The conclusion to Jack and Holly’s adventures reads below. Their expedition is based on factual events. Following the story is a list of what really happened.
“Look Holly,” Jack commanded, “I found a family name here, my family, I mean.”
Holly looked up from the book she was searching through at a table in the Coos Library. She thought it strange he was reading in the first place when he had been quite vocal that he would rather be in the pub three doors down. The librarian hushed Jack with a classic look; glasses lowered to the tip of the nose, eyes focused and glaring over the rim at the perpetrator.
“It says here she married John and Eliza’s son, George,” Jack whispered, “Oh, wait, I take it back, George’s wife’s name is the same as my great-grandmother’s, but I don’t recognize her father’s name. It can’t be my family.”
Holly breathed a sigh of relief and added, “That would be strange to think I’m a blood relative to you.” She shuddered.
“That would make things even more weird.” Jack said.
Holly didn’t miss the inflection in Jack’s voice. She wondered what he had meant by “even more weird.” Holly pondered on their relationship and wondered if the remark was about their marriage –– she had a hunch and hoped this was about how they had heard from relatives that their ancestors had been at odds. But things have been weird between us these last few months and I can’t put my finger on it.
She tucked the remark away and continued her study of the local newspaper, Coos Bay Echoes. “Death Summons Prominent Citizen,” the headline read, and Holly was surprised to read in great detailof the life of John Yoakam. She thought how glad she was that reporters and editors included more personal details than they do today.
“It says here the girls are buried at Yoakam Hill,” Holly said, “Didn’t we see that on a map?” She glanced over her shoulder, expecting a scolding from the librarian.
“Let’s go,” Jack said, “Let’s go find this hill.”
“I want to see Eliza’s spinning wheel in the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum and visit the cemetery all the Yoakams are buried in.”
“Macabre.” Jack observed.
Holly started to defend herself, thought better of it and gathered her things in silence.
* * *
The eastern sun streaked into the cab as Jack nosed the truck up the narrow, gravel road. The area was heavily forested, isolated and devoid of human inhabitants.
“Are you sure the map said to head west on Cammon Wagon Road?” he asked without taking his eyes off the road.
“Positive, just keep climbing, we’re almost there.”
They reached the summit to find the road had ended, but a short driveway led to a home surrounded by a cyclone fence. They exited the truck and headed toward the house to ask permission to walk the property, but no one appeared to be home. They trounced around the forested property outside the fence looking for headstones. Jack was enjoying the exploration, but after an hour Holly grew frustrated, trudging in the dirt, brushing limbs, leaves and debris aside looking for markers. She hoped that the house had not been built over the little cemetery.
“Look, Jack,” she said pointing at the map, “The GPS coordinates say I am standing on the exact burial site, but there is nothing here,” Holly’s eyes welled, “It’s gotto be here, all the books, websites, and maps say this is the place,” Holly said with a disappointed and loud sigh, “I guess it’s time to give up.”
The couple plodded with a defeated posture back to the truck, climbed in, and Holly slammed the door in frustration. As Jack turned the truck around to head down Yoakam Hill, a black sedan crawled around a corner, tires crunching on the gravel and approached. The driver pulled alongside the truck and questioned Jack. He explained the reason for their presence and the homeowner, congenial and polite, told them she had lived there for over forty years and had never heard of the burial site. Holly handed her a business card and asked to please call if she ever learned any information.
Before Jack could engage the motor, Holly placed her hand on Jack’s right forearm.
“Wait, Jack, I want to ask you something.”
She asked what he had meant by things being even more weird. He explained that he didn’t mean anything at all, there was no hidden meaning.
“I was referring to the weirdness that you had discovered our people fought against each other in the famous Battle of Culloden in 1746.”
“Oh,” Holly said with relief.
“Is that why you’ve been so quiet today?” Jack inquired as she relaxed back in her seat.
Holly sat still and shrugged her shoulders replying, “I guess so. Let’s head out of The Coos Pioneer Cemetery. I know we’ll find that.”
* * *
Jack positioned the rig onto the street in front of their house.
“We’re home. Another successful voyage across mountain and valley.” Jack declared.
Holly was annoyed at Jack’s habit of stating the obvious. Jack, thinking she was going to playfully call him Mr. Obvious, noticed her seriousness.
“What’s wrong Holly?” he asked, “Are you disappointed?”
“I really wanted to find those five gravesites, so yes, I am a little. Besides, I don’t think you enjoyed this trip much.”
“Listen,” Jacked turned and cupped her face in his hands, “I had a really great time. Do you remember me telling you that my great-great-grandfather was the trail guide for Brigham Young on the way to Utah?”
“The rumor is he converted to Mormonism after. I bet there are lots of records about him.”
“I thought this genealogy stuff bored you.”
“You were so excited, and in your element, it was inspiring. Seeing my grandmother’s name got me rethinking. And I really loved traipsing through the woods on Yoakam Hill. I felt like an old-time wilderness explorer––we were Lewis and Clark.”
Holly smiled at the comparison.
“I know a great Italian place in Salt Lake City.”
Facts and Actual Events
- Eliza and John Yoakam lost five daughters by a burning, falling tree, one a babe in Eliza’s arms.
- The tragic loss of the Yoakam girls is documented in newspapers such as the Coos Bay Echo, as well as the “Death Summons Prominent Citizen” article, found in the Coos Bay Library.
- The oldest girl that perished was adopted by John and Eliza after the girl’s mother passed away. It has been said that she was Eliza’s best friend’s daughter.
- Eliza and John lost their oldest son to disease on the trail.
- Eliza delivered the baby girl that died in her arms three days after arriving in the Coos Bay area.
- According to a graveyard and burials website, and in Coos Bay history books, the girls are buried together at Yoakam Hill
- Jack and Holly (aka ‘Frank’ and Janet) could not find the tiny graveyard.
- The resident on the hill had never seen or heard of the graves in all the 40+ years living on Yoakam Hill.
- Eliza Yoakam’s spinning wheel is on display at the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum.
- Jack and Holly camped in an RV on Arago Beach beneath the cliffs of the Yoakam State Park.
- Jack and Holly found Eliza and John’s grave markers at the Coos Pioneer Cemetery.
- Jack, a Scotsman, and Holly, of English descent fought each other in some war in the ancient days: it may or may not have been Culloden.
- Jack’s great-great grandfather was a trail guide for someone associated with Brigham Young, and was looking to settle in Utah.
- Little Italy, in Coos Bay, is a fantastic place for dine.
- Holly was often annoyed with Jack stating the obvious and called him Mr. Obvious.
- Holly has never driven with an RV in tow, nor does she ever want to.
- Jack would have rather been in the pub than the library but developed an interest in genealogy while in the Coos Library.