The history of

The Odell Pioneer Cemetery & Ebenezer Chapel

John Odell, his wife Sarah Holman Odell, their family of six sons and four daughters, as well as several other close family friends ventured forth on the Oregon Trail from their home in Indiana on the 10th of March 1851. In addition to all of their wordly possessions, they brought with them their deep devotion to the Methodist religion. The group arrived in the Willamette Valley on September 26, 1851. The Odells settled on a Donation Land Claim of 320 acres in the Webfoot area near Dayton, Oregon on October 3, 1851.

(Delphi Weekly Journal, 1851) 1

John Odell sectioned off a small portion of his land to provide the community with a Methodist chapel, the first church in the Dayton area. A small wooden chapel was built in 1857. John and Sarah Odell transferred ownership of the the cemetery and chapel to the Methodist church in 1859.

Ebenezer Chapel was a place of worship, a community meeting place, and it held the first Sunday School for the area. A cemetery soon grew up around the chapel, and a variety of local early pioneers from the area were buried there. The earliest headstone belongs to Samuel Angel, John Odell’s nephew, who arrived in Oregon in 1849.

Eventually the center of the community changed, and the congregation moved south to Hopewell and north to Webfoot and Dayton. The original chapel tragically burned to the ground. John Odell died in 1869 and his wife Sarah in 1887, and they are interred in ajacent graves in the cemetery.

Son W.H. Odell2 later rebuilt the chapel as a tribute to his parents, this time out of concrete to prevent it from being destroyed in the future. Prior to his death, W.H. Odell designated a provision in his will for the creation of an endowment fund, held by Wilamette University, which would provide an annual stipend to the pastor of Ebenezer Chapel or the circuit which served the chapel. Additionally, he designated an annual fund for the support and upkeep of Ebenezer Chapel. The memorial Ebenezer Chapel was completed after W.H. Odell's death.

“According to newspaper accounts the new chapel was neatly and well built of cement and other weather resisting materials, was well lighted, and would seat 50 or more people. It had an attractive fireplace, a memorial tablet, and pictures of Mr. and Mrs. John Odell and of W.H. Odell.”
(Yamhill County Genealogical Society, 1983) 3
(Sunday Oregonian, 1926) 4
(Notes of W.H. Odell) 5
“In time a cemetery grew up about the church. Through the years, the community center shifted to Dayton and finally there was no longer a church at Ebenezer (Webfoot) but the cemetery is still known as the Odell cemetery. In 1926 a lovely little chapel was built on the site of the original Ebenezer chapel with funds left by W.H. Odell as a memorial to his parents, John and Sarah Odell. Mr. Walker said of it. ‘This is a sturdy concrete structure well symbolic of the enduring results of the life and labors of this devoted couple.’ “
(Frink, 1953) 6
Original deed of the Odell Pioneer Cemetery & Ebenezer Chapel 7

The number of graves in the cemetery is a subject for debate. Many of the graves were unmarked. Many other graves had headstones at some point but the headstones have since been destroyed or stolen. There are counts of as many as 105 people buried at the cemetery. A DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) survey from 1934 lists 48 known burials (45 with headstones, 3 without), and 56 unmarked additional burials. The DAR report from 1940 states that 67 people were buried in the Odell cemetery – 49 with headstones and 17 without headstones. The last burial was in 1941.

The chapel was decommissioned by the Methodist church prior to 1916. The interior of the chapel was removed to nearby Hopewell Church. The Methodist church largely abandoned the cemetery and chapel, though they did retain the deed and ownership of the land. The original Odell Donation Land claim that bordered the cemetery changed hands a few times.  Unfortunately, during a sale in 1916, an error was made by Yamhill County that accidentally included the land from the cemetery as part of the transaction. The error went unnoticed for over 90 years.

Over the years, the chapel and cemetery fell into disrepair. At one point over the chapel was reportedly used to house farm animals. Ivy and Poison Oak overtook the graves. Vandals covered the walls of the chapel with graffiti, the windows all broken out or stolen, the doors stolen, and large pieces of the ceiling removed.  Many of the headstones were knocked over, stolen, or broken. The cemetery was all but forgotten.

Graffiti on the chapel, 2023
Damaged headstone, 2023
Chapel condition in 2005
Chapel condition in 2005

In 2005, the Methodist Church signed the deed of the Odell Pioneer Cemetery & Ebenezer Chapel in order to return the ownership and care to the Odell Family. Yamhill County acknowledged that an error was made when the Odell Cemetery was accidentally included during the 1916 sale of the surrounding land. Unfortunately, the error went unnoticed for so long that the county was unwilling to pursue a correction without the permission of the current owner of the John Odell Donation Land Claim. Sadly, the owner at the time was adamantly opposed to returning the cemetery to the Odell Family for unknown reasons. The John Odell land claim has recently again changed hands, and we are hopeful that the new owner will help resolve the error that was made over 100 years ago, and return the cemetery to the care of the Odell Family.

The Odell Family holds an annual clean-up of the cemetery. The chapel is deteriorating rapidly, but until the ownership debate is settled there is little that can be done by the Odell Family to restore and preserve this little piece of early Oregon history. Due to frequent acts of vandalism, theft, and desecration of the chapel and graves, the property is under surveillance and is monitored by the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office.

Please check back as we continue to update this website with more information!