Lone Fir Cemetery and the Asylum Patients of Dr. James Hawthorne

James C. Hawthorne

James C. Hawthorne

The Lone Fir Cemetery on SE Morrison and 20th Avenue is one of Portland’s oldest resting places, holding over 50,000 bodies, most interred prior to 1920. Spectral, romantic, certainly haunted, filled with beautiful oaks, firs and thousands of ornate and rapid aging headstones, Lone Fir is a vault of Portland’s history.

One of the untold stories of the Lone Fir cemetery is the asylum patients of Dr. James Hawthorne. The Mental Health Association of Portland has received a draft of a new historical text, the describing in accurate detail the burial of the Asylum patients of Dr. Hawthorne.

DOWNLOAD & READ – The Lone Fir Cemetery and the Asylum Patients of Dr. James C. Hawthorne – PDF

Sections include

  • Brief History on the Origins of Mental Health Care in Oregon
  • The Patients of Dr. Hawthorne Interred at Lone Fir Cemetery
  • Brief History of Plots at the Lone Fir Cemetery
  • The Asylum Grounds

James C. Hawthorne stands out in 19th Century psychiatry as a pioneer in the planning and caretaking of people with mental illness. Mental health activist Dorothea Dix visited Hawthorne’s Asylum in 1869. Her recommendation to maintain the state‚Äôs newish contract with Dr. Hawthorne was testament to the excellence of his hospital, but Hawthorne was already engaged with the Oregon legislature (as of 1862) to purchase 5000 acres of farmland and move his asylum to Salem, where it became the Oregon State Hospital.

Hawthorne and his immediate family are buried at Lone Fir.

When a Multnomah County office building was razed in 2005, archaeologists and local historians began to tell two very different untold stories; the first about Chinese workers temporarily buried at Lone Fir (and unfortunately temporary turned into forever for some) and Asylum graves for people with mental illness. Both sets of graves are in part under the old building or it’s access roads.

Mental health reformer Dorothea Dix

Mental health reformer Dorothea Dix

Multnomah County has agreed to make the area adjacent to the Chinese and Asylum grave sites a memorial area. What that should look like is undecided. The text above has been prepared by Historical Research Associates in preparation for a public discussion about how to present a suitable memorial for the asylum patients interred at Lone Fir. A similar discussion is nearing completion about Chinese buried at Lone Fir.

The Mental Health Association of Portland will advocate an open public discussion be facilitated by the planners of the Lone Fir memorial about the design of the memorial with people who have a mental illness. We’ll announce on this web site when and where this public discussion will take place.

EXTRA – Memorial to Chinese Workers at Lone Fir Cemetery – Asian Reporter, July 2007
EXTRA – Reminders of Grief – Art review (!) of Lone Fir Cemetery, September 2005
EXTRA – Metro’s Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery web site
EXTRA – Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery master plan and Morrison property site design
EXTRA – list of some Asylum patients buried at Lone Fir