Saturday, February 4, 2012

Grave Matters


Few places around here are as wrongly named the Lone Fir Cemetery, a beautiful park-like area with nearly every kind of tree known to Portland—including dozens of firs. They could have even named it the Four Sequoias. One fellow a hundred or so years past had the foresight to have a Sequoia seedling planted on each edge of his final resting place. Today they make a lovely shelter from wind and rain while passing through the boneyard.
Four Sequoias

My wife and I were visiting our final resting place today—a fine, crisp sunny day, more like Spring than early February. Almost twenty years ago, as a weird sort of splurge, we bought two plots in the Lone Fir after finding that they still had a few left. Today it would be impossible, it's a full house. Back in the  1960s I used to walk straight through the Lone Fir on my way to Washington High. I always enjoyed reading the epitaphs, but it would be years before I realized the fascinating history of the place and its inhabitants. 

The McCleay Crypt (one of my finest snapshots, if I say so myself)
I was delighted that we were given plots about twenty yards from the prestigious McCleay crypt, a gothic edifice spooky enough to inspire a few chills. But recently it came to my attention that we were even closer in proximity to the Portland's number 1 shanghai boss, the sailor's boarding house master James Turk. There he lies thirty feet from us, along with his first wife Kate, and his beloved mother. You will be able to read about Mr. Turk in great detail in my upcoming book. He was on of the ruthless men who made Portland infamous as Shanghaiing Capital of the World. Besides this he was a brawler. He was arrested so many times for beating people with his fists that when the Oregonian reported on it, they usually did so beneath the headline "Turk Again". He wasn't the only family member in the papers fairly regularly, his wife Kate was in and out of the police court for her tendency to drink too much, argue loudly, and beat people with her fists as well. She, at least, had the excuse that she was Irish.

A shanghaiers's final resting place

There are many other interesting people interred in this lovely place. A good place to start is at the 

a. McCleay crypt
b. Blalock's future abode
c. The Turks