Monday, October 12, 2009

Flicker Files

Antioch Cemetery

I feel it’s a form of cheating to use my Flickr set introductions as fodder for this blog, but what can I say? I’m lazy.

Yet sometimes a cemetery is worth noting, and I’m not inclined to write the same stuff over and over again. At least not until I forget that I’ve written it in the first place. Antioch Cemetery has an unusual, if not unique history. One worth noting in passing by. What follows is what you’ll find on Flickr, minus most of the photos. Come visit do.

Antioch Cemetery

Antioch Cemetery: Unearthed

The story of Antioch Cemetery is a window unto the psyche of Jackson County. What happened at Antioch and in the surrounding neighborhood (i.e. White City) put its stamp on the region forever.

With 5500 people, White City is one of the largest urban concentrations in the state remaining unincorporated. It’s also been a center for poverty, domestic violence, drug abuse, and related social problems, all because of its curious history, which has left it a community in limbo for decades.

White City is a new city dating from 1941 when the Army commandeered 43,000 acres of the Medford Valley for a World War II training facility and built Camp White overnight. Besides training upwards of 100,000 soldiers, the town also housed a major hospital and, for a while, a German P.O.W. camp. Pretty much as soon as the war ended the Army packed up and disappeared, leaving this sprawling, unincorporated town of thrown-together buildings ripe for people who couldn’t be or weren’t too choosy about aesthetics. White City was born.

The Antioch Cemetery grounds were part of the lands commandeered by the Army; which in itself would be justification for telling the White City story, but what happened to the cemetery is pretty amazing. The cemetery was located smack-dab in the middle of the gunnery range and was constantly being bombarded by live shells; which, as you can imagine, is not good for tombstones. Or much else, for that matter. But, to the Army’s credit, they mitigated the damage by laying all the tombstones flat and burying them under six feet of sand, where they remained for the duration of the camp; and when they picked up and skeedadled, they took the sand with them and returned the uprights to their proper locations. What a sweet bunch of guys, no?

Antioch Cemetery

The lingering effects of Camp White are not restricted to White City, though. Jackson Country remains a bulwark of patriotism to this day, not only because the residents are grateful that the Army once dispensed largess upon them—a form of modern American cargo cult—but, I suspect, because when the Army left, it left behind a certain number of personnel who thought the valley would make a good place to settle down; a thought that may equally have occurred to tens of thousands of other people passing through the camp; some of whom may have come back here to retire. There are great flocks of ex-military birds in the area.

And Camp White is surely the reason Eagle Point National Cemetery is close by.

Antioch Cemetery

I was told the story of the Army and the sand by a very pleasant grandmother of four who volunteers as a groundskeeper for the cemetery. She jested that she was “a little concerned that [she] might yet run across an unexploded shell.” She did grant, though, there would be economies of efficiency by being blown up in ones own graveyard.

Whatever it was that spurred the volunteers to recover this fairly sizable cemetery, it’s been working. It’s not immaculate, by any means, and no one’s watering the place, but the grasses are kept at bay and it’s dotted with oaks and laurels and rhodys, et al. It actively being used and is quite lively for a cemetery of its kind. A fair amount to read and a good excuse to while away some time.

After which you can drive Hwy. 234 to Rock Point; that’s a pastoral trip.

Antioch Cemetery

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