By Gail Oberst
Portland’s Lone Fir Cemetery at dusk: Shadows fall in the west end, where ancient headstones dot the landscape and in the foreground, a crumbling tomb sits – the tomb of George F. Bottler, one of Oregon’s first brewers. If ghosts rest uneasy in battered tombs, Bottler is agitated. His tomb, one of the oldest in the cemetery, is in bad shape.
Don’t be afraid. The Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery and Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation are among the groups hoping to remodel Bottler’s final resting place. Recently, the brewing community joined the effort.
Both of the brewing Bottler brothers were named George, which causes some historical confusion, according to Peri Muhich, volunteer genealogist for the Friends of the Lone Fir Cemetery. George Michael Bottler was the 1857 founder of the City Brewery in Portland, later to become Henry Weinhard’s brewery. George Michael Bottler was visiting relatives in Germany when his brother, George Frederick Bottler, died in 1865. George Frederick had started a brewery in The Dalles, but when he died without his brother nearby, his fellow brewers – including Weinhard – made arrangements for George Frederick to be buried in the Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland. When George Michael Bottler returned from Germany, he built a tomb over his brother’s grave and purchased two other plots nearby to house his own remains.
But George Michael Bottler died later in Germany, and is buried in his Bavarian hometown, Schillingsfurst, not in the tomb in Portland that now houses his brother’s uneasy remains.
The Bottler tomb is cause for some activity today, 128 years later. The tomb’s disrepair inspired Art Larrance to commit $10,000 from his Oregon Brewers Festival proceeds to a fund that will help restore the tomb to its past glory.
According to Lone Fir Cemetery officials, it will cost up to $80,000 to do the meticulous work of restoration, and they are working now to raise the rest of the money.
“This is a great project for the Foundation to support,” said Mary Faulkner of the Lone Fir Cemetery Foundation, which formed in 2011 to assist the Friends in fundraising efforts such as that for the Bottler tomb.
McMenamins’ Mission Theater in Portland staged a well-attended fundraiser in July for the tomb, according to McMenamins historian, Tim Hills. The event was part of the kick-off activities for Oregon’s Craft Beer Month. Former Gov. Barbara Roberts spoke at the event, urging those present to help with the effort to restore Bottler’s tomb.
Although Weinhard bought the City Brewery from the estate of the Bottlers, the brothers’ cousin, Michael Bottler, remained in the Portland area where, unlike his brewer cousins, he married and raised a family. Michael Bottler’s descendants still live in Portland and are assisting with renovations. One relative, Tim Bottler, is a contractor who is donating his time to plan the restoration and gather materials in hopes that the tomb work can begin next year, said Muhich.
The cemetery is the oldest and largest of the 14 historic cemeteries managed by Portland Metro.
George Bottler’s ghost may not be the only one unrested at the Lone Fir Cemetery. With burials that date back to 1846, the cemetery is one of Portland’s oldest, located between southeast Morrison and Stark streets, and 20th and 26th streets. Lone Fir has more than 25,000 burials in its 30 acres – 10,000 of which are unknown. The cemetery is home to the bones of governors, legislators and dozens of other Portland glitterati, not to mention the Chinese workers who were often buried without markers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Those unmarked Chinese burials at the cemetery brought it to the foreground in recent years, after the discovery that government buildings may have been built atop graves.
The cemetery was privately owned until 1928, when it was sold to Multnomah County. Metro took control of the cemetery in 1994, expanding to include the unmarked burial grounds in 2007. That year, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
To donate to the Bottler Tomb restoration, send a check to the Friends of the Lone Fir Cemetery, P.O. Box 14214, Portland, 97212, with a “Bottler’s Tomb” note on the check. For more information on the Friends group and its activities, visit www.friendsoflonefircemetery.org.
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