Lone Fir Cemetery Records, 1846–1880

An introduction to the cemetery and to the book by Connie Lenzen

Lone Fir Tombstones

Lone Fir Cemetery photo taken in 2000 by Connie Lenzen

Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland, Oregon, was one of the first Portland cemeteries. It is presently operated by Metro, a regional government entity.  The cemetery office is located at 600 Northeast Grand Avenue. Portland, OR 97232. An online index is at http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=11326. This book contains names in the office index, and it also contains names of persons for whom the burial location has been lost. An index to the book is found at the end of this page.

The cemetery is located between SE 20th and SE 26th Streets and SE Morrison and SE Stark Streets on what was James Stephen's donation land claim. This 1852 General Land Office map shows Base Line (now Stark Street).

Lone Fir map

History of Lone Fir Cemetery

D. A. Lund prepared a short history of the Lone Fir Cemetery for the W.P.A. Federal Writer's Project. [1] He related that Emmor Stephens, an early East Portland settler, died in 1846 and was buried on his son's land claim. In 1854, the son, James B. Stephens, sold the farm to Colburn Barrell. Part of the sale agreement included the provision to maintain the grave.

Colburn Barrell was a partner in a steamboat company. On 8 April 1854, the boiler on one of his boats, the steamship "Gazelle" exploded, killing 24 people. Colburn Barrell's partner, Crawford Dobbins, was one of the victims. Crawford Dobbins and David Fuller, a "Gazelle" passenger, were buried near the Emmor Stephens grave.

To honor Crawford Dobbins, Colburn Barrell set aside ten acres as a cemetery, and called it "Mt. Crawford." Additional burials were made, and additional acreage was added to the cemetery.

Early Record Keeping

D. A. Lund noted that it was not known whether records were kept of the early burials and none had been located. In those early days, it was not necessary to keep records. The families of the deceased persons knew where they were buried, and they would tend the graves. As families died out or moved away, the memory of those burials went with them.

In the early 1940s, it was estimated that approximately 14,000 of the probable 25,000 burials were included in the cemetery's records.

Reconstruction of the Records

This volume attempts to reconstruct the early cemetery records with information found in three manuscript collections.

  1. The majority of the names are from a Lone Fir manuscript collection located at the Oregon Historical Society. (See below for a description of these records.)
  2. The second source is a list of burials of people who died at the Oregon Insane Asylum. (See below.)
  3. The third source is the Ewry and Cook account books from 1870 to 1876. (See below.)

Source One: Manuscript Collection at Oregon Historical Society. [2]

In the 1950s, two boxes of Lone Fir block books and other miscellany were donated to the Oregon Historical Society by the cemetery office.

Letters in the collection note that Mr. Patrick Kiernan, the first sexton, was appointed in 1866, a full 20 years after the first burial. Kiernan jotted notes on slips of paper about the burials that he made, and he kept these papers in his home. After his death in 1881, his daughter, Mrs. Cason, collected his papers. 

Mr. J. J. Goodwin, the cemetery superintendent, was allowed to make a copy of Kiernan's notes. Mr. Goodwin then arranged them in chronological order. Mr. Kiernan's original records have been scattered and lost so Mr. Goodwin's transcription cannot be verified.

Goodwin also transcribed records from the sextons who followed Kiernan. He assembled all the records that he collected into lot and block books and ledgers. The block books include the name of the deceased and the death date. The birth date or age is given in most cases.

In addition to the block books, the OHS collection includes miscellaneous other items including obituaries and lists of individuals who were buried by Ewry and Cook and DeLin Company at Lone Fir. Most of these names are neither found in the block books nor in the cemetery index in the Lone Fir office.

Source Two: Manuscript Collection at University of Oregon

A file entitled "Lone Fir Cemetery" in the University of Oregon manuscript collections contains the early cemetery treasurer records. Included in these are burial records for approximately 135 individuals who died at Dr. James Hawthorne's Insane Asylum in the 1860s and 1870s. A comparison of the names with the index at the Lone Fir Cemetery office show that these names were not transferred to the cemetery records. Unfortunately no location is given in the records, so it is unknown where they are buried. A transcription of the records entitled Persons Buried in Lone Fir Cemetery, Portland, Oregon, Who Were Sent Over From Dr. Hawthorne's Insane Asylum from 1867-1879 is online at http://www.lenzenresearch.com/asylumburials.pdf.

Insane Asylum text

Page from the treasurer's records.

Source Three: Ewry and Cook Account Books, 1870-18764 [3]

John Ewry and Horatio Cook were partners in a pioneer Portland cabinet making and undertaking firm. Their services ranged from assembling a box cast for a broken leg to repairing chairs to crafting kitchen furniture to building coffins. Their account books for the years 1870 to 1876 are in the University of Oregon manuscript collection

The firm conducted almost 1,500 burials between 1870 and 1876. Seldom was the cemetery location given. The notation "farige" [ferriage] gives a clue to Lone Fir burials. Ewry and Cook were located on the west side of the Willamette River. Lone Fir Cemetery and adjacent St. Mary's Cemetery were located on the east side. The Stark Street Ferry serviced both.

A transcription of the records was published in 2001 as Ewry & Cook Account Books (A Portland, Oregon, Undertaking Firm) A List of Deaths, 1870 to 1876. [4]

Ewry & Cook accounts

Portion of a page from the account book.

An index to the Lone Fir burials from 1846 to 1880:

L Mc M N P–Q R S T–V W Y–Z


End notes:

[1]   D. A. Lund (Charles O. Olson's pen name) Lone Fir — "Silent City of the Dead; Resting Place of Portland Pioneers." (No publisher, ca. 1942.) Manuscript in the W.P.A. files, Oregon State Library. It is reproduced and available at the Lone Fir Cemetery office which is now part of Metro Pioneer Cemeteries, 600 N. E. Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97232.

[2] "Lone Fir Cemetery" Manuscript Number 2010; Oregon Historical Society, Portland, Oregon.

[3] "Ewry and Cook Account Books" Collection Number B, Box Number 25; Special Collections, University of Oregon Knight Library, Eugene, Oregon.

[4] Connie Lenzen,  Ewry & Cook Account Books (A Portland, Oregon, Undertaking Firm) A List of Deaths, 1870 to 1876 (Portland: Privately Printed, 2001).

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© 2000–2015

Connie Lenzen, CGSM

*CG, Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by board-certified genealogists after periodic evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.