Thursday, October 30, 2008

Resting in Peace

We made a pilgrimage today to Salem's Pioneer Cemetery where members of the Bush family are buried. The fenced family plot is situated at the heart of the cemetery, on the brow of the hill overlooking Commercial Street. These white marble tombstones mark the locations where Asahel Bush II and his beloved wife, Eugenia Zieber Bush, are buried. Also in the family plot are the graves of the Bushes' unmarried daughters, Sally and Eugenia, and their son and daughter-in-law, Asahel N. and Lulu Hughes Bush. Their eldest daughter Estelle Bush Thayer is buried nearby with her husband Claude and their daughter Eugenia.

In the spirit of the season, we read a portion of Mr. Bush's obituary:
It is difficult to place a proper estimate upon the services of Asahel Bush to the state of Oregon, and particularly to the community in which he has been for so long a period a most potent factor. Thoughtful men who have watched the progress of the state for the last four or five decades are generally agreed that there was no individual whose personality; sound judgment in affairs of finance, trade and commerce; broad-mindedness; thoughtfulness for the welfare of the community at large; and unselfish and disinterested desire to witness the most economical utilization of the partially developed resources so abundant throughout the country in which he was a pioneer; has made so marked an impression upon the trend of events as Mr. Bush.
The cemetery's tombstones tell amazing tales: stories of women and babies lost in childbirth, or of now-curable diseases that once ravaged families, or of venerable pioneers who died at home after years of adventure. These days, thousands of South Salem commuters drive past the cemetery knowing little if anything about the people who are buried there -- the people who risked their reputations, their health, and even their lives to make our city what it is today.

(Photograph by Bonnie Hull. Thank you!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Haunted House?

At this time of year we always have visitors who are interested in the haunted history of the Bush House. A quick internet search for haunted places in Salem returns the following nugget (available on several different websites):

"The Bush House is now an Art Gallery that has a ghost from the turn of the century. She was a young woman who suffered from schizophrenia, and her family kept her in the basement in shame. She died there and now haunts the house. The owners have residents who live in the upstairs who say the ghost of a young girl plays with the thermostat."

Like many ghost stories this one has an element of truth to it: Eugenia Bush, the youngest daughter of Asahel Bush II and his wife Eugenia Zieber Bush, suffered from a mental illness; she fell ill when she was a college student living in Massachusetts, circa 1880.

But that's where the similarity ends. Rather than treating Eugenia with shame, the Bush family made sure she was cared for properly by East Coast specialists who operated private clinics for their wealthy patients. Family members wrote to her and visited her, making the arduous and expensive cross-country train trip to Boston on a regular basis. In 1914, when she was 52 years old, Eugenia returned to Salem to live in the family home under the care of her sister Sally and a full-time nurse. She died in 1932, at age 70.

So no young girl, no shame, no locked in the basement, no premature death. Admittedly, the heating system is erratic, but we blame that on the machinery and not on ghosts. We are happy to welcome visitors who come for any reason, but we would like to think that the true stories of the Bush family are more interesting, if less dramatic, than internet fictions. Come for a tour and find out for yourself.