The Lone Fir Cemetery, in the heart of Portland Oregon, is full of some of the more eclectic grave stones you will ever see. Buried here are the well known and the unknown of Portland, with the first grave set in the 1840s. The cemetery holds over 25,000, but due to poor maintenance nearly 10,000 graves are unknown.
A small corner of the cemetery was once set aside for Chinese immigrants, brought to Portland to build Railroads, sewers, and the seawall. Though they were an intricate part of the formation of the city, they were segregated and looked down upon. The area of the Lone Firs was used to bury the bodies of these immigrants before they could be returned to their families in China. When the city decided to place a building in this site 1952, many bodies were recovered and moved, but not all of them. More recently, Portland decided to sell this area but due to The Friends of The Lone Fir Cemetery, they were unable to. A council meeting brought out 150 residents of Portland demanding that they look further into the land, and with radar and an archaeological investigation, they were able to find several unmarked graves in the area.
Through Your Bones, a track off of (D)early Departed, the benefit CD put together to raise money to build a monument to these unmarked immigrants and give Lone Fir a much needed renovation, was co-written and performed by my friend Matt Sheehy. “It is a really important song to me,” says Sheehy, “one of the hardest to finish [that] I’ve written.” You can check out the song on Matt’s myspace page. Also, take a moment to listen to Matt’s new album Tigerphobia (which, might I add, is on heavy rotation in my iPod).
(D)early Departed also features several local Portland artists who have complied songs about those who rest in the cemetery. This includes a song about Dr. John Hawthorne, the founder of The Oregon Hospital of the Insane, several of his patients also reside in Lone Fir, and the famous poet Samuel Simpson. And, of course, Matt’s Through Your Bones. You can purchase (D)early Departed at CDbaby (click the CD cover above for the link) and help give recognition to those long gone (while enjoying the sounds of some of Portland’s most talented).