Oregon Insane Hospital & the Lone Fir Cemetery

Over 130 inmates of the Oregon Insane Hospital (1861 – 1883) are buried in mass graves in the Southwest corner of the Lone Fir Cemetery in Southeast Portland, Oregon. The graves were covered for decades by an access road and a county office building that was razed in 2004. Despite several attempts by local advocates, local government METRO has left the graves unmarked and unremembered.

The most recent attempt to recognize the inmate graves coincided in 2008 with interest in developing a memorial for 19th century Chinese workers buried in surrounding areas of the Lone Fir Cemetery. That attempt included community outreach, draft design, and pledges of funding from METRO and the City of Portland.


James C. Hawthorne, MDAsylum Patients Memorial, (PDF) January 2009 – METRO. “View East from Trellis Benches located under the trellis look out to the Asylum Patients Memorial Garden. The garden includes stonework, inscribed with the patients’ names, leading to a shallow contemplative reflecting pool. The original Hawthorne Asylum bell is located in a bell tower at the north end of the garden. A series of interpretive art pieces telling the story of the asylum patients is located along a pathway that meanders through the garden, edged by groupings of plant species brought by early pioneers.”

Chinese Workers Memorial, (PDF) January 2009 – METRO. “Entry at SE 20th and Morrison. An entry sign and informational kiosk frame the new main pedestrian entry into the cemetery. A seeping stone fountain is the focal point of the small entry plaza and is flanked by curved paths that define the oval green. The green is composed of low-growing drought-tolerant grasses and ground covers and is interspersed with flowering magnolia trees and interpretive stone panels conveying the lives of the Chinese workers.”

Lone Fir Cemetery Existing Conditions, Recommendations, and Funding Sources, (PDF – 43 pages) 2008. Created for METRO by Lango Hansen Landscape Architects, Historical Research Associates, KPFF Consulting Engineers and Reyes Engineering.

“Lone Fir Memorial Park Site Design”, (PDF) March 2009 – METRO. One page illustration of the proposed design for Block 14.

Chinese outreach flyer, (PDF) 2008 – METRO. One page flyer of initial design sketch with text in Mandarin.

The Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery work group, (PDF) 2008 – METRO. One page roster of the Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery work group. No members of the mental health community were invited to participate on this work group.

Chinese Workers Memorial – View East Toward Memorial, (PDF) 2008 – METRO. “A curved pathway bordered by wildflowers leads to the Chinese funerary burner, memorial pine tree and interpretive stone sculpture inscribed with the phrase “You are still with us” in Chinese lettering. The memorial is capped by a wood and stone trellis structure. The trellis provides places for seating with views west to the Chinese Workers Memorial and views east to the Asylum Patients Memorial. A small maintenance building with display windows for found artifact is proposed at the north end of the trellis. Chinese headstones from the original cemetery are located in the green.”

Lone Fir Cemetery Block 14, (PDF) – a map of the southwest corner of Lone Fir Cemetery, designed “Block 14” where inmates of the Oregon State Insane Asylum and Chinese workers were buried in the 19th century.

Sexton’s map of Lone Fir Cemetery, (PDF) – October 2015 METRO.

Mental health community outreach flyer, (PDF) 2008 – METRO. Two page questionnaire designed to engage mental health community. METRO held several outreach meetings at community mental health centers in Portland which were sparsely attended.

The Lone Fir Cemetery and the Asylum Patients of Dr. James C. Hawthorne, (PDF) – Historical Research Associates, 2008.

“Names of persons buried in Lone Fir Cemetery who were sent over from Dr. Hawthorne’s insane asylum” (PDF). Includes listing of persons from the buried and a map indicating the size and location of the Asylum grave. A more recent and readable version of this document is archived here.

Metro Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery: Fundraising and Community Development Services – RFP 12-1918 (PDF) – October 2011 METRO. This is a request for proposals from fundraisers to raise private money on behalf of the Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation.


Where We Live: Who was James Hawthorne?, KOIN.com – July 2015

Mental-health advocates memorialize asylum residents buried and forgotten in Lone Fir Cemetery, Street Roots – November 2008. PDF of story is archived here.

Planning a garden for forgotten residents, Oregonian – October 2008

Resurrecting Portland’s history by the telltale tombs, under the lone fir, Oregonian – April 1999

History of Care of Insane in the State of Oregon, (PDF) By O. Larsell – Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), pp. 295-326.

First recruitment advertisement for Oregon Insane Asylum – Oregonian – April 1862

Web Sites

Friends of the Lone Fir Cemetery was created in 2000 as a 501(c)(3) organization when community volunteers became concerned by an increase in vandalism. The group strives to preserve the headstones of the deceased, the greenspace they exist in, and the stories of its residents for future generations.

The Lone Fir Foundation is an Oregon nonprofit corporation established in 2011 to raise awareness of Lone Fir Cemetery, its history, and its connection to the history of Portland and Oregon. The Foundation’s inaugural project is to raise funds for the construction of the Cultural Heritage Garden at Lone Fir.

Lone Fir Cemetery (METRO). Nestled in Southeast Portland, Lone Fir Cemetery is more than just a cemetery. It’s also one of Oregon’s most treasured historic places and Portland’s second-largest arboretum.