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Molalla Family Teams-up to Research their Connection to the Adams Cemetery

July 9, 2019

By Melissa Alberda (granddaughter) & Betty Dicken Guild (grandmother)

The Adams Cemetery in Molalla, Oregon has been a touchstone for generations in our family.  We, grandmother and granddaughter, both grew up knowing that our ancestors, WD and Lucina Adams, donated the land that became Adams Cemetery.  However, we found ourselves without any proof.  We went hunting.

Betty’s collection of memorabilia provided us with our initial clues.  The Genealogical Forum of Oregon was helpful for identifying the original land claims.  We found that the BLM website contains invaluable surveys and patents.  We made trips to the Clackamas County Recording Office to track down the deeds.  

Many of the clues that would inform our next steps came through the University of Oregon’s collection of newspapers.  While they do not have the Molalla Pioneer Newspaper available online, they sent microfilm to our library.  Our library also obtained Sanborn Fire Maps on microfilm from Portland State University.  We kept the Molalla Area Historical Society in the loop as our research project progressed.  When they received some amazing digital images of early minutes from what would become the Adams Cemetery Association, they contacted us because they knew of our interest. 

We learned that WD and Lucina purchased a large swath of land in 1870 and that the portion that would become the cemetery was already the resting place for three souls.  They, too, are our ancestors.  The Adams family informally allowed burials for fifteen years.  In 1885 they formally conveyed land for the purposes of burials.  In 1897, the bylaws were written for what would become the Adams Cemetery Association.  They priced plots between $2 and $5 and all monies, gifts and donations would be used for the benefit of the cemetery.  As the town’s need grew, the Adams family set aside more land in 1909 and 1921.  The cemetery has continued to grow in the over 150 years since the first burial, and at each step, it has been the community of Molalla that has lovingly protected the land.

For Betty, the most interesting discovery we made was that WD Adams was Molalla’s first undertaker.  We found a notation in her father’s journal, which led us to a lot of public evidence to support the discovery.  For Melissa, the most fascinating discovery was that she and her grandma go about solving a mystery much the same way.  The gap in our generations may have provided different tools in our kits, but we made an excellent team.  We will both hold onto the experience as much as the knowledge we learned.  If anyone is thinking about tackling a family mystery, we certainly recommend teaming up with a member of the family.  It makes it a lot more fun!

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