Many of the cemeteries began as family plots of Oregon pioneers in the mid 1800s. As generations passed, care and maintenance shifted from families to churches or private cemetery associations. None of the cemeteries had funding for perpetual care.
Over time, as early cemeteries became neglected or forgotten, the Oregon Legislature mandated public care of pioneer cemeteries remaining in Multnomah County. Between 1929 and 1960 the county assumed the care and maintenance of 13 cemeteries. One, Jones Cemetery, had been a county cemetery since 1872.
In 1994 the county transferred all its cemeteries to Metro. With ownership, Metro has inherited the mandate to care for them.