Thursday, October 30, 2014

Columbian Cemetery

Since it's late October now, here's a slideshow from NE Portland's Columbian Cemetery, which sits next to I-5, inside the curve of the northbound Columbia Blvd. offramp. It's bordered by noisy roads to the west and south, and industrial warehouses to the north and east, and it's maybe not the most idyllic and restful final resting place out there. As with the Powell Grove Cemetery out at NE 122nd, the cemetery was here first, and then roads and general development encroached from all sides. I haven't come across anything like the Powell Grove legal battle here; maybe the state and county learned their lesson from the earlier conflict and routed I-5 around one side, instead of trying to dig up anyone's ancestors.

It turns out the fancy fence and gate out front are quite new, added sometime after 2006 in conjunction with the widening of the I-5 Columbia Slough Bridge. An environmental assessment for the project described the fence upgrade:

The existing chain-link fencing along the front of the cemetery contains two brick pillars (at the entrance) and a modern metal pipe gate identifying the name and date of the cemetery. This fencing will be replaced with an iron-style fence designed to replicate the appearance of the historic fence. Fragments of the historic fence are available to use as a template. However, for security reasons, the new fence may be taller than the historic fence, which was approximately 3 feet high. A driveway gate that is in keeping with the historic fence design and incorporates the name and date of the cemetery will be installed at the entrance.

I actually dropped by to find an old city boundary marker that a helpful Gentle Reader had sent me a tip about. Unlike Lone Fir, or Greenwood Hills, or the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery, I gather that in general this spot is not the final resting place of prominent early pioneers or the rich and famous of any era. A chatty volunteer told me about a couple of interesting residents, including a former slave who had moved to Portland after the Civil War (who I was unable to locate), and a gentleman who held Portland Police badge #1 (and who, for some reason, was buried juuuust outside city limits).

I imagine he would have had additional stories to share, but the cemetery's equipment shed had been robbed a few days earlier, and he and another volunteer were busy figuring out the extent of the damage and how to secure the remaining equipment. I am not a superstitious person by any means, but the act of robbing a cemetery just calls out for some sort of nasty cosmic retribution. At minimum, it seems like the perpetrators ought to be cursed to wander the earth as tormented spirits, unable to enjoy a moment's peace until everything they stole is replaced. Even if that means chasing old tractor parts across the globe to a metal recycler in China or somewhere. That would be a good start, at least.

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