Maple Hill Cemetery

  • April 18, 2011

Dedicated in 1857, the rolling slopes of Maple Hill became the final resting place of early settlers of Minneapolis and Civil War veterans. Over the next 30 years, more than 5,000 bodies were buried in the cemetery. Because little thought was given to the ongoing maintenance and care of the cemetery, the grounds quickly fell into disrepair.

By 1894, just over 1,300 bodies and 82 monuments from Maple Hill had been moved to either  Lakewood or Hillside Cemetery. The remaining graves were left neglected and uncared for in an abandoned cemetery. The Minneapolis Park Board took possession of the land in 1908 with the intent of keeping the cemetery intact, but neighborhood residents complained that it had become an eyesore and so neglected that many caskets were exposed.

As the debate on how to handle the cemetery raged, nearby residents fed up with the process took it upon themselves to take care of the problem. Neighbors woke up one day to find the cemetery cleared of debris and most of its remaining tombstones missing. Curious about what happened, they hunted for the missing items and found that they had been carried away and dumped in a nearby ditch. City officials and many Minneapolitans were outraged that memorials to Civil War veterans had been dumped and their graves left unmarked. 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. Residents of the area, members of the Dudley P. Chase Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), and Reverend Harvey Klinger protested the desecration of the Soldiers Monument, and the debate about what should happen to the former cemetery continued for much of 1916. The remaining stones were carried away or laid into the soil leaving little or no evidence about the 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. A plaque in the park lists members of the GAR who were known to be buried in Maple Hill Cemetery. Although researchers have combed the files of the Minneapolis Park Board in an attempt to identify the names and dates of those buried at Maple Hill Cemetery, many of the graves still hold remains of nameless pioneers and soldiers forgotten by time.

%d bloggers like this: