Dedicated in 1857, the rolling slopes of Maple Hill became the final resting place of early settlers of Minneapolis, and Civil War veterans. During the first 30 years, over 5,000 bodies were buried here. Without much thought to perpetual care at the cemetery, the grounds fell into disrepair.
By 1894, 1,321 bodies and 82 monuments had been moved to the Lakewood and Hillside Cemeteries. The rest were left neglected and uncared for in a now abandoned cemetery. In 1908 the Minneapolis Park Board had taken possession of the land with the intent of keeping the cemetery intact, but neighborhood residents complained that the cemetery had become an eyesore and so neglected that many caskets were exposed to view. As the debate on how to handle the cemetery raged, neighbors fed up with the inaction took it upon themselves to do something about it.
One day, the residents woke up to find the cemetery cleared of debris and most of its remaining tombstones. They had been carried away by the cart full and dumped in a nearby ditch. City officials were outraged that memorials to Civil War veterans had also been dumped. Police vowed to find and prosecute the men involved. In 1916, George T. Frost and Frank O. Hammer were arrested on suspicion of destroying and dumping the monuments, but a jury acquitted them of the charge. By this time the cemetery had been improved and became a neighborhood park. A fence was placed around the few remaining Civil War area monuments to protect them from vandalism but it was removed in the 1920s due to lack of money to repair it.
Residents of the area and members of the Dudley P. Chase Post of the GAR and the Rev. Harvey Klinger protested the desecration of the Soldiers Monument. Again there was debate about what should happen to the former cemetery for much of 1916. Stones were carried away leaving little or no evidence as to any remaining graves. In August of that year, the old Maple Hill Cemetery-Park was rededicated as Beltrami Park.
To this day, reminders of Maple Hill Cemetery remain. Alfred J. Dahlquist reported finding a plaque listing names of Grand Army of the Republic soldiers who had been buried in Maple Hill Cemetery. The names from that plaque are listed on the current tablet in the park.
Researchers have meticulously combed the files of the Minneapolis Park Board to identify the names and dates of those interred at Maple Hill Cemetery, but because it was used mainly as a potter’s field, many of the remaining graves still hold nameless remains forgotten by time.