Locke Cemetery was established in 1846, making it one of Oregon’s oldest cemeteries. In 1855, A.N. Locke deeded the cemetery—part of his donation land claim—to the citizens of Benton County. Locke reserved forty square feet in the southwest corner as his family’s burial plot.
Located on top of a hill off Lewisburg Avenue, four and one-half miles north of Corvallis, the original plot encompassed about two acres. The cemetery was nearly full by 1938, and the county acquired an additional two acres. Caretakers planted young firs and maples on the bare hill, and today the towering mature trees lend grace and beauty to the hilltop vista. Visitors can view the Three Sisters Mountains on a clear day.
Anna Hughart, who died May 19, 1846, was the first person to be interred at Locke Cemetery. A 1938 historical document states that Mrs. Hughart was the first immigrant to die within the limits of Benton County. At the time of her death, the family was living in the area that is now Philomath. The Hugharts stayed for a time at the home of Mrs. Hughart’s brother, D.C. Henderson, and when the woman died she was buried on a knoll on the Henderson claim. Later when the graves in that area were removed to more favored sites, Mrs. Hughart’s body was moved to Locke Cemetery.
Philomath’s founders purchased D.C. Henderson’s land claim in 1865. Other pioneer graves include Anna’s husband Joseph (1804-1886) and her brother David Henderson (1803-1872), Joshua Adkins (1809-1852) and his mother Sarah (d. 1866), William Ryals (1831-1914) and his wife Ermaline (1829-1899), John Lewis (1785-1854) and his wife Elizabeth (1786-1852).
Benton County reserved a portion of the cemetery to bury indigent people whose bodies went unclaimed by family or friends. According to a story that appeared in the Corvallis Gazette-Times, in 1986 the county conducted a survey and discovered that although they could tell people were buried there, most of the markers and headstones had been removed. Oregon State University Associate Professor Dave Brauner led seven anthropology students in identifying 53 graves. Although many graves remain nameless, it is now clear where the graves are located.
Perhaps 50 veterans were buried at Locke Cemetery, including Sergeant Henry H. Brinkley, a Civil War veteran who was born in 1838 and died in 1921.
The Locke Cemetery Association established this fund to ensure that adequate funds will always be available for maintaining the burial grounds. A five-person board of directors, which meets annually the Sunday before Memorial Day, governs the cemetery. In 2008, board members were Bill Ryals, president; Gloria Munger, secretary-treasurer; Robert Steele, Frank Ryals, and Elaine Forrest.
In recent years, several organizations have volunteered to assist with annual maintenance projects at Locke Cemetery, however the board wanted to ensure that funds are available for road maintenance and major damage due to possible storms or vandalism. As the area around the cemetery becomes more populated, it may be necessary to fence the land.