Tigard’s Sunset Pioneer Cemetery

(Dennis Shen, Tigard Historical Assocation)

Many cars on busy Highway 99W whiz past Little Bull Mountain every day, but how many of the occupants of these vehicles are aware of the small cemetery on the hill above them? This once country cemetery is now called Sunset Pioneer Cemetery. But originally, it was located at the back of a white wooden church that early settlers of the Tigard area had erected. In fact, this small church was the first church built in what was then called East Butte and later Tigardville.

The Emanuel German Evangelical Church was built in 1886 when Highway 99 was merely a dirt road. It was first envisioned by the Rev. A. Schlenk, who was the pastor of the German Evangelical Church in Portland. He would come out to conduct services in the Bend Schoolhouse. There was a question as to where the new church should be built. Parishioner Albert Marske wanted it built on Bull Mountain. Mathias Koerner, living on Bend Road, wanted it there. Albert Elsner offered free ground for it if placed on Bull Mountain. One day Charles F. Tigard was chatting with Mr. Elsner and asked what location had been decided upon. When he was told that the location was still undecided, C.F. recommended putting it at the foot of Bull Mountain. Mr. Elsner agreed that this would be a good compromise. Emil Heilman suggested putting it on Quigley Hill, as Little Bull Mountain was then known. The decision was made by tossing a dime. The land was purchased from Mr. Quigley for about $25 an acre. 

(Dennis Shen, Tigard Historical Assocation)

Grace Tigard Houghton, who recorded many of the stories of her father, writes that various neighbors helped with clearing the land for the church and constructing the building. Most of the material was donated, so very little funds needed to be collected. While sloshing up the hill one day, George McFarland was cursing in his usual fluent way, supposing he was out of earshot of the church people. He was overheard, however, by Rev. Schlenk, who, diplomat that he was, said, “Well, from the sound of things, we didn’t start this church any too soon.”  

Charles F. Tigard thought that the church should have a bell. The church members felt that they couldn’t afford one, so C.F. donated some money and collected enough from others to total about $20 and bought a bell.  When World War I came to an end on Nov. 11, 1918, local children took turns ringing the bell in the church tower to celebrate.  

An early photo of the church which was located above the intersection of Highway 99 and Bull Mountain Road. (Courtesy/Tigard Historical Assocation)

Services in the church were conducted entirely in German and many of the tombstones still standing on the hill bear German inscriptions. In later years the services were in English. It is interesting to note that in the photo above, the hillside was mostly clear of trees. However, before the recent development in the area around the cemetery, the hillside was once again covered in trees. 

In 1919, the State Highway Department wanted to widen and macadam the dirt road in front of the church. This required that the church be torn down to make way for the two-lane road. A new church was erected about one-half mile north of the old church. But the cemetery survived.

Now the land around the cemetery is being developed. All of the trees in the area surrounding the cemetery have been taken down except for the trees in the cemetery itself. Streets have been paved, and soon homes will begin to be erected. The access road to the cemetery off of Highway 99W has been paved, but no guard rails have been installed, and the road is quite narrow. A better route to the cemetery is from 109th off of Canterbury Lane. Take the first right off of 109th, which goes through the new development. Drive to the bottom of the cul de sac. There you can park and walk down the concrete steps to the cemetery.

In August of 2017, Tigard Historical Association member Dennis Shen photographed the tombstones and the surrounding area of the cemetery. These photos can be viewed at www.tigardhistorical.org under the heading “Sunset Pioneer Cemetery.” If you have relatives buried at this cemetery, Tigard Historical would like to hear from you. We are compiling a list of those interested in the preservation of this historic cemetery. Contact us at info@tigardhistorical.org.

Here is a list of the tombstones compiled from various surveys, some done as early as the 1940s. Sadly, over the years, some of the stones have been broken, degraded, or simply lost altogether.

