Tag Archives: history

From whence I sprang

A really great quote from my great-great-great-grandfather, who moved to Oregon in 1834:

I don’t owe a dollar and I still have four bits in my pocket. I have never sued a man in my life nor have been sued. I have never been arrested – but that ain’t saying I came pretty near it once. A man called me a damn liar, so I knocked him down and when he got up I took after him with a pitchfork; but he outran me. For 50 yards I kept almost near enough to stick the tines into him, but when he looked around and saw how close I was he let out another link and got away. He complained to Judge Boise. I asked for a jury. They cleared me, but one of the jurymen thought I ought to have speeded up a little and stuck him with my hay fork.

— Joseph Yates

My family is awesome.

What did you do last night?

I hung out in a cemetery and watched the nearly full moon rise. No, seriously, I did.

Brian and I got to Lone Fir (on SE Stark, between 20th and 26th) almost perfectly in time to watch Buddhist masters from Hui Lin Temple perform a cleaning ceremony for Block 14. It was very beautiful to watch on a summer evening, and I wish I had pictures, but I inevitably lean towards being respectful rather than getting the picture I want.

Lone Fir is a pretty old cemetery in the middle of Portland. Some of our more notable citizens are buried there: Couch, MacLeay, Dr. Hawthorne, poets, city-builders. Some of our more notorious citizens have also been buried there – a madam whose “suitors” gathered money after her death to bury her and build a monument to her, a beloved bar-owner who decided that the annual Tom-And-Jerry bowl should be placed on his grave after he died (and apparently his friends would come and borrow it during the holidays, carefully replacing it on his grave afterwards), robbers, ax-murderers.

But Block 14 is where people who immigrated from China were buried. The tradition was that you would be buried there, but eventually, you would be dug up and sent back to your homeland, where your town or village would find a spot for you and re-bury you there.

Portland at one point had the second-largest Chinatown in the United States; it also had a shameful history of racism. When you look at the county records for Lone Fir, there are many details about the other parts of the cemetery but for Block 14, nearly each person buried in a plot was listed as “Chinaman” or a ditto mark. In the 1940s, the city decided to build a county building there and told the Portland Chinese-American community that the buried folks had to be moved. And supposedly they all were and the city built a municipal building on their former graves.

Except it turns out they weren’t all moved. So really what the city did (not intentionally) was literally build a building on their graves.

And then there’s the other part – Dr. Hawthorne, a well-renown early mental-health doctor, paid for many of his patients (who often were too poor or had no family who would recognize them) to be buried in Lone Fir. A good number of them are buried around Dr. Hawthorne’s grave, but it turns out that probably a number of them are still under the driveway that the city built in Block 14.

So last night, in addition to the cleansing ceremony for Block 14, there was some fundraising for the memorial being built on Block 14 (the city building has been torn down). Friends of Lone Fir sell a CD called Dearly Departed (which Brian and I have owned for a while) and some of the musicians were there and played. The songs on here are about people buried in the graveyard. You can read their stories here (a zip file of a PDF, hosted by Friends of Lone Fir).

The commissioner of Parks in Portland also dedicated three Heritage Trees (specifically the Lone Fir for which the cemetary is named).

At 9, they showed a movie I’ve been trying to catch for a while. It was made by a woman named Ivy Lin, and it is about the Chinese immigrants who were buried in Block 14. In 1949, Communist China closed its doors. The people whose bones had been shipped back to Hong Kong (where they’d stay until a spot in their town or village was found) were no longer allowed to be shipped back to their villages. The movie, called Come Together Home, follows her as she tries to find out what happened to them.

A fair amount of the movie is about the history of Lone Fir, so what a perfect place to finally get to see it. It was a fun night – there was a beautiful breeze blowing among the hundreds-of-years-old trees, and we were facing Block 14. Really, really cool.

So that’s how I spent my night in a cemetery, perfectly happy.

A few things I want to remember

Driving along the Gorge

Driving along the Gorge

I will take a few minutes to write about the Merners visiting and IronMan Coeur d’Alene and how Wilma is, but having only a few minutes, I wanted to type up a few things before I forgot them again. Some probably of interest to you, and some not so much.

First the “not so much for most people” – Wilma remembers hanging out with Corwin and his sister Agnes. Corwin was a well-dressed man, but often quiet as he had a stutter. Neat to hear about him, as one of my very favorite collected pictures is of him.

Moving on.

