"Only 'Ghosts' Lurk Near Deserted Pioneer Chapel"

Article describing the history of the cemetery and its condition, written by Capital Journal Correspondent Karen Griffith, published on 27 November 1965. To view a transcription of this article, please scroll down.

Article Transcription:

Only 'Ghosts' Lurk Near Deserted Pioneer Chapel

By KAREN GRIFFITH
Capital Journal Correspondent

DAYTON - Abandoned - except perhaps for some of the ghosts of Oregon's early pioneers - is a small chapel and graveyard in what now is the Webfoot area near Dayton.

Above the shrine's entrance, entangled by brambles and trespassed by few over forgotten years, the name Ebenezer Chapel is engraved in stone.

GLEN CLOSE TO HIGHWAY

The hidden glen, located adjacent to the Charlie Carr farm west of Oregon 221 between Salem and Dayton, is carpeted with wild ginger, fallen leaves and poison oak.

Long gray moss hangs from the trees. In the gloom of the cemetery the tombstones are draped with ivy and covered with green moss, lending an eerie atmosphere to the place.

INSCRIPTIONS CLUE TO THE PAST

Still, one need only look at the inscriptions on the tombstones to realize this lonley spot once was vibrant with the ideals and sorrows of early settlers.

The tall stones of John Odell, who established the original Ebenezer Chapel, and his wife Sarah, are surrounded by those of Cooverts, Peerys, Herndons, Robertson, Turners, Nichols, McTeers, Logans, Hoffmans, Jones and Carpenters.

The oldest grave in the lot belongs to Samuel Angel, a nephew of John Odell, who died in 1856, more than a century ago. Odell himself died in 1869 at age 69. His wife died in 1887.

IT WAS AREA'S FIRST SUNDAY SCHOOL

Originally Ebenezer Chapel was built about 1853 on Odell's donation land claim and served as teh first Sunday school in the Dayton area. The project apparently was undertaken because of the inconvenience of crossing the Willamette River on the Mathieson Ferry (later the Wheatland Ferry) to attend services at the Jason Lee Methodist Church in Salem.

The existing chapel was built in 1926 on the site of the original one with funds left by W.H. Odell, son of Johan and Sarah Odell and an early trustee of Willamette University. It was used up to about 30 years ago, mainly for funeral services toward the last.

Meantime, the present church, because of its concrete structure, stands in excellent repair save for the broken frosted panes and the door, which has fallen to the ground. The pews and altar have long since been reomved and the only feature left inside is a brick corner fireplace.

ARRIVED IN FALL AT DINNERTIME

John and Sarah Odell came into the area from South Carolina in the fall of 1851 in a train of 16 wagons with four yoke of oxen. Oldtimers say that as the wagons carrying the Odells and their 11 children came creaking up the Dayton road that September day they were heard by Albert L. Alderman, another area pioneer, who was working in his fields. He invited the weary travelers to dinner and later was to marry one of the Odell daughters.

The Odells settled their donation land claim by October and Odell started a Sunday school in his home before building the chapel. In time a cemetery spread about the church and became known as the Odell Cemetery.

Odell was an active lay leader in the Methodist Church of Dayton and ministered often in that capacity in the Webfoot area. He was visited by Bishop Ames in 1853 when the bishop came by boat to Dayton to conduct the first Methodist Conference.

Ebenezer Chapel was part of the Dayton-Spring Valley Circuit dating back to 1858. Other churches in the circuit were Amity, Hopewell and Unionville.

CENTER OF POPULATION SHIFTED

By 1870, however, the center of population shifted from the Ebenezer neighborhood to the present Webfoot area. Eventually it became impossible for persons to attend the isolated Ebenezer Chapel and the Methodists were holding services in the Webfoot School, then located on Palmer Creek near the Stilwell farm.

About this time Ebenezer trustees were authorized to sell the building's contents as they were of no further use and they went finally to the United Brethren Church at Hopewell.

As to the origin of the chapel's name, church authorities believe it comes from the antiquated term "ebenezer" referred to in an ancient battle between Israel and the Philistines. During the battle, Samuel turns the tide in favor of Israel after holding up a stone and calling it by the name of Ebenezer. Down through time "ebenezer" became a means referring to one's faith in God.

DUCKS, GEESE WANDERED ABOUT

The Ebenezer area near Dayton gradually became known as part of the Webfoot area. Webfoot was the name given to a fine quality brand of flour produced by Abraham Coovert at his grist mill on Palmer Creek. Since the neighborhood had a large population of ducks and geese, the Webfoot brand was attached to the mill products.

Like the small chapel and lonely graveyard, the name Ebenezer became forgotton. Only the sign above the chapel and the graves of those who sleep nearby remind the few who pass by of lost memories.

Image captions:
- Top: Engraved in stone, but hidden by brambles, is chapel name
- Bottom: Moss, ivy cover tombstones; the chapel is forgotten