Name/Birth Date/Death Date/Notes on Stone

  • Baatz, August Wilhelm 16 Jan 1836 22 July 1914
  • Baatz, Fredericka Karoline 21 June 1836 13 May 1928
  • Behnke (infant) 1887 1887
  • Behnke, May (infant) 1889 1889
  • Behnke, Bennie 1893 1909
  • Behnke, Clara 1882 1915
  • Behnke, Fred 1843 1913 Father
  • Behnke, Hermann 1880 1891
  • Behnke, Julia 1850 1934 Mother
  • Biedermann, August 18 Sept 1865 21 March 1904 Father  
  • Biedermann, Elizabeth 6 Nov 1872 2 July 1902/3 Mother
  • Binkele, Anna M. 1896 1983
  • Binkele, Theophil 1887 1982
  • Boland, George 1855 1927
  • Boland, John M. 16 Dec 1928 67 yr 1 mo, – dy
  • Boland, Malinda A. 1857 1957
  • Bremer, Sophie 3 Aug 1856 25 Jun 1903 Mutter
  • Bremer, William 9 Dec 1858 16 Oct 1927
  • Fisher, Baby Hazel 1901 1901
  • Fisher, Clara A. 1865 1940
  • Fisher, Frank F. 1859 1935
  • Godwin, Arthur 10 Nov 1891 Son of James, 13y 4m 15d
  • Godwin, William 10 Nov 1891 Son of James, 1y 4m -d
  • Grebe, Elva M.J. 16 May 1894 9 Sept 1896 Daughter of H. and M.
  • Grebe, Henry 1861 1947 Father
  • Grebe, Matilda M.A. 1864 1946 Mother
  • Kaae, Fred V. 1881 1916
  • Kurth, Aunt Marie 1850 1922
  • Kurth, Barbara 5 Dec 1844 2 Mar 1897 Wife of Jacob
  • Kurth, Jacob 5 Aug 1842 5 Jul 1918 Father
  • Kurth, Ursula 12 Apr 1887 17 Feb 1897
  • Long, Joseph 1857 1918
  • Marty, Mrs. A.B. 28 Nov 1913 Age 70 yrs.
  • Marty, Gabrial 25 Mar 1915 Age 88 yrs. 
  • Miltenberger, John 25 Mar 1903 Age 75 yrs.
  • Moser, Katherine E. 12 Nov. 1916 2 Feb 1917 Daughter of Louis & Emma
  • Piatt, John 16 Mar 1867 3 Dec 1915
  • Piatt, Clarice May 1897 1903
  • Piatt, Lyle 15 Oct 1933 Age 1m 4d
  • Piatt, Wesley L. 12 May 1896 9 Jan 1973 U.S. Army WWI
  • Plieth, Ulricke S. 27 Jul 1867 3 Feb 1901
  • Pollard, William 5 Sep 1893 Age 57y 4m 27d
  • Rehberg, Agnes M. 3 Mar 1882 5 Sep 1906
  • Robinson, Josephine 24 Jul 1906 Wife of M.D., aged 52 yrs
  • Schamburg, August 1877 1918 
  • Schamburg, Louis Christian 12 Feb 1881 17 Jan 1892 Son of G. & L. 
  • Schamburg, Louisa 1847 1925 Mother 
  • Schritt, Charles H. 14 Nov 1911 25 Aug 1914
  • Smith, G.W. 14 Aug 1854 19 Aug 1921 Father 
  • Smith, O.C. 17 Jun 1869 29 Dec 1916 Brother 
  • Smith, Rosa 9 Jul 1865 24 Feb 1899 Wife of G.W. 
  • Steinhoff, Ernest Ludwig 1841 1907
  • Steinhoff, Theodore F. 1 Nov 1872 23 Nov 1898
  • Strucken, Emma 1886 1916 Mother 
  • Strucken, Fred G. 1862 1934 Father
  • Strucken, Herman Frederick 2 Jan 1911 30 May 1911  
  • Sturm, Fred 6 Feb 1865 13 May 1945
  • Sturm, Gottliben 30 June 1868 28 Dec 1903
  • Sturm, Rosina 
  • Sturm, Rudolph 26 Aug 1900
  • Thomas, Charles L. 1851 1925
  • Thomas, Effie L. 1888 1942
  • Thomas, Geneva Elaine 26 Nov 1920 22 Feb 1921
  • Thomas, Olive A. 1855 1928
  • Vogt, Conrad C. 13 Oct 1821 14 Jul 1889 Father
  • Vogt, Mrs. Conrad 9 Feb 1826 27 Jan 1897 Mother

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