry Bushnell, who brought his family out to Loper to learn about his ancestry.

“This is my first trip to the Luper Cemetery,” Terry told KVAL News, looking down at a headstone belonging to a Bushnell. "Yes, it was (quite a find). There are a lot of Bushnells." 

Bushnell, a Vietnam-era veteran, found that his family tree has military roots throughout, as well as some entrepreneurs working in Junction City. 

“There was a hotel and opera house in Junction City that was named the Bushnell Hotel and Opera House. Didn't know that existed…” Terry said.