Tag Archives: settler grave

Cemetery of the Week #174: Union Cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #174: Union Cemetery
Address: 227 East 28th Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64108
Phone: (816) 472-4990
Founded: 1857
Size: 27 acres
Number interred: 55,000
Open: 7 am to 5 pm daily.

Atop a hill overlooking the city lie the founders of Kansas City, Missouri. Union Cemetery is Kansas city’s oldest public cemetery, the final resting place of politicians, artists, war heroes, business leaders, and everyday people. Today it is advertised as Kansas City’s “most serene and historic public park.”

John Calvin McCoy came to this area as a surveyor working for the US government in 1830. In February 1835, he filed the plat for the town of Kansas. He owned a store which outfitted settlers moving west on the Santa Fe Trail.

The cholera epidemic of 1849 filled the existing family plots and the first city cemetery in Kansas City. City leaders spent years searching for a suitable replacement until James W. Hunter  deeded 49 acres of his hilltop farmland to the Union Cemetery Association. The land lay halfway between the town of Kansas on the Missouri River and the town of Westport, which was a supply stop for wagon trains as they moved west. The cemetery, which opened in 1857, was envisioned as a “union” between the two towns.

James Hunter’s monument, like many in the cemetery, is marked with a post corresponding to the walking tour map.

A fire in August 1889 damaged the sexton’s cottage and destroyed the burial records. The loss was total, as many of the graves had only been marked by wooden or limestone markers, which have eroded over time. The cottage was burned again in 1985, but by then, the cemetery records were kept off-site. The Women in Construction in Kansas City rebult the cottage for the third time. It was rededicated in October 1990. Now it serves as a visitor center and gift shop. It’s only open Thursday and Friday from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm.

Missouri’s most famous 19th century artist, George Caleb Bingham, was a landscape painter concerned with the effects of light. His best-remembered work was the 1845 “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri,” now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Bingham chose to be buried facing south in the cemetery, although the tradition was to bury everyone facing east, toward Jerusalem and the resurrection. Bingham apparently claimed that the Lord would find him, no matter which way he faced.

A bronze medallion adorns Majors’s grave.

Alexander Majors was a partner in a freighting firm that led settlers across the prairie. His company founded the Pony Express during the Civil War. Although it only lasted 18 months, it cost Majors his fortune. He died penniless in 1900.

A small monument in the Kearney family plot remembers Hattie Drisdom Kearney. On Christmas Day 1855, she was sold as a slave. She was 11 years old. She begged a “kindly looking” man to buy her. After Charles Esmonde Kearney placed the winning bid, he freed her. When she told him she had nowhere to go, he hired her as a housekeeper and nurse. She worked for the Kearney family for 80 years, raising several generations. Now she lies amongst them.

By 1910, the cemetery was sadly deteriorated. The Cemetery Association sold 18 acres to fund upkeep. In 1937, the remaining 27 acres were deeded to Kansas City. The Native Sons of Greater Kansas City began a major restoration as its first community service project. The present gated entry was funded by the Native Sons in the 1950s. The iron fence enclosing the cemetery was added by the city in the 1990s.

The Union Cemetery is now maintained by the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation. It’s a beautiful place, full of history and beautiful monuments, well worth a visit.

Useful links:
The Union Cemetery Historical Society: https://www.uchskc.org/

Walking tour map: https://kcparks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Walking-Tour-Map-of-Union-Cemetery.pdf

African American Heritage Trail of Kansas City: https://aahtkc.org/union-cemetery

Findagrave listing: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/32037/union-cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #156: Glenwood Cemetery

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Red granite obelisk and Whiting’s white granite temple at Glenwood Cemetery, Flint

Glenwood Cemetery
2500 W. Court Street
Flint, Michigan 48503
Telephone: (586) 677-5400
Founded: 1857
Size: 47 acres
Number of interments: no public number available

IMG_8357Jacob Smith, the man credited with founding the Michigan city of Flint, is buried in lovely Glenwood Cemetery with his descendants. The first white settler at the Grand Traverse of the Flint River, Smith was such good friends with the local Native American chief that the men considered themselves brothers. The chief gave Smith the name Wah-be-seens or White Swan, which appears on the back of Smith’s gravestone. Smith had originally been buried behind his trading post near what is now Water Street in Flint. He died in 1825.

Founded in 1857, two years after Flint became a city, Glenwood is one of the few early cemeteries in Michigan laid out in the rural style popularized by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts. Its winding roads are shaded by tall oaks, maples, and pines. In fact, the cemetery is an arboretum with nearly 1,000 trees. The 56 species are predominantly natives, but include a very rare Chinese Yellowhorn tree and a huge, gnarled catalpa tree that predates the cemetery itself. Each of the trees is identified and you can pick up a free map to them outside the cemetery office.

Over all, lovely Glenwood makes the most of hilly terrain above the south bank of the Flint River. Its 47 acres includes two heavily wooded ravines, which shelter deer and other wildlife. The day I visited, it was filled with birdsong and butterflies.

The original 41 acres of the cemetery were purchased in March 1857. In addition to Jacob Smith, buried there are families who built the agricultural, lumbering, industrial, and automotive businesses in the area.

At Glenwood are buried 38 Flint city mayors, two Michigan state governors (Josiah Begole and Henry H. Crapo), Flint’s only lieutenant governor, and other politicians and diplomats, including Fenton McCreery, who served in Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras, before joining the Paris office of the American Commission during World War I.

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The Mott mausoleum stands on an island at the crest of the cemetery.

Also buried here are the men who founded the automobile industry in Flint. J. Dallas Dort headed up the largest carriage manufacturer in the world, before investing in Buick, General Motors, and Chevrolet. In 1905, Dort persuaded Charles Stewart Mott to bring his Westen-Mott Company to Flint to build wheels and axels for Buick Motor Company. General Motors eventually bought the company and Mott served as a GM director for over 60 years, as well as acting as executive vice president and chief of staff. His philanthropic foundation continues to fund educational and environmental projects around the world, as well as offering support for the arts.

After serving in the Civil War, James Whiting came to Flint. Eventually, he oversaw Flint Wagon Works, which built 50,000 vehicles a year. He and his associates bought the Buick Motor Company in 1903 and moved it from Detroit to Flint. An auditorium thatWhiting funded in Flint’s Civic Center bears his name and continues to welcome traveling theater and music.

Arthur Giles Bishop worked his way up from teller to president of the Genesee County Savings Bank, before serving on the Board of Directors for General Motors and Chevrolet. He donated land for the city’s airport in 1928.

In addition to the local bigwigs, common people are also buried in Glenwood. Orphans from the Michigan School for the Deaf had been buried in an unmarked graves during an epidemic in the 1880s. A researcher located their grave in 2014 and it is now marked with an obelisk. Several soldiers and generals from the Revolutionary War were transferred here to lie with their families.

IMG_8361In 1901, seven more acres were added on the eastern side of Glenwood Cemetery. That space, with its own separate entrance, is dominated by a neoclassical mausoleum that opened in 1914.

The cemetery was added to the State Register of Historic Places in January 1988. A walking tour map is available at the office for free.

Useful links:
Glenwood Cemetery’s homepage

Notable burials at Glenwood

Marking the grave of the orphans from the School of the Deaf

A Place of Peace

The change of management at Glenwood

Other Michigan cemeteries of Cemetery Travel:

Sunset Hills, Flint

Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek

White Chapel Memorial Park, Troy

Lakeside Cemetery, Colon

Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery, Mackinac Island

Detroit Cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Elmwood Cemetery

Woodlawn Cemetery

Woodmere Cemetery