Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland, Oregon

While living in Portland we needed a quick getaway, from our apartment, from the crowds of people, from our everyday life. A reset really, so we picked from our visit list and headed into the Laurelhurst neighborhood to check out Lone Fir Cemetery. We were not disappointed. It was so quiet; we could mosey among the graves and flowers. It sure reset our stir-crazy Covid 19 lockdown in February 2020.

We found interesting mausoleums; trees and more trees, even a tree swallowing grave stones, flowers blooming, trees in the light and the warmth of the day were mesmerizing. Some of the things we found amazing here were the cultural diversity of the residents, the styles of graves, the mix of newer and old and even a strong Victorian, gothic influence on some of the headstones.

The history of Lone Fir Cemetery

Lone Fir Cemetery was originally named Mount Crawford Cemetery (at this time it was privately owned), in 1846. Later in 1855, it was officially opened and plotted as a cemetery still under the Mount Crawford name. Then in 1866 the name was changed from Mount Crawford to Lone Fir for the once solitary tree in its northwest corner. Lone Fir is continuously used even today and is the second largest arboretum in Portland. According to the historic cemeteries web information there are over 700 trees that represent 67 species throughout the 30+ acres.

The lands are maintained very well and the different landscapes just seem to flow into one another seamlessly. It was very tranquil for our visit. We didn’t set out to ghost hunt, but we might have inadvertently picked up a thing or two. From the skeptic side there are some shots where the sun wasn’t really out but there were rays that somehow came through the cloud cover. We didn’t see any orbs in our shots, we didn’t get any bad vibes or anything like that, but to be honest, we weren’t looking for any of those things. We just needed to get out of our four walls and spend a little time in nature.

Those Trees!

About those trees, to start with, the original lone Fir tree is still on the grounds, and is easily identifiable with the plaque; there is a picture of this in the gallery below. We didn’t know at the time there were brochures for self guided tours, but we found these later and one is all about the trees there. Personally, the cherry blossoms and the weeping willows were my favorites. The contrast to all the evergreens throughout the city just make these stand out for me. Don’t get me wrong though, the sheer size of some of these were baffling too. I am most familiar with the high desert of Colorado and lived in cities and towns where the elevation was between 6,300 – 6,800 feet so our trees don’t normally get more than a hundred feet even if they are old. In contrast, in this cemetery some trees being 150 years old they definitely surpassed what we were accustomed to. My inner tree hugger was in heaven, at most places we visited in Oregon, but here at Lone Fir, I had a quiet reverence for the towering majesty.

Interesting Residents

During our wanderings here we ran across some gravestones that really caught our attention. Later, for the research for this post we happened upon some back stories that just added to this visit.

Ada Smith died in 1885

When I saw this head stone it pulled at my heartstrings, so I took this picture so I could try to find out more at a later date. Turns out little Miss Ada passed away about the age of 6. The angel portion of the statue was stolen about 20 years ago (according to find a grave website) and had been missing for about 20 years but was found in an abandoned warehouse. For our visit as you can see it was all back together.

Born as Leslie Carter Hansen, July 29, 1920
and died as Eric Ladd June 5, 2000

This particular grave caught my attention from afar due to the iron fence and when I got closer this headstone just seemed to be a story begging to be told. So with a little digging we found Mr. Ladd was a stage name that the actor adopted as his real name. In true infomercial style, that’s not all, turns out Eric Ladd has been dubbed “the father of historic preservation” in Portland, he saved a good deal of the cast and wrought iron from the 1960’s urban renewal and managed to give it a second life like at the Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The cast iron around the grave even has its own story: it was salvaged from Mark Twain’s New York Townhome.

James B Stevens born 11-19-1806 died 3-22-1889 and his wife
Elizabeth Stevens born 11-6-1805 died 4-26-1887

The front has this lovely carving of the couple, but when you go around the back there is a loving story that states they were married 57 years. There are other personalizations that Mr. Stevens felt were important to relay as well. According to the Friends of Lone Fir they also state he would visit the grave of his wife waiting to join her hand again in the afterlife.

James Hansen Frush born 3-7-1836 died 9-7-1883

Here is a good story waiting to be told that even has a tradition attached. Mr. Frush was a bartender in Colburn Barrels First Street Saloon. In Portland’s early days saloons would serve many functions: hiring halls, community centers, courtrooms and post offices. This large marble urn sat on the bar at the saloon during holidays: it would be filled with hot toddies that were dispensed free of charge to patrons. When Mr. Frush knew his time was drawing to a close so he asked his boss to have the urn as his headstone. After Mr. Frush passed his friends would take the urn back to the saloon each holiday season and toast their favorite bartender.

Macleay Mausoleum

According to the “Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery” this is the oldest and largest mausoleum on the grounds. Donald Macleay (1834-1897) was originally from Scotland and moved with his parents to the US. He would move around a bit on the west coast and eventually settle in Portland with his wife, Martha MacCulloch (1840-1876). He had this mausoleum built for her after her death on New Year’s Day in 1876, after complications from birthing her 4th child. The Gothic style is reported to be an homage to Mr. Macleay’s home in Ross Shire, Scotland. Martha was known for her amazingly landscaped home in Portland, she asked her husband’s ship captains to bring her plants from their ports of call, and these would be the basis of Oregon’s horticultural industry. The property was later donated to the Episcopal Church and is now known as “Bishop’s Close”.

I would highly recommend a visit there as well, any season is amazing to see but I prefer mid-spring. Also, Mr. Macleay donated a portion of property to be a park and we know this as Forest Park with over 25 miles of hiking trails, I spent a great deal of time trotting through many of these in the three years I spent in Portland. I absolutely adored Forest Park and am immensely grateful for Mr. Macleay’s gift though I didn’t know who when I was there only when researching this post.

Those Shoes Y’all!

I became obsessed with trying to figure out the significance of the shoes by the mausoleum. Still haven’t figured it out, and Google is NOT helping, two years later. Could be it was a prank by someone, but I have a suspicion or a hunch, it is more than that. Maybe it is because I want to believe it is more, so the search continues. In a city inundated with homeless, why were the shoes left alone? I can go on and on with suspicions but until I find some lore or documentation this will remain just an odd curiosity for me. Hubby thinks my interest is quite funny and often asks, “of all the things there, that is the thing that sticks with you?” My response continues to be along the lines of, “yes! There has to be something to it! It is a mystery to be solved and someone knows something!” Then we both chuckle a bit.

Bit of an update on the shoes, I reached out to The Friends of Lone Fir via Facebook and well the mystery continues, they were not a part of the tours at least. Whoever responded to my inquiry with the above photos stated they had, “no idea.”

There is so much more

I could go on about other notable folks here but I do encourage any of you that might have a chance to visit to see what appeals to you. There is a noted psychologist that paid for over a hundred patients to be buried here; there are Chinese & Japanese and Veterans sections with dozens of whimsical headstones as well. Things like a scrabble player, a Denver cyclist, and even some Oregon Brewers just so many different styles and personalities are represented and remembered here. I have given brief summaries of people’s histories as I encourage each of you who read this to look further, many of these few folk I have touched on were so much more.

Thank you for visiting Lone Fir Cemetery with me, I hope you had a little fun and would love to hear from any of you that might have been here too. Did you perhaps catch something paranormal? Did you take a tour? Any favorite stones or history you would like to share?

https://www.oregonmetro.gov/historic-cemeteries/lone-fir-cemetery

Sources

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/57986521/ada-smith

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/50808034/james-hansen-frush

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4 responses to “Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland, Oregon”

    • Awe Angie, thank you for your kind words, I totally needed this today trying to figure some more stuff out on the site and well my brain is just not up for the task. Guess I better dust off those cobwebs and get some more done. I am truly glad you liked the post, I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day sister!!

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