Block 14 of Lone Fir Cemetery in Southeast Portland looks a lot like a gravel parking lot, in stark contrast to the many trees and headstones that fill the rest of the cemetery. And for many years, Block 14 was used as a parking lot by the county. But underneath the gravel and sparse vegetation, the remains of over 2,000 Chinese laborers and hundreds of people who died in Dr. Hawthorne’s insane asylum were buried.
Once, these immigrants had hope that their bones would be shipped back to China to rest with their ancestors. And many were. But over the years, many more lay forgotten, the few wooden markers paid for by Hawthorne rotted away, and the county planned to sell the land to be developed.
Now, although no longer in danger of being developed, Block 14 sits empty and untended. There are hopes of a memorial garden someday, but they remain only hopes. On January 31st, Lunar New Year’s Eve, some XRPDX members including myself went to Block 14 to do cleanup in response to the general request for support by community members. We walked the stone labyrinth. Together we collected a bag of trash. We also pulled up two bags of invasive English holly. In tending to these unmarked graves on the last day of the year, we hope to give some peace to those buried there.
(Photo credit: Margaret Butler)