Multnomah County Poor Farm Cemetery

The Multnomah County Poor Farm Cemetery is located off Canyon Road.

The history of Multnomah County burials includes a record of pauper burials at what was known as the County Poor Farm Cemetery. It was situated on the grounds of the County Poor Farm off Canyon Road. The County Poor Farm (June 1868 to Nov 1911) and County Hospital (Sept 1872 to Oct 1909) were at this same location. The County Poor Farm was then removed to the Fairview area of Multnomah County and the County Hospital was removed to SW 2nd and Hooker or what is now Lair Hill Park of Portland.

By late 1911 the cemetery was closed and the buildings on the property were demolished. It is not easily known what removals occurred nor how the cemetery was “returned to nature.” This 230 acre property was eventually deeded to the City of Portland and redeveloped as the present day Hoyt Arboretum.

The listing of intended interments at the County Poor Farm Cemetery is found in microfilmed death certificates arranged in alphabetical order and in chronological indexes compiled by the City of Portland, beginning in 1889. It is not easily known what earlier pauper burials took place here or at early cemeteries or burial grounds within Multnomah County, prior to 1889. In most cases, the undertaker was the superintendent of the County Poor Farm. Their names were: H. McBride, A. E. Borthwick, J. P. Strowbridge, F. W. Hanson, J. E. Courtney, and D. D. Jackson.

The GFO library has a complete set of these microfilms as well as a photographed collection of death certificates for the years of 1903 to 1905. Death certificates from about 1906 on are available from the State of Oregon, or its archives in Salem. 

Pauper burials usually included unknown victims of drowning and suicide, those exposed to unhealthy living conditions, premature infants or stillborns, those who had no relatives to claim them and those who could not afford the usual undertaker and burial costs. In a number of cases the deceased may have been known by an alias name.