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Mysteries in Paradise Cemetery

By Terence L. Day

Memorial Day weekend we loaded picnic supplies and piled into Blaze and paid a visit to our dead in Paradise. Paradise, Ore., that is.

I don't know where that community in northern Wallowa County, on a plateau just above the deep Grand Ronde River and Cottonwood Creek canyons, got its name. It is set in harsh country. It has a short growing season, rocky ground, steep, often impassable canyons.

I marvel that my paternal ancestors farmed and ranched in northern Wallowa County. I'm sure they must have enjoyed the incredible beauty of their environment, as I do. This was Chief Joseph's homeland. He wintered in the canyon bottoms along the rivers and summered on the highland meadows.

It had been five years since we visited the Paradise Cemetery to honor Barnes ancestors, especially a great great grandmother who came across the Oregon Trail. That last occasion turned out to be more of an adventure than we bargained for as we put a three-inch gash in our gas tank.

Did I mention that this is rough country?

A weathered old rancher appropriately called "Grizzly" told us how to patch the tank to get back to our home in Pullman, some 70 or 80 miles distant. My wife, Ruth, and I felt foolish as we each chewed a package of Juicy Fruit gum. Grizz was quite specific. He insists only Juicy Fruit will work. Says all the old timers in that country carry a pack of it in their pickup tool box.

I was almost certain that we were the victims of a practical joke. If so, I wouldn't want to play poker with Grizz. His face was expressionless as we chewed and chewed until our jaws ached.

Finally, I put the two huge wads of gum together and slapped them on the gash in the gas tank. We poured in five gallons of gasoline and headed for civilization.

The further we traveled, the broader the grin grew on my face. I drove the car two or three weeks with the chewing gum patch before a mechanic welded the hole!

This year we weren't worried about the rocks because our sports utility vehicle sits high enough to clear them and the four-wheel drive can handle an abundance of mud. But I'm pleased to report, for anyone interested in visiting the Paradise Cemetery, that the roads have been improved. Any vehicle should get them there fine -- until winter's snows set in.

So, last weekend we arrived at the Paradise Cemetery north east of Flora about noon, put the tail gate down and enjoyed a picnic and spent some time thinking about family. I've found cemeteries are good places to think. They trigger memories. They also suggest questions for genealogists to research.

It is especially that way at the overgrown Paradise Cemetery where some of the Barneses and Redmans of my family are buried under the perpetual neglect plan.

My adult daughter, Elisabeth, asked about Ruby Barnes. Her marker says she was born Feb. 16, 1897 and died Sept. 27, 1913. Sixteen years young. Who was she? How did she die?

I couldn't remember. Truthfully, my records don't confirm that she is of my Barnses, but I assume she is. Paradise was a small community. Add mystery to the beauty of this rural setting.

When we arrived home in Pullman I checked my pedigree chart. Clearly Ruby was not in my direct line. Perhaps she was a cousin. Someone's niece. I don't know. But I dug into my files and found the extract of a newspaper clipping that I had made apparently 25 or more years ago.

"News was received in Asotin this Thursday morning from Flora, announcing the news James Barnes, a resident of the Paradise section, had at an early hour this morning shot his daughter, Ruby, a grown young lady, and then killed himself."

It went on to say that James' "mind had been considerably unbalanced for the past year and a half or two years."

I also noted discrepancies in information on Terrasa Barnes' marker and my genealogical records. Her marker says she was born Feb. 6, 1804, and died April 13, 1891. My records show her death in Cove, Union County, Ore., in 1887. Her maiden name was Shrouse according to my records. Some believe it was Shouse.

Two more mysteries to solve.

Genealogy is more than paperwork. It can be both high adventure and relaxing in the beauty of grand scenery on a pleasant spring day.

Perhaps I've been too absorbed with Day genealogy. Clearly I need to spend some time on the Barnes lines. That will be one of the results of our very pleasant visit to Paradise Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend. As I write this column, several layers of Barnes papers are scattered across my desk top.


Terence L. Day, journalist and genealogist, is on the Washington State University faculty.

Copyright 1999 by Terence L. Day. The author writes a self-syndicated genealogy column. Permission is hereby given to copy this column for personal, private use only. All other uses, including e-mail and World Wide Web distribution require the author's permission. He may be reached at "" or by mail at 635 SE Steptoe Street, Pullman, WA 99163.

A special thanks to Terry for allowing me to put this on the Wallowa County GenWeb site. It's a beautiful story and I think we just might have learned something

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