First Advisor

Catherine McNeur

Date of Publication

Fall 1-25-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Cemeteries -- Oregon -- Portland -- History -- 19th century, Cemeteries -- Oregon -- Portland -- History -- 20th century, Cemeteries -- Oregon -- Salem -- History -- 19th century, Cemeteries -- Oregon -- Salem -- History -- 20th century, United States -- Colonization



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 138 pages)


Despite the large amount of research about the colonization of the American West Coast, historians have overlooked the subtle yet significant role that cemeteries have played in this narrative. Using evidence from archives, newspapers, and historical maps, this study identifies the forces which influenced the development and use of cemeteries in Portland and Salem, Oregon during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Salem, the reinterpretation of the story of Methodist Mission leader Jason Lee culminated in an elaborate reinterment ceremony nearly sixty years after his death at the cemetery he had helped found. By contrast, the remains of Indigenous children who died while attending Lee's mission school and those who died while patients at the Oregon Insane Asylum are now lost, though they were buried only a few hundred feet from Lee's eventual resting place. In Portland, the city government left behind a wake of tangled paperwork and actual bodies in its failed attempts to provide early Portlanders with a space for the dead. Finally, a private group founded a large, modern cemetery akin to the world-famous Green-wood or Mount Auburn Cemeteries on the East Coast. Portlanders had finally addressed the "last great necessity" of the city, and were ready for more residents and more investors. Studying the development and history of cemeteries in Oregon is a unique and underutilized way to understand how the forces of colonization, urbanization, and memory manifest in both the shared memories and physical landscapes of our communities.


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