I grew up going to Coeur d’Alene to visit family. In the summer, when we were kids, Bill would take us to Hayden Lake where we would swim in its icy waters (but soooo clear! And felt good on a hot summer day). Gretchen and I would swim out to the landing, where I’d regale her with stories of the whale shark, largest shark in the whole world, which was fresh water. She’d be out of the water so quickly Bill would swear she ran over the top of it. I was a mean older sister, if Gretchen hasn’t told you that yet.

Wilma mentioned this last time but I forgot to write it down so that I remembered it – she said that no one knows how deep Hayden Lake is. Neat!

And also on the interesting end of things – she said the natives in the area, the Schitsu’umsh (also known as the Coeurs d’Alene people for which the area is named) would not go near Hayden Lake. They stayed close to Coeur d’Alene where they fished and hunted, and other areas around there, but they would not go near the lake in Hayden. I can’t find any internet information on this, but I think it’s really fascinating and I will need to look into this more.

Off to accomplish stuff, have a beautiful summer day.

Twin Tunnels Hike

On the Twin Tunnels Trail on the Gorge.

On the Twin Tunnels Trail on the Gorge.

On Sunday, we went hiking for about nine miles on the Twin Tunnels Trail. It was a good hike with many beautiful things to look at as you walked. It was a pretty easy walk because there wasn’t much elevation gain (although if I was on a bike I’d’ve died, it was slow and steady gain).

High above Hwy 84.

High above Hwy 84. Felt like flying, a bit.

Formerly, the trail was the historic Columbia River Highway. The new highway is below this (Hwy 84). This section had been shut down to cars and people for years. The tunnels had been filled, and it was unused. Just recently, the tunnels were cleared and it has been restored to be a place for biking and hiking.

Beginning of Twin Tunnels Trail.

Beginning of Twin Tunnels Trail.

Tunnel on the Twin Tunnels Trail.

Tunnel on the Twin Tunnels Trail.

Brian at an adit.

Brian at an adit.

According to Portland Hikers, these windows in the tunnel are called adits. They also close and lock the tunnels at night to protect them from graffiti. Well, and also to protect the graffiti from graffiti:

1920s graffiti.

1920s graffiti.

In the 1920s, some teenagers got trapped in the tunnel during a freak snowstorm for eight days. One of the ways they passed the time is carving their names into the side of the tunnel (and after a few days, it had to be so that they’d be identified too). Very cool to see. There’s more of it, but it was really hard to read after nearly a hundred years so I didn’t try to take a picture of it. It was pretty hard to notice at first, even for me and I was looking for it! I told several bikers who pulled over to enjoy the coolness of the tunnel to go back and look at it.

Having driven on both the new and old highway, it felt odd for a bit to walk on it without fear of being run over by a car, but the views were incredible, and I want to do it again (maybe in the fall when it’s slightly cooler).

Oh and for wildlife, we saw a doe along the trail and the doe and I watched each other for five minutes or so (I gave in and wanted to hike on).

On the drive to the trail, right along the Columbia River, a bald eagle swooped over Brian’s car holding a squirming fish in its talons. It was so surreal to see that in person – I think we both started laughing just because it was so exactly what you’d see in a movie or a commercial, not in real life.

As you can probably tell, I am finally happy. It is so good to be home, and you can tell – I am smiling, my skin color is better, I’m getting back into shape. How could you not be happy when you live in a place as amazing as Oregon?

Klondike Kate

Klondike Kate
Klondike Kate.

It’s unfortunate that the wikipedia article about Klondike Kate doesn’t go into her life in Oregon, seemingly dismissing it as the only option for a has-been rather than an active choice by a vivacious intelligent woman.

I admire her because she followed her dreams – when she was a dancer in Alaska, she made $30,000 at the age of 20. A fortune at that time! She didn’t let the fact that her lover borrowed all of her money and then left her for an actress ruin her life. Instead, it inspired her to explore, leaving Alaska for Seattle.

Klondike Kate made her way to Eastern Oregon, and fell in love with the prairie land, the sage brush, and the solitude. She bought land, and worked it. She was fascinated by interesting rocks, becoming one of the foremost rockhounds in Oregon, a state that has many rock admirers (growing up, I’d go thunder egg hunting with friends and their families). She would often work her land in old costumes, and continued to dance often. She married her 20 year old landowning neighbor when she was 39; she divorced him too, which had to take a lot of guts for a woman in the early 1900s. Eventually she moved into town (Bend) where Kate was an adamant supporter of the firemen. And she danced some more.

I have a book that has an article on her, so sometime in the next week, I’ll go update that Wikipedia section on a remarkable woman. She embodies a lot of what I associate with Oregonians in general – an ability to follow what you want to do, rather than what convention says you must do. Strength to survive hard times, and coming out ahead and stronger still.