The Oregon Hospital for the Insane opened in 1862 and was recognized as a model for the country in compassionate care. Dr. James C. Hawthorne was awarded the contract to care for the patients and was known for his progressive ideas, realizing that those in his care maintained their humanity and deserved “moral treatment.” He built his hospital in a quiet area (212 acres around today’s Southeast Tenth and Hawthorne streets) and gave his patients time outdoors, holiday celebrations, religious observances, and musical performances. They grew their own food and all who could were engaged in gainful activities. The facility closed in 1883 when the Salem State Hospital was opened and most of its records were destroyed in 1888 in a fire at its business office.
Dr. Hawthorne promised a decent burial to any of his patients who died in his care if they had been abandoned by their families which was common at the time). Over time, 132 patients were buried at Lone Fir, as well as Dr. Hawthorne himself. Most of the burials occurred in the southwest section of the cemetery in Bock 14. Having discovered this in the archaeological findings surrounding the Block 14 investigation, Metro decided to include a memorial for Dr. Hawthorne’s patients in the Lone Fir Memorial Garden. For information about this site design, visit the Metro website.
Chinese immigrants have been in Portland since 1850 and were integral in the building of the city. They performed much of the most brutal work in the region building railroads and mining, and in Portland, building the seawall and the original sewer system. They removed the stumps out of the roads after the ancient fir trees were cut. They chopped firewood, ran laundries, and grew produce for the entire town.
Lone Fir Cemetery’s Block 14 (in the southwest corner of the park) was set aside for Chinese immigrants and was referred to as the Old Chinese Burial Ground.
According to Chinese custom, immigrants were buried here for a short time, with their bones later dug up and returned to China to be reunited with their ancestors. This went on for a time, until Multnomah County wanted the land for use as a maintenance yard for the highway department. In 1948, this block was excavated with a bulldozer. All remains found were packed off to China and the building was built shortly thereafter. A building was erected in 1952 at the corner of the cemetery.
In January 2004, Multnomah County planned to sell the property as surplus, presumably for a high-rise condo/business establishment. Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery notified community members and packed the hearing room with 150 people. Over the course of the next six months, information was gathered which indicated that intact burials might well exist beneath the asphalt. Records at the Oregon Historical Society and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) showed that not all of the Chinese buried here were meant to be returned to China, and had probably been left when the excavation occurred in 1948. County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey commissioned an archaeological investigation. Using ground-penetrating radar for a preliminary test, several anomalies were identified. In January 2005, a team of archaeologists found two intact burials. At this point, it became clear that this land, still classified as a cemetery and a historical landmark, could not be sold for commercial development. The County recognized its civic duty to remove the building and repatriate it with the rest of Lone Fir Cemetery.
In 2007, the building was removed; the ground was leveled and returned to grass. Multnomah County and the City of Portland of Portland collaborated to complete the project and then deeded Block 14 over to Metro, which manages the rest of Lone Fir Cemetery.
The Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation was formed in 2011 to raise funds for the creation of a Cultural Heritage Garden to honor the Chinese workers and asylum patients buried in Block 14.
The small brick building in the northwest section of the cemetery is the final resting place of George Friedrich Bottler (1834-1865). It is an in-ground burial, making this a tomb and not a mausoleum, and it was lovingly built by his brother, George Michael Bottler. There is a six-foot pink marble slab with the inscription: “Gently his ashes shall rest.” George Michael had planned to be buried next to his brother but died three years later while visiting his native Germany and is buried in Munich.
George Friedrich was one of the first brewers at The Dalles and George Michael established Portland’s second brewery, City Brewery, in 1856. Upon his death, Bottler’s good friend Henry Weinhard took over the business and expanded it to its current popularity. George Michael was active in Portland, serving as a volunteer fireman and holding membership in the Harmony Lodge chapter of the Masons.
Fund-raising efforts are underway to restore the tomb in honor of these Oregon beer pioneers. The Bottler brothers’ cousin, Michael Bottler, was a cooper who made barrels for the brewing industry, and his Portland descendants are involved in the restoration efforts.
In 1862, Colburn Barrell donated 100 x 100 square feet (now Block 5, Lots A, B, and C) to Portland’s Fire Department, an all-volunteer group until 1883. There are 132 firefighters buried here including thirteen who died in the line of duty. Their markers show the company emblem and their specialty. Some wives share private headstones and twenty firefighters were removed to lie with their families but their fire department markers remain.
