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As It Was: Port Orford Founder Honors Deceased Wife

In October 1881, a distinctive gravestone arrived in Port Orford aboard a ship from San Francisco for delivery to the town’s founder, Capt. William Tichenor.

The gravestone would mark the final resting place of Tichenor’s wife, Elizabeth Brinkerhoff, in a private burial ground overlooking the ocean with a pleasant view of town.

Once assembled, the 46-inch monument stood in three layers, diminishing in size toward the top, with a pedestal made of California gray granite and top two sections of highly polished Scotch granite.  Its cost was $300, the equivalent in today’s currency of about $6,100.  In 1881, it was an unprecedented amount for a gravestone in Curry County.

The Brinkerhoff family was among the first settlers of Manhattan Island.  In 1852, Elizabeth joined her husband in Port Orford to become the first known non-indigenous woman to settle along the Oregon Coast.  

Mrs. Tichenor was given the moniker “mother of civilization in Southwest Oregon” because of her strong faith and caring reputation as a good neighbor.

It has been said that down below her remote hilltop memorial, the Pacific sings her requiem forevermore.

Sources: "Died: Mrs. Elizabeth Tichenor, wife of William Tichenor." Port Orford Post, 16 Dec. 1880; "A Fine Monument." Ibid. 13 Oct. 1881

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.