Since 1857, the Historic Columbian Cemetery has been a part of the North Portland community. It is located on a patch of land that falls within the Interstate Cultural Boundary and underneath the I-5 overpass at 1151 N. Columbia Blvd. The cemetery is adjacent to the Kenton Neighborhood area but its historical connections resonate throughout the North and Northeast Portland area. Within its six acre site, Columbian Cemetery is home to between five to six thousand deceased Portlanders. Among them are well-known figures, but beyond these individuals, you will find people from diverse class levels and ethnic groups. The broad range of people buried in the Columbian reflects the sundry spirit and rich history of nineteenth and twentieth-century Portland.
The Historic Columbian Cemetery received its status as an Historic Oregon cemetery in 2005, based upon the Oregon state criteria of any cemetery with burials prior to February 14th, 1909. As mentioned, the cemetery is the burial place of some of the most notable early Portland figures: Captain Lewis Love, James John, John Mock, and Daniel Drew. Lewis Love, James John, and John Mock all came to Oregon in the 1850s. Captain Love was one of Oregon’s first millionaires, James John is sometimes referred to as the father of St. Johns, and John Mock is the namesake of Mock’s Crest. All three of these men came to Oregon, received a land claim, and with the money earned, did exceptional things. They were pioneers in every sense of the word, part of American history as well as Oregon’s. These men had compelling stories, accomplished great things, and contributed to their home state. However, no story from the cemetery is as remarkable as that of Daniel Drew. Mr. Drew was born a slave in Virginia, freed by the Union army, served in the 56th Colored Regiment of the Union Army, and following the war made his way Westward and became a Quaker minister. In a time when African-Americans were not even legally allowed into the state of Oregon, he settled in Portland and ministered to the community. Beyond his acts, his mere presence shaped the development of the character and depth of Portland, Oregon. Other names of note can be traced through the monuments and markers of the cemetery, stone masons and loggers as well as physicians and attorneys. People of Native American descent have also been laid to rest in the cemetery, though research is required to ascertain their correct tribal affiliation. This cemetery that began as the private final resting place of the Love family, hence the original name of the Love Cemetery, has come ultimately to represent the unique identity of North Portland through the days of the Pioneers to the present.
To some people’s minds, cemeteries are by nature, spaces of death and endings. However, in the Columbian Cemetery, much life can be found in the history and environment. It may seem odd to say that there are limitless possibilities in a cemetery, but it is not really all that far-fetched. In the Historic Columbian Cemetery, a person can see history waiting to be explored, a haven of Heritage and native plants, and a core wherein humanity, even at rest, pushes back against industry, through memory and monument.
Deed researched and provided by C. Miller