More than 150 years ago, there was only one tree in the northwest corner of Mt. Crawford, inspiring Aurelia Burrell to rename it Lone Fir Cemetery. That Douglas Fir still stands today and has been honored by the Pioneer Rose Association (1929), the Portland City Council (1994 and 2009), and the Heritage Trees of Portland (2009). In addition, there are more than 500 trees representing sixty-seven species growing throughout the site, making it Portland’s second largest arboretum.
Lone Fir Cemetery is an inviting habitat for over 90 bird species and is one of the main census-counting stations for the annual Audubon Society Bird Count event.
This is the cemetery’s oldest and largest mausoleum, meaning that coffin burials are in enclosures above ground. It is located in Block 17. Nine individuals rest here.
Donald Macleay (1834-1897) was born in Scotland and arrived in Oregon in 1866. He and his business partner, William Corbitt, established a highly profitable wholesale and shipping business in Portland involving groceries, liquor, wheat, salmon, and timber, and he invested in Oregon railroads, real estate, and Portland businesses. He married Martha MacCulloch (1840-1876), who was famous for her beautifully landscaped home in southwest Portland. Martha asked her husband’s ship captains to bring her plants from their ports of call and these exotic varieties were the basis of Oregon’s horticultural industry. The property was donated to the Episcopal Church and is now known as Bishop’s Close. The gardens are open to the public.
Martha died the day after giving birth to their fourth child and Donald built the mausoleum as a tribute to her in 1878-1877. It was built of red sandstone to resemble the Macleay home in Ross Shire, Scotland, and cost $13,500. The chapel on the second floor was open to the public until the early 1980s when vandals damaged the interior and broke all but one of the original stained glass windows.
Donald and Martha’s youngest child, Martha, married Thomas Kerr, linking her prominent family with another one in the city. The Macleay name lives on in Macleay Park, now a part of Forest Park, Macleay Boulevard, and the Clan Macleay Pipes and Drums.
Pioneer Rose Garden
In addition to beautiful, natural landscape and historically significant residents found at Lone Fir, the cemetery also includes a very special garden that contains some of the oldest known roses in Oregon. Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery is steward of this rose garden, taking on the responsibility for fertilizing, weeding, pruning and conducting botanical research.
Volunteers received a copy of a hand-written galley, the manuscript for a book about the rose garden at Lone Fir titled, “The Pioneer Rose Trail,” by Mary Drain Albro. It was the story of a garden club in the 1930s which set forth to find the truth behind an old story from the pioneer days. Legend had it that pioneer women brought roses with them on the Oregon Trail, somehow managing to keep them damp in the pockets of their aprons during the entire six-month journey. Truthfully, they stuck the cuttings in potatoes, enabling the roses to utilize the moisture in the potato for weeks before needing to re-soak the potato.
The garden club set about going over the Oregon Trail from the Whitman Mission in Walla Walla, Washington, to the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon, looking for old farmsteads with rose bushes left by the settlers. From this research, they identified twenty-three varieties, along with many stories about who brought them and from where, and information about what these particular roses meant to the people who considered them special enough to bring on the Trail.
The garden club formalized itself into the Pioneer Rose Association, collected and propagated these roses, and planted them in four gardens around the state. They were located at Willamette University in Salem; Champoeg, which is Oregon’s territorial capital; Pacific University in Forest Grove; and Lone Fir Cemetery in Southeast Portland. The one at Lone Fir is the only one left, making this garden truly a living jewel and a direct connection with the pioneers, still kept alive by careful tending all these years later.
Unfortunately, some of the roses are missing. The manuscript mentions numerous pinks, reds, whites, yellows and coppers, but no yellows or coppers have been located at Lone Fir. Over the course of some years, volunteers have researched the roses and have been able to assign botanical names to many of them. Several rose experts and photographers have also helped identify roses and connect the written information with the actual plants in the garden.
Restoring the collection and the garden itself is an on-going project of Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery.
The Soldiers Monument, located in the center of the cemetery, was unveiled in 1903 to honor soldiers of the Civil, Spanish-American, Mexican, and Indian Wars. There are 345 soldiers from these wars known to be buried at Lone Fir (thirty-five are Confederate soldiers). The original cost was $3,500, which was contributed by 500 local residents. It was commissioned by the Lone Fir Cemetery Association, designed by D. D. Neer, and built by Otto Schumann. The soldier was toppled from the pedestal at some point in the 1980s. In 2003, Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery raised funds to have it rebronzed and reset, a fitting centennial anniversary tribute to the monument.