Our Little Lois
More than 25 thousand people are buried in the thirty acres that we know as Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, where my fictional character, Simeon Small, served as sexton. I recently had the privilege of volunteering alongside dozens of folks who came to the cemetery to refresh the grounds in time for Memorial Day. We picked up litter, collected branches, and, best of all, were entrusted to carefully clean headstones. There is a touch of magic to the process. Our tools were simple: a squirt bottle filled only with water, a gentle brush, and a chop stick to dig mud and moss out of engravings. Rinse and repeat, and a miracle unfolds! A slab of marble or granite that was unreadable suddenly bears the name of somebody’s loved one. In my rounds, I was lucky enough to touch the monuments marking the graves of Mrs. Jim Turk, the wife of the infamous Portland crimper, and Socrates Hotchkiss Tryon, the pioneer physician who settled the land around Tryon Creek Park, among others. But it was a small, neglected headstone that called to me. At first I couldn’t tell if the letters had just worn off the stone. A hundred years of Oregon winters can do that. But after a first scrub, letters started to appear. Another thorough washing revealed the sweet memorial to Our Little Lois who died in July 1880 at the tender age of six years old. There was no last name, no place of birth, but, at least, we can now acknowledge her existence on this earth, in this city we call home.
My thanks to Metro, the government agency who manages the pioneer cemeteries, and SOLVE Oregon for coordinating this event. Get on the mailing list for Friends of Lone Fir to find out about your next chance to preserve this important piece of our history.