Not the book Lone Fir deserves

Lone Fir: The Cemetery -- A Guide and HistoryLone Fir: The Cemetery — A Guide and History by Johan Mathiesen

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This may be the worst cemetery book I’ve ever read, which is saying something because I’ve read a lot. It’s even worse because it volunteers to share profits from its sale to support the lovely and fragile Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland.

I wonder if anyone other than the author read the text before publication. It’s so poorly written that the history is difficult to follow. Some of that may be because it’s unclear who owned the property when Emmor Stephens was buried there, but since I’m not familiar with Portland history, I was completely lost. Typos bring their own form of amusement. (At one point, Chinese organizations “banned” together, rather than banded together.)

I could have looked past those problems, believe it or not, but the final straw was the random way photos have been dropped into the text. On page 6, there’s an unidentified photo of a woman in flip-flops alongside someone’s t-shirt sleeve plunked in the middle of a paragraph about the original property owners. Across from her is a photo of what seems to be a film crew. I couldn’t find any explanation for either photo.

As the book continues, photos of monuments from Lone Fir pop up arbitrarily. It’s especially frustrating in the Notable Monuments section of the book, where the text talks about monuments that may or may not appear elsewhere in the book while showing monuments that have nothing to do with the text surrounding them. The problem could have been solved if a page number had been dropped in here and there — or if an index had been included in the book, so I could have at least looked up what he was talking about.

As it is, the maps at the back are small and confusing. The listings are numbered to correspond with the maps, but since you don’t have a photo of what you’re looking for, you’d have to wander the graveyard until you could match it to his description. In the meantime, you’d have to keep flipping back and forth through the book…

I’m not sure for whom this book was intended. It doesn’t have enough history to be useful to historians or genealogists. It’s not a guide that would tour you around the cemetery, making it easy to hit the highlights. Without an index, it’s impossible to find anything quickly or to be sure of what you’re seeing when you do find it.

What a shame. Lone Fir Cemetery deserves so much better than this.

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