A National Historic Cemetery City of Eugene landmark, the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery was established in 1872 by the Spencer Butte Lodge No. 9 International Order of Oddfellows. It was originally known as the I.O.O.F. Cemetery. The original cemetery was 10 acres with 6 acres added in 1907. There are over 767 lots on the 16 acres with about 4,000 burials. It is an historical repository of stories of the lives of early pioneers who chose this as the final resting places for themselves and their families. Towering Douglas Fir trees, old roses, lavender, and white lilac bushes shade their graves. The Eugene Pioneer Cemetery is The Crown Jewel of the surrounding area.
Louis Renninger (August 25, 1841 – November 17, 1908) was a Union soldier who received the Medal of Honor for gallantry in the American Civil War.
On May 22, 1863, Renninger was one of 150 Union soldiers who volunteered to lead an assault on the Confederate heights at the Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The plan was for the volunteer storming party to build a bridge across a moat and plant scaling ladders against the enemy embankment in advance of the main attack.
The volunteers knew the odds were against survival and the mission was called a “forlorn hope” in nineteenth century vernacular. Only single men were accepted as volunteers and even then, twice as many men as needed came forward and were turned away. The assault began in the early morning following a naval bombardment and it was a failure.
The Union soldiers came under enemy fire immediately and were pinned down in the ditch they were to cross. Despite repeated attacks by the main Union body under the command of General Grant, the men of the forlorn hope were unable to retreat until nightfall. Of the 150 men in the storming party, two-thirds were killed. Corporal Louis Renninger of Company H, 37th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was one of the survivors and for his gallantry, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1894. He was laid to rest in the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery. The J.W. Geary Post of the Grand Army of the Republic presided at the funeral, which was also attended by the Womens Relief Corps and Ladies of the G.A.R. along with his family and many friends.
Ruth Lake Holmes, September 20, 1918 – November 27, 2012, was Secretary-Treasurer of Eugene Pioneer Cemetery for more than 50 years.
Enjoy this video that captures the sights, sounds and unique history of the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery.