Monday, October 1, 2007
October Theme: Cemeteries and Tombstones--Meet James B. and Elizabeth Stephens of Lone Fir Cemetery
According to the Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery: "James B. Stephens came to Oregon in 1844 and operated the historic Stark Street ferry on the Willamette River in Portland. James and Elizabeth Stephens were married more than 57 years when she died in 1887. The grieving widower is said to have had the couple's photograph taken a few years before her death. Until his death two years later, James was able to visit here and imagine again holding the hand of his dear wife."
Please go to my other blog, Mama and Me from PDX, for the story of how I found the Stephens' wonderful tombstone and lots more photos of interesting sights I happily came upon at Lone Fir, including a tombstone-eating tree as well as other tombstones, both old and new, and a really big cedar tree. Plus, there's some additional information about the cemetery below, after the list of monthly theme links.
Click on the links below to see other CDPB theme posts. Please remember the differences in time zones can impact when the theme post will appear.
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I found this great information about James B. Stephens and his original connection to what is now Lone Fir Cemetery at www.metro-region.org, including this explanation of what Metro is: Metro protects open space and parks, plans for land use and transportation, and manages garbage disposal and recycling for 1.3 million residents ... Metro is the directly elected regional government that serves more than 1.3 million residents in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, and the 25 cities in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area.
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery
Located between Southeast 20th and 26th avenues and Morrison and Stark streets in Portland - Founded in 1855, 30.5 acres
In 1854, J.B. Stephens sold his farm, located a few miles east of the small town of Portland, to Colburn Barrell. On the property was the grave of Stephens' father, Emmor, who died in 1846. Barrell agreed to maintain the grave site.
Colburn Barrell was a partner in a passenger steamship line between Portland and Oregon City. On April 8, 1854, the boiler of their steamship Gazelle exploded while moored near Oregon City. The accident killed several people, including Barrell's business partner, Crawford Dobbins, and a passenger. Barrell buried the victims near Stephens and set aside 10 acres as a cemetery. He named the cemetery Mt. Crawford in honor of his friend, Crawford Dobbins.
By 1866, 20 more acres were added to the original cemetery. Burial plots sold for $10. Colburn thought the cemetery should be owned by the city of Portland and offered it to the city for $4,000. The City Council turned down the offer, citing the location was too far from town. There were no bridges crossing the Willamette River, and the mule-powered Stark Street ferry was slow. Coupled with muddy roads, a funeral procession would be a weary trip at best. The cemetery was eventually sold to Portland investors in 1866 and the name changed to Lone Fir Cemetery for the solitary tree standing on the site.
Today, Lone Fir Cemetery is a wooded, landscaped arboretum in the heart of Portland. More than 25,000 people are buried here, from the familiar (Curry, Dekum, Hawthorne, Lane, Lovejoy, Macleay) to the unknown. Decay, neglect and poor record keeping in the early years have led to an estimated 10,000 unknown graves. A visit to Lone Fir Cemetery will reveal the region's rich history.
"All nations are represented, all grades of society, all states of wealth and standing. Rich lie here and poor, employer and employee, those with virtue and those without. Death has a way of banishing snobbishness, of cultivating comradeship."
—D.A. Lund, Lone Fir: Silent City of the Dead