The Tibbetts Family : New Friends at Lone Fir

Dear Liza,

Now that the weather is less awful, we are getting out for walks. We stopped by Lone Fir Cemetery on my birthday, to visit the dead people and get some perspective.

We visited our favorites, of course. Dr. Hawthorne, who treated the patients in his mental hospital with uncommon respect, the Fleidner family, who built a building that still stands Downtown, and Lou Ellen Barrel Cornell, who lead an unconventional life.

(Photo Credit : Find a Grave website)

And we met some new folks. This tall monument has always caught my eye because the family name, Tibbetts, was used by local author Beverly Cleary for one of her characters. This time, I took pictures of the stones around the tall marker and did some research on my favorite research site, The Historic Oregonian.

In his obituary, we learn that the patriarch, Gideon Tibbetts, was familiarly known as Father Tibbetts. He was originally from Bangor, Maine, and married his wife, Mary, in Indiana. Their company of wagons took nine months to cross the country from there.

They rafted down the Columbia and originally settled in Corvallis, then moved to Portland.

They started their family, but childhood diseases took four of their six children between 1853 and 1859. I cannot imagine the sadness.

Gideon bought and developed property east of the Willamette, creating Tibbetts Addition, which covered the area from the Willamette River to 20th Street and between Division and Holgate, just south of Ladd’s Addition. This area is now known as the Brooklyn neighborhood. Two streets in that area, remember him: Gideon Street runs along the railroad tracks, and Tibbetts Street runs east-west between Powell and Division Streets.

Mary outlived Gideon by 14 years, living well in their family home. I am still searching for information of her two surviving children. Her daughter, whose name I haven’t found, married a Judge Kennedy from Walla Walla Washington.

As much as I appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit of early Portland, the practice of individuals (Like Ladd, Couch, Tibbetts, and others) organizing their own developments within the city is what lead to our weird street numbering system, which needed to be adjusted in the 1930s.

Every time I get to know about a previous Portlander, I learn more about the city and how it grew. And there’s 180 years worth to learn!


Grandma Judy

The Weatherford Family

Dear Liza,

While you were visiting, we hung out with the Dead People at the Lone Fir Cemetery. I took some pictures of a monument I hadn’t noticed before, and decided to do some research by way of the online Historic Oregonian website.

This is the Weatherford family memorial, with four family members buried in the one plot over the course of twenty- six years.

First is William Weatherford, who was born in Virginia in 1814. His family moved to Iowa when he was very young, and he met and married Mahala Harris in 1839. They had five children and then decided to move west. In 1852 they began the arduous six-month trek overland to Oregon. They were authentic Oregon Trail pioneers.

Once the family arrived in Portland, William set up shop as a pharmacist on Front Street, just south of Yamhill. They built a ‘small, stylish’ house at the northeast corner of Third and Salmon in downtown. Five more children were born to he and Mahala, bringing the total to ten.

William G. Weatherford, son of William and Mahala, died in 1862 at the age of 18 and was buried with his father. William drowned in the Willamette River. I haven’t been able to find out any details if his death. Was he swimming? Did he fall off a boat? I wish I knew. New information, see below.

///Weatherford, William
On the 1st inst. Wm. Weatherford was drowned at Portland, while crossing the river in a skiff, in company with several other persons. The river was rough, and the boat dipped water and went down about the middle of the stream. [Source: The State Republican (Eugene City, OR) Saturday, August 9, 1862]///

Thanks, John Hamilton!

In 1873, the family house and business were both destroyed in a great fire that consumed 21 square blocks of mostly-wooden downtown Portland. Like many, the family re-built and carried on.

The eldest son, J.W. Weatherford, became his father’s business partner and they ran the business together until his father’s death, when J.W. took it over. After the fire, he had moved to Salem to continue the business for a few years (perhaps while downtown Portland was being rebuilt), and died of a heart attack in his Portland office in 1893 at the age of fifty-one.

Finally, Mahala Weatherford, having outlived her husband and five of her children, passed away in 1906 at the age of 84 at the home of her daughter Ella Steele in the town of Condon. She had crossed the country by wagon train, founded a business and raised ten children. She took in boarders to help the family finances, and built and re- built homes. She had served her community by ministering to the poor and it was written in her obituary that she was “truly a mother in Israel who exemplified in her life all the graces which ennoble true womanhood.”

I love meeting new friends at Lone Fir!


Grandma Judy

Bowling, Pancakes, Dead People, and Family

Dear Liza,

We managed to find a lot of fun things to do while you were here, like walking to Slappycakes for breakfast.

We love this place! You get to make your own pancakes right at the table. There is a gluten-free batter, a chocolate and delicious lemon-vanilla, as well as regular buttermilk. We had fun designing, flipping, and eating our creations.

The next day, we took a long walk through the Lone Fir Cemetery. I love this old cemetery that has been in use since the 1840s. You liked it, too, and wanted to help keep it in good repair.

You got very good at rubbing the headstones to gently remove the moss and dirt. You even helped clean out the letters with a soft stick.

We also went to the Central Bowl down on Morrison. This combination restaurant, bar, bowling alley and arcade is amazing! There are TV screens and crazy lights everywhere. Auntie Bridgett coached you, we bowled a few games and had sushi and tacos for dinner.

I lost at Air Hockey AND bowling, and had such a good time! When the grownups were pooped, we headed home.

One evening, Auntie Katie and Marion came by to visit. It was loud and funny and went way late.

There were a lot of snuggles and giggles.

What a full week!


Grandma Judy

A Lone Fir Mystery

Dear Liza,

On one of my walks through Lone Fir Cemetery, I investigated this tall graceful monument near the east entrance. I first noticed it because of the name, FIMPEL, which I had never seen before.

As I walked around the monument, I realized there were four names, all with different dates of death, and only two that shared a family name. Curious, I took pictures for reference and headed home to do some research.

Besides George W. Fimpel, who died in 1899 at the age of twenty, the monument remembered his father, George B. Fimpel, who died in 1886, Samuel McDonald, who died in 1898, and Laura V. Mutch, who died in 1904. Why are they all here together? I was puzzled, and the Historic Oregonian website wasn’t much help.

Grandpa Nelson and his membership saved the day!

As clearly as I can understand it, this is a story of Laura V. Howell, who was born in Oregon City in 1859. She moved to Portland and married George B. Fimpel, who worked as a fireman on the railroad. They had two sons, George W. and Charles Howell. Mr. Fimpel died in an accident at work in 1886, when his son George was 13 and his youngest, Charles, was barely six months old.

Laura put up this monument to him and soon re-married, to Samuel McDonald. I cannot imagine the emotional upheaval of bearing a child, losing a husband, and re-marrying, all within the span of a year!

Laura and Samuel had two daughters, Laura L. and Mary Virginia, bringing Laura’s total to four children. Sadly, her eldest, George W, died at the age of twenty, just seven years after his father. Laura buried him with his father and added his name to the monument.

Mr. McDonald died in 1898 leaving Laura with three children, ages 14, 8, and 5. She buried him with her first husband and her son, adding yet another name to the stone.

Laura re-married again, to Mr. Edward Mutch, one year later. Mr. Mutch adopted the girls, now ages 9 and 6.

A few years later, in 1904, Laura herself passed away at the relatively young age of 45. Her surviving husband and children buried her under her family monument, adding her name (shortened to just her first name, middle initial and final legal last name), to the remaining side of the stone. What a complicated life story she wrote in just 45 years!

To bring this family story forward into my lifetime, Laura’s youngest son, Charles, lived for many years after his mother died. He survived serving in World War I and then moved to Los Angeles, where he passed away in 1962 at the age of 76. This means he and I were living in Los Angeles County at the same time!

Laura’s daughter Mary Virginia McDonald stayed in Portland, married a man named Dotson, and is buried in Lone Fir, less than ten feet from her mother, father, and step-family.

To me, this story tells a lot about the times and the people. Laura, as a widowed mother of young children, had no way to support herself or her kids. She needed to be married, so she got married. Premature death was much more common then, caused by anything from falling off a wagon to eating spoiled meat to catching one of a dozen deadly diseases common at the time, and multiple marriages were very common. She persevered and raised her kids.

I am so glad to have learned about Laura V. Howell Fimpel McDonald Mutch and her family.


Grandma Judy

A Fine Fall Day with the Dead People

Dear Liza,

It has been so pretty this Fall! The air is cool and fresh and the leaves are a million different colors. It was time for a walk to Lone Fir Cemetery.

Auntie Bridgett had a new friend she wanted me to meet, so we went there first. This narrow grave stone marks the grave of Emma Hawthorne. She was our famous Dr. Hawthorne’s first wife. She was twenty years younger than Dr. Hawthorne and died in 1862 after only two weeks of marriage. There are a scant two lines about her death in the Oregonian, which seems weird, since she was the bride of such an important doctor and businessman.

Why was no more said about her, her life or her funeral arrangements, in the local newspapers of the time? Why is she buried in a sloping corner of the cemetery while the rest of the family (including the doctor’s second wife) have large monuments on a sunny hill?

We have heard rumors that she died by suicide, which at the time was considered a sin against God. While we have no proof, that would be one explanation for what seems like shabby treatment.

While we were thinking about young Emma and her lonely fate, we sat on a low wall and listened to the chestnuts rattle through the branches and thump to the ground. It is Conker season, for sure. The squirrels and Auntie Bridgett dashed about, collecting them, and I just love being part of it.

Further on, we found another new friend. Several years ago I wrote about a local drummer named Andrew Loomis who had a wonderfully down to earth epitaph on his headstone (Life is good sept the parts that suck). Now, it seems his younger brother Matthew has passed away, and has joined Andrew in his space.

There were more graves, which I’m sure have their own stories, but my eyes were so full of the beautiful leaves!

This time of year has a quiet, lovely melancholy which I find comforting. The nearness of death is not scary, somehow, but peaceful.


Grandma Judy

Late Summer Magic

Dear Liza,

Welcome to August! I can’t believe this summer is racing past so quickly.

The heat wave here in Portland has sort of upended my usual way of doing things. Since it is so hot in the afternoon, I go to the vegetable plot early to water and harvest the zucchinis, and to check on the tomatoes and pumpkins.

Some days it feels like a race to harvest and eat as fast as they are growing. My gardener friend Tonya has clued us in on how to freeze zucchini to use later, when it isn’t too hot to bake.

Inside the house, Auntie Bridgett’s Sundew (which she bought to eat the fungus flies…. Don’t get me started) is blooming! The perfect, delicate spiral is so pretty!

At Laurelhurst Park, the local Faerie Folk have been out improving their summer homes.

Morning Glories are creating some accidental beauty on telephone poles. They follow the spiral growth model, climbing around and around.

And last but definitely not least, the sunflower that has made this dead chestnut tree its new home. The tree was fatally pruned to a height of about ten feet. I am glad it is having a useful afterlife.

We should all be so fortunate.


Grandma Judy

Springtime with the Dead People

Dear Liza,

I hadn’t visited our Lone Fir Cemetery in a while, and was missing the sense of perspective that going there always gives me. I was not disappointed.

Mr. And Mrs. Stephens, the original residents, seen just beyond a toppled stone

The dandelions and tiny belladonna daisies are everywhere, bringing a sense of beauty and renewal to the uneven rows of headstones.

The tall willow by the east entrance towers over the graves, as if sheltering them from too much sun.

Odd things caught my eye, as well. This years-old stump has been decorated with crow feathers and flower petals, and seems to bring some older spirits to the place.

And, as part of the newly installed section marking stones, I get to learn the name of the narrow area of graves along the west fence. Am I crazy, or does “Westside Singles” sound more like a dating website than part of a cemetery?

And there you go. Perspective restored.


Grandma Judy

Things You See in Portland

Dear Liza,

Portland, like any big city, has some problems. Too much traffic, people sometimes stealing cars and things, and sometimes, very loud motorcycles. But Portland is also a lot of fun.

Portland is famous as a bicycling city. We have greenways that have low car traffic and work like highways for bikes. We have bridges that are only for bicycles, people, and trains… no cars! But I’ve lived here almost four years and I’ve never seen this……

One answer to the parking problem!

This is a tiny old house just across the road from the entrance to our Lone Fir Cemetery. It has been fixed up by the young family that just moved in, and I’m guessing they let the kids choose the stickers on the new planter!

And, even as some businesses are closing because of the pandemic, some are opening!!

This is a new shop in Belmont, just down the block. It sells all sorts of ‘spooky’ things…. dolls with scary eyes, jewelry that looks like bats and skulls, and Ouija boards. There are posters of Vincent Price that Auntie Bridgett really likes, because of his spooky movies.

This is someone’s delightful outdoor shelter, down on Market Street. It has seating, a small fireplace and delightful shade, all made of cement, mosaic, tree branches, and old wine bottles. It is a work of art you can sit in! I love coming across these jewels. They are just part of what makes Portland special.

I can’t wait until you can come visit and see all our nifty things!


Grandma Judy

A “New” Family at Lone Fir

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk in Lone Fir Cemetery the other day, in between rain showers. There were squirrels everywhere! They were being so friendly that it was a little alarming, fixing us with their little squirrel eyes as if to say, “Well, do you have treats for me, or not?”

As we stepped quickly to get pictures of the furry little guys, I noticed a set of headstones I hadn’t before. Particularly, this one.

Ollie Fliedner was just thirteen when she died “near Dallas Ogn”.
Dallas is a small town south west of here. I wanted to know more about her and her family.

The Fliedner Building

Looking in old, digitized copies of The Oregonian newspaper, I fell down the usual ancestry rabbit hole. Mr. William Fliedner was from Germany and got barber training in New York when he first arrived in America, around 1850. After moving west and failing at gold mining, he started his business empire with a hair cutting and barber saloon in Corvallis. He married Chloe Norton, who had come to Oregon in a covered wagon. They moved to Portland and did well enough that by 1906 the family was able to build The Fliedner Building, which still stands today at the corner of SW 10th.

Chloe and William, Ollie’s parents, were prominent business folks

Mr. Fliedner was prominent in local politics as well, being appointed to the Fire Commission and running for office. He and his wife, Chloe Norton Fliedner, had two children, Ollie and William Louis. Ollie, whose headstone had caught my eye, died when she was just 13. I haven’t been able to learn anything about her short life or early death.

Their remaining child, W. Louis Fliedner, named after his father but called by his middle name to avoid confusion, married Gertrude Miller. Louis and Gertrude had two children; Barbara Jane Fliedner, who later married a Mr. Farmen, and a son, yet another William Louis. This man was the most recent headstone in this family grouping.

This William Louis Fliedner was born in 1915, served in World War II, and passed away in 2009. I still need to find out more about him, but he must have been well loved, living to 94 with a nickname like “Uncle Woo Lucky”!

I love getting to know more about Portland’s history through the folks who lived here, even when information is hard to come by.


Grandma Judy

Another Landmark Gone

Dear Liza,

It has been a hard spring for trees here in Portland. With so many of our tall giants being over a hundred years old, extreme weather takes a toll.

The other day in Lone Fir Cemetery, we saw with sadness that our General Joseph Lane Tree was gone. This maple tree memorial to the first Territorial Governor of Oregon Territory had come down in a storm and been removed.

The General Lane tree in 2017, with Pioneer Roses in the background

I can find no record of when this tree was planted. It may have been an accident of squirrels or an anonymous memorial to a loved one, as are many of the trees in Lone Fir. In 2009, the Pioneer Rose Association chose it as a memorial to General Lane and listed it as a Heritage Tree, and it joined a list of more than 300 other magnificent trees in the city.

It stood in the center of the cemetery, just across the way from the memorial to the soldiers of the Civil War and the Pioneer Roses of Oregon garden. It was Heritage Tree #295, and stood 100 feet high with a spread of 105 feet. It looked like it would stand forever.

I know in my head that this sort of thing is inevitable. Trees, like humans, are living things and subject to injury and age. But they are also landmarks, survivors of the past lasting into our present to remind us of who has come before.

Remains of the General Lane tree, 2021

But in my heart, I mourn for these living monuments. I wonder what finally broke them? Was there more we could have done? What will we do to remember them and honor their life?

And seeing that these monuments can’t last forever, I become obsessed with recording what we have, right in this moment, because I know that someday I will look and they won’t be there.

This year the city of Portland has lost many monuments. The statues of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, even the Thompson Elk, have been vandalized and removed for their own protection. I understand some of the arguments against who they memorialize (except the Elk) but these statues were part of the downtown I loved and I miss them.

Time keeps sliding by. Let’s see and appreciate what we have while we have it.


Grandma Judy