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Eagle Scout gives old pioneer graveyard a new look


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO -  Fifteen-year-old Bryan Bufton stands proudly in front of a new sign he created for the Clackamas Pioneer Cemetery.Building what he thought would be a simple new sign for the Clackamas Pioneer Cemetery turned out to be a much larger project than 15-year-old Bryan Bufton had anticipated.

Hundreds of century-old graves had almost been forgotten under encroaching sod in a largely uninhabited area north of Highway 224. Since Bufton also wanted an informational kiosk and infrastructure to keep up the graves, the expanded project required him to enlist the help of many people in the community.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Clackamas Pioneer Cemetery's old sign doesn't hint at the historic significance of the graveyard that is more than 100 years old.The Rex Putnam High School freshman started the project in July, just hoping to get ranked an Eagle Scout, but he didn’t complete the project until last month to earn his Eagle Scout title last week.

“This project has gone so much deeper than just an Eagle project,” Bufton said. “And the funny thing is many people did not think that I could complete the project.”

He saved an estimated $3,000 in donations of time and materials. It was important to him to restore the gravesites, so he organized volunteers who spent hours removing grass covering the headstones. The sign itself, valued at $1,200, required $200 of his own money.

He recycled the original sign and hung it on the back fence, so 82nd Avenue drivers can now see it just before they reach Sweet Tomatoes.

Someone had broken the fence and dumped a huge pile of garbage there, including an old deck and planter boxes, so he cleaned up and purchased new locks for the gates and for the door on the kiosk. He also purchased “no trespassing” and “no dumping” signs.

He purchased a faucet off eBay that only stays on for a few seconds so people can’t leave the faucet on and flood the graves. He recycled the original sink. His dad and uncle, who are both carpenters, helped build a granite countertop from donated materials.

Bufton then lit the flag with two donated solar lights that he was lucky enough to get a Comcast worker with a boom to put up for free.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO -  Bryan Bufton, a freshman at Rex Putnam High School, tracks down the names and locations matching all the graves at the Clackamas Pioneer Cemetery.For a consultation on the informational kiosk built from donated materials, Bufton even tracked down nonagenarian John Keeley, the original land surveyor used to take care of the cemetery, who is still alive and whose parents are buried there.

Bufton found a list of people buried at the cemetery from another volunteer. Names such as Thiessen, which matches the name of a major thoroughfare in Milwaukie, suggest historic significance to the graves, but more research is needed.

He then bought Plexiglas with a $100 Lowes scholarship gift card he received. Then the map of the graves showed up at the last minute, and Scoutmaster Pat Gaylord, a land surveyor, helped Bufton create a blown-up version to put under the Plexiglas.

Anyone interested in researching the cemetery can now easily do so thanks to Bufton.