River View Cemetery, Part 4

Dear Liza,

This is my last post (for now) about River View. This one is mostly just questions and delights. I have made a quick run through email sources and historic newspapers of Oregon, and not found enough references to help much.

For example, I am sad that this mom only lived to be 39, but happy that her family decided to include her nickname on her stone. img_01091.jpgRest in Peace, Becky Hunt.

This headstone, for Domingo V. Ruiz, 2nd Oregon Co. F Private Adopted, 1944, is the only Latin name in the circle of stones dedicated to the 2nd Oregon Regiment. Who is he? Why was he “adopted?” I will do more research and get back to you.img_0034.jpg

This stone was decorated with little doodads..a heart shaped necklace, some bits of wood. Hmmm. Who was Rocky? A boxer? A flying squirrel?img_00041.jpg

Mr. Jacob Mueller has a symbol on his headstone that I don’t recognize…it’s not Woodsmen of the World, Odd Fellows, or Masonic, or even the Deathly Hallows. Does anyone recognize it? I have found references from about the right time to suggest that he was a diplomatic to Frankfurt -on-the-Main, a part of what is now Germany, in 1885, and that he had a sister who lived in Estacada, Oregon and a brother who lived in Portland. img_0061.jpg

Finally, who was May Her Cha? Again, an unusual name for an historically racist cemetery in an historically racist city. There are ads for River View from the early 1900s that actually say “absolutely and exclusively limited to the Caucasian race.” Are some racist dead guys going to be cranky? Or have we finally learned to get along, at least in death?


There were a few other Chinese headstones nearby, the earliest death was 1987. Maybe sometime around then, the despicable policy was changed. Or maybe  Ms Cha, living to be 103, earned some respect!

Off to find more questions!


Grandma Judy

Dr. C. Gee Wo

Dear Liza,

I love researching history! Since my story takes place in 1903 Portland, I am getting to know about people who lived here then, and how things were for them. One thing that was really different was that there were laws against some people living here. These were called Exclusion Laws.

But life usually finds a way, as in the case of Dr. C. Gee Wo, a real Chinese person I have learned about and put into my story. Dr. Wo was from China and was an herbal doctor, using teas and herbal medicines to help make people better. He studied for many years, in China and America, to be good at his profession. He moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he had a popular practice for eleven years, from 1889 to 1900.

Dr. Wo’s ad in Portland newspapers, 1900 to 1910

During that time, he married a white lady name C. DeWitt (I can’t find her first name anywhere, just her first initial. Maybe Caroline? Celestine? Charlotte?) In 1900, they moved to Portland, Oregon, and Dr. Wo opened his herbal medicine practice.

At that time, the Exclusion Laws said Chinese people couldn’t own property, so Chinese needed to rent apartments, mostly in the neighborhood on the west side of the river. But Dr. Wo’s wife was white, so she could buy property where they wanted. They bought a small house, and, when business was better, built a bigger house next door.

His ad from 1910 to 1920

As the years went on, Dr. Wo became a respected member of not just the Chinese community, but of the city of Portland. He donated to victims of the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. He contributed to local causes and invested in businesses. He helped the city grow.

Dr. Wo retired about 1915, but stayed active in the community at least until 1921, when he made a large contribution to the local Community Chest fund. I haven’t found any information about him after that time, but I will keep looking. Being a history detective is exciting!


Grandma